The cure for propaganda: how Europe will resist to the Russian media


Solidarity with the media

European Parliament Committee on foreign Affairs on Monday approved the draft resolution “On the strategic communications of the EU to counter the propaganda against him by third parties.” To combat these phenomena, the document calls for expanding the powers of the “task force on strategic communications in the East” (East StratCom Task Force), turning it into a full-fledged Department in the European external action service (EEAS, the actual foreign Ministers of the EU).

We are talking primarily about the struggle with Russian news agencies and television channels broadcasting abroad. Among the tools of Russian “propaganda” in the draft resolution identified as such by the media, like RT, Sputnik, and the Agency “RIA Novosti” and the Foundation “Russian world” and even the Russian Orthodox Church. “It’s quite an interesting interpretation of the vaunted Western values, in particular freedom of speech, which here means the attack on the lonely voices of dissent among the thousands of European media,” commented Deutsche Welle this initiative the chief editor of RT Margarita Simonyan.

The project was initiated by Polish MEP Anna Fotyga, a former Polish foreign Minister in the government of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, and before that involved in the “Solidarity” trade Union international connections. “Hostile propaganda and disinformation from the Kremlin and non-state players, like jihadist groups, is a fact… and hostile actions can influence the decision-making process in the EU,” said Fotyga, presenting on Monday the document. According to the European Parliament, for voting by all members of the document will be presented at the end of November. In the case of adoption of the resolution will be submitted for approval to the European Council, the European Commission and the EEAS head Federica Mogherini.

Information commandos

The operational group of East StratCom there is little more than a year. In March 2015, the head of the European Council, Donald Tusk, Mogherini instructed to establish a working group on “countering Russian propaganda”, consisting of diplomats, experts of Russian studies, journalists and specialists in social networks. In the summer the band began working (the Russian media called it the “information special forces”). At the moment in East StratCom has 11 permanent employees from different countries of Europe, heads the structure of the British diplomat Giles Portman, a specialist in Eastern Europe and Turkey. The operational group is designed to solve three problems is information support policy of the EU towards the Eastern partnership countries, support in these countries, independent media and opposition to “foreign disinformation”.

The Eastern partnership with six former Soviet republics (Georgia, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine). Indeed, East StratCom was involved in creating materials explaining the EU policy in these countries, but the group is still associated with the counter “Russian propaganda” aimed at the West. East StrarCom released weekly bulletins “Review of misinformation” and “disinformation Digest”. The review provides striking examples of reports and notes from the Russian Pro-government media, in the digest analysis of the information. In addition, the team launched the Russian website of the Department EEAS with news and official comments of the European Commission as a “positive” example of anti-propaganda.

The operational group cooperates with more than 400 experts, and journalists who assist with monitoring Russian press. The last few releases, reviews and digests was dedicated to the intermediate results of the investigation of the death of the Boeing flight MH17 in the sky over the Donbas. “An unprecedented campaign” against the perspective of the West from Moscow around the death of flight MH17 and said the Deputy Fotyga as one of the clearest examples of the strategic communications of the Russian side. Other examples are “cyber attacks” on Estonia in 2007, a media campaign around the Georgian-Ossetian conflict and around the plane crash near Smolensk in 2010 that killed almost the entire leadership of Poland.

Thoughtless comparison

Equivalent to the degree of danger threatened Fotyga believes strategic communications Islamist groups (primarily banned in Russia LIH) that affect European Muslims to persuade them to terrorist activities. One way to create an alternative to the jihadist narrative is called “support mainstream Islamic theologians”, who have enough clout and recognition to offer an alternative to the radical ideas of the agenda. Specific proposals contained in the draft resolution are as follows: to complement the scope of activities East StratCom “South” direction (against Islamism), to increase the staff and funding organizations to provide additional financing of independent media and European NGOs, to support training programmes for journalists.

Compare the Russian media with Islamist propaganda has caused a wave of criticism from the Pro-Kremlin press. Both phenomena referred to in one document as a threat to European unity; as reported by two sources close to the European and Russian diplomacy in the EU is really a practice of “equal support Eastern and southern areas of foreign policy”. “Initially East StratCom was created purely to work in the East, but later in the EU woke up and realized that equally strong negative information coming from other sources,” — said the Russian expert on international Affairs, who requested anonymity.

In this regard, the source noted, it is difficult to say that the draft resolution is aimed solely at countering Russia. In addition, as told to Deutsche Welle the head of the Dutch research center of the Lowlands Solutions Thomas Olivier, even in case of successful adoption, this document is unlikely to create the conditions to counter the propaganda of the Kremlin. “Most of these sophisticated methods are too sophisticated and camouflaged so they can effectively counter or at least temporarily neutralized”, — he added.

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