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Image doesn’t contradict BBC report on Russia-Ukraine war

October 6, 2022 GMT

CLAIM: Photo shows a BBC reporter pretending to be on the frontlines of the Russia-Ukraine war while a woman stands casually in the background with a shopping bag.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The still image from a March BBC news broadcast is being shared out of context. The full video shows the reporter was covering civilians fleeing Irpin, Ukraine, amid Russian shelling during the early days of the war. The Associated Press captured images of the same attacks.

THE FACTS: The baseless claim that a woman in the background of the image contradicts the BBC reporter’s coverage was shared widely on Twitter this week.

“BBC’s Jeremy Bowen, pretends to be on the frontline, whilst a woman looks on, seemingly bemused,” claims a Tuesday tweet that garnered more than 76,000 likes.

The tweet shows a photo of Bowen wearing a press vest and helmet, laying on a dirt path, while looking at the camera and holding a microphone. In the background, a woman wearing a white hat and pink sweatshirt under a jacket can be seen holding a bag.

Another tweet of the same image claimed that the photo “sums the fake BBC media up” because the woman in the background was standing with a shopping bag rather than hiding from the attack.

But the still image, presented without context, doesn’t prove that Bowen’s coverage was faked or misleading, as the tweets suggest.

Bowen’s full BBC video report was published on March 6, not long after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, and documented civilians fleeing the city of Irpin, a northwestern Kyiv suburb, amid Russian firing.

In the video, explosions can be heard in the background, as well as flames smoldering and spewing smoke between buildings.

Bowen reports that civilians are escaping near “what’s left of a bridge that was blown to slow down the Russians if they take Irpin.” The news broadcast shows Ukrainians carrying their belongings, including in suitcases, totes and plastic shopping bags.

“There’s a fair amount of incoming fire coming into this now, artillery fire. There are loads of civilians around,” Bowen tells the camera. “This is the edge of the town that the Russians have got to.”

The woman in the background of the still image — whom tweets claimed was looking on “bemused” instead of heading for cover — can actually be seen in the video crouching down behind a piece of debris while firing is heard in the distance. She then rises and continues to walk. The destroyed bridge can be seen in the background.

The Associated Press also captured images on March 5 of Ukrainians fleeing and crossing the Irpin river near the same destroyed bridge. The same red billboards near the bridge can be seen in both the AP’s photos and the BBC footage. The AP reported in August that reconstruction work had begun on the bridge.

The BBC video also showed a family that was killed by a shell. The same victims were documented in AP photographs that showed the family lying on the pavement with luggage and a pet carrier nearby.

AP journalists covered Russia’s offensive in Irpin in the early days of the war, as well as residents’ return and the aftermath in the war-scarred city.

Bowen addressed the baseless claims about his report in a tweet Thursday, saying the “allegations are utterly false.”

“Insult me if you want,” he wrote. “Don’t insult thousands of civilians fleeing over Irpin bridge into Kyiv from Russian shelling and war crimes.”


This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.