The Mariupol Theater Attack

One of the key events that had occurred last week was the theater airstrike in Mariupol, a southeastern city in Ukraine, that was bombed by the Russian Armed Forces, according to Ukraine. How many civilians were in the building? How many casualties were reported by the media? Were there any differences in the details provided by the press?

On Wednesday 16 March, the Donetsk Regional Drama Theater, sheltering hundreds of civilians, was shelled. The number of casualties remains unclear: some news reports state that 130 people who survived the bombing were rescued. However, although no official reports have been issued on the matter, the press around the world was not reluctant in providing dissimilar data.

The number of civilians that sought shelter within the theater building was generally agreed upon. The recurring number in articles was between 1200 and 1300, and headlines mostly included the word “hundreds” to depict it.

Source: Al-Jazeera News

However, some headlines rather chose the word “thousands” to depict the number of civilians attacked by the airstrike, a striking difference compared to most headlines.

Airstrike hit: the fate of thousands of people hiding in the Mariupol theater. Source: Sawt Beirut.

The Headlines Effect

What is equally striking is the words put forward, in both headlines and articles, to highlight specific information and conceal some. The French regional daily newspaper, Ouest-France, decided – as opposed to many others – to include in its headline that “no deaths were reported according to first report”.

Source: Ouest-France

On the other hand, numerous press reports affirmed that “hundreds of civilians were bombed” or “theater full of civilians was air struck”. The Spanish daily newspaper, El Pais, chose to combine two attacks: the theater airstrike and the killing of civilians queuing to buy bread.

Source: El Pais

Additional Information and Pathos

Press headlines also varied in terms of the information they included. Here are some examples of press headlines reporting the airstrike, using pathos:

Source: CNN
Source: EuroNews
Anton Chekhov is a famous 19th-century Russian playwright. Source: The Washington Post.

Other headlines, including the Guardian‘s, mentioned the source of the information (Ukraine, Mariupol, etc.) which accused Russia of bombing the theater building:

Source: The Guardian
Translation: Ukraine accuses Russia of bombing theater sheltering a thousand civilians and Moscow denies: “The Azov Batallion” is to blame. Source: Al-Shourouk

In the two last headlines, additional information is given: the bombing of a swimming pool and Moscow’s response to the accusation.

Al-Ittihad, a Palestinian Arabic-language newspaper, dedicated an article to Russia’s response:

Russia confirms: The neo-nazi Azov Batallion bombed the Mariupol theater building. Source: Al-Ittihad


A Wikipedia page has recently been created on the event that occurred in Mariupol. Unless it is updated, the number of casualties is still stated to be not clear.

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