YouTube removes video of Ukrainian POW Aiden Aslin as he claims he violates Geneva Convention

YouTube deleted a video of a Briton on Saturday captured by Russian Armed Forces after a legislator raised the issue in the UK Parliament earlier this week, calling it a “flagrant violation of the Geneva Conventions”.

Aiden Aslin, who has lived in Ukraine since 2018, was part of a unit of Ukrainian Marines fighting in the besieged southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol before he was taken prisoner last week after running out of food and of ammunition.

A spokesperson for Google-owned YouTube told Euronews Next in a statement that “the video in question has been removed after we received a valid privacy complaint.”

In the 44-minute video posted on the video-sharing platform on Tuesday, a handcuffed Aslin is questioned by Graham Phillips, a British blogger who previously freelanced for Russian television channel RT and Russian Defense Ministry Zvezda.

Phillips begins the interview by stating that Aslin does not appear under duress, which he confirms by saying “I wanted that”.

While it’s not possible to independently confirm how Aslin is being treated in captivity, his responses to Phillips’ questions appeared to be at odds with his previous public statements on social media.

“The video of Aiden speaking under duress and clearly suffering physical injuries is deeply distressing. The use of POW images and videos is against the Geneva Convention and must stop,” the family said. of Aslin in a statement tweeted by their local Member of Parliament, Robert Jenrick.

As well as removing the video, YouTube also confirmed to Euronews Next that they have now suspended monetization on Phillips’ channel indefinitely for violating the platform’s creator liability policy after the video was flagged.

“Violation of the Geneva Conventions”

Aslin’s family also refuted Russian claims that he fought as a mercenary – claims Phillips repeated in the video.

“In 2018, Aiden moved to Ukraine, where he met his girlfriend and eventually settled in Mykolaiv. Aiden decided to join the Ukrainian Marines and served in his unit for almost four years. He is not not, contrary to Kremlin propaganda, a volunteer, mercenary or spy,” the family said.

Jenrick raised Aslin’s video during a Prime Minister’s Question Session in the UK Parliament on Wednesday, saying he had been “coerced for propaganda purposes”.

“Fact [the prime minister] agree that this is a flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention, that treating any prisoner of war in this way is illegal, that the interviewer – Graham Phillips – risks being prosecuted for war crimes and that any online platform such as YouTube that hosts propaganda videos like this should take them down immediately?” the MP asked.

‘Nothing to hide’

In an email response to Euronews Next on Friday, Phillips defended the video and said he had “nothing to hide”, adding that Aslin had “asked for the interview”.

“Let anyone serious bring real accusations against me, and I will respond fully to all of them – I am an independent journalist of total integrity, and absolutely of sound conscience and ethics,” he said.

UK government advice and the British Red Cross published in 2007 recommends that images of prisoners of war “not be transmitted, published or disseminated”, based on Article 13 of the Third Geneva Conventionwhich protects detainees against “acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity”.

Earlier this month, the British Union of Journalists, the The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) issued a similar warning against the dissemination of images of prisoners of war.

“While images or videos of POWs form an important part of the story of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, journalists should ensure that individual prisoners are not identifiable in images or videos. and that, where necessary, faces, badges or other identifying symbols should be pixelated to protect the identity of individuals,” said Professor Chris Frost, Chair of the NUJ Ethics Council.

Phillips had previously come under fire for interviewing prisoners of war in 2014, when he spoke to captured Ukrainian troops after Russia invaded Crimea. A video of the encounter posted on YouTube was later deleted.

YouTube Community Guidelines and Content War

Before removing the video on Saturday, a YouTube spokesperson previously said any video that violates its policies will be removed from the platform.

“We take safety on YouTube very seriously and have strict community guidelines that apply to videos and comments. Any content reported to violate our policies is immediately removed from YouTube. We are reviewing the video in question,” they said. told Euronews Next on Thursday. .

When Euronews Next reviewed Community Rules pointed out by YouTube, he found that they did not include advice on shooting POWs.

A section on disinformation did not mention war propaganda, covering only “cures or dangerous remedies”, “census participation suppression”, “manipulated content”, and “misattributed content”.

Euronews Next asked YouTube if it felt its guidelines were fit for purpose in the context of the war in Ukraine, but the company did not immediately respond.

The video-sharing platform has been repeatedly targeted by Russian authorities since the start of the invasion of Ukraine in February, as part of the Kremlin’s attempts to tighten its grip on the dissemination of information.

Thursday, a Moscow court fined YouTube for refusing to remove videos of the extent of Russian casualties during the war.

Russia’s communications watchdog said earlier this month it was taking action to punish Google for ‘spreading fakes’ on YouTube, and previously warned the US company it would be fined if it was not conforming, as part of a larger program. battle with foreign tech companies which saw Facebook, Instagram and Twitter banned in Russia.

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