12.06.2012 | Lost in translation

Every journalist will tell you that the integrity of sources is paramount, whatever and wherever the story. Recently, I’ve witnessed how they need to be treated with extra care when news is translated or reported second-hand.

Kommersant is one of Russia’s most respected daily newspapers. Earlier in the year, it became the victim of distortion from international media, which misrepresented an interview with the head of VTB, Andrey Kostin, known to be one of President Putin’s closet allies. This caused great concern for our client.

The media publications reported (referring to Kommersant) that Kostin had suggested that Putin, after winning the election in March, should promise not to run again – the implication being that the two had fallen out (again this raised questions with our client).

What Kostin really said in his interview with Kommersant was that Putin had two tactical options to strengthen his political position during his upcoming six-year term: to change his team or to announce he would not run for a second term to demonstrate how he would implement all necessary political and economic reforms during the first term.

Kostin referred to Putin in the interview as “the father of the nation” and “the best person to be the country’s leader”. Crucially, these references were omitted by international newspapers.

All of which demonstrates the importance of quoting original source material in context, even if the information is in a foreign language.