How to Fake Your Own Death… And the Consequences of Misleading Media

On May 29th, 2018, prominent Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko was found dead, shot in the back, in his Kiev apartment… or so everyone thought. At a press conference not even a day later, it was revealed that Babchenko was very much alive and had engaged in an elaborate plot to fake his own assassination- and you’ll never guess who helped him.

by Jana Seal, Copy Editor

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Originally published in Vol. 1 of The Rock

     Corruption in Russian politics has continued, and will likely continue as long as President Vladimir Putin is in office, to prevail as a prominent world issue. As a recognized critic of the Kremlin and the President, Babchenko has had a target on his back since before 2014. This target was further imprinted in 2016, when he expressed his lack of sympathy for pro-government choir members and journalists who died in a plane crash. Just three months later, Babchenko and his family were forced to flee to Prague, Czech Republic, and later Kiev, Ukraine.

     His continuous disapproval of the Kremlin has built up until May of this year, when Babchenko’s wife found him in a mess of, what was later revealed as, pig’s blood. He was then taken in an ambulance to the morgue, where for three hours he sat and watched news surface of his “death”. In order to catch Muscovite assassins suspected to be working for the Kremlin, the Ukrainian government had initiated a Byzantine plot to help fake Babchenko’s assassination. The plan ended successfully, as the hitmen were taken into custody by Ukrainian authorities shortly thereafter. However, this entire conspiracy raises a lot more issues than it solves.

     How does this negatively affect the reputation of political journalists during a time that they are the targets of copious criticism already? And therefore, how does this actually help Moscow, rather than hurting them? In faking his death, Babchenko has essentially undermined the credibility of the media- which goes perfectly in favor of Putin’s dictatorial presidency. Without trustworthy journalism, governments have more power to persuade populations of anything that fits their agenda. As journalists in the United States gain a worsening reputation, it is important to remember why free press is and was such a central element of the constitution. The lesser the media’s voice becomes, the more at risk we are for that collective voice to fall into the wrong hands, and follow in Russia’s dangerous footsteps.