13 Jan 2015

EU taking up the fight against Russian propaganda?

Vilnius TV tower (photo from www.flickr.com/photos/mindze/)
This week, the regulatory body for radio and television in Lithuania has launched a legal process to stop the translation of the programmes of Russian TV channel Ren TV Baltic for three months. According to the motivation, the station's programmes on the war in Ukraine spread one-sided information and were instigating war and hatred. The allegations were backed by the opinions of media experts from the University of Vilnius. 
The commission also decided to launch the banning procedure of two other Russian channels, RTR Planeta and NTV Mir Lithuania because  it  is lacking of journalistic objectivity, transmitting unproven information and propaganda. Broadcasting of these two channels has already been banned for three months last spring. The highest term for banning according to Lithuanian law is one year. The European Commission will also be informed about the process.

logo of REN TV

Meanwhile, the foreign ministers of Lithuania, Estonia, Denmark and Great Britain have turned to the European Commission to work out an action plan for fighting Russian propaganda, stating that 'Russia is rapidly increasing its disinformation and propaganda campaign' in order to support the 'political and military aims of the Russian government'. They suggested that Russian propaganda warfare should be discussed at the meeting of EU ministers and the European External Action Service should work out an action plan on this problem for 2015-2016. It should include the creation of information alternatives for the Russian speaking populations of the EU (ethnic Russians and Russian speakers are concentrated in the three Baltic states), whose main source of information at present is state-controlled Russian media. Lithuanian minister of foreign affairs, Linas Linkevičius who is the main initiator of the proposal says their aim is not to ban or censor Russian channels but to provide an alternative and impartial source of information, in order to increase 'the society's immunity to manipulations'. According to the proposal, the EU should support initiatives to create Russian-language television channels, Internet portals, radios and press.

Russia has already criticized the plan put forward by Lithuania, Estonia, Denmark and the UK to counter Russian propaganda, stating that creating a counterpropaganda channel goes against the freedom of press.

In the same time, there is a similar initiative to create a Russian-language European TV channel, backed by 15 member states (including the UK, Scandinavian and Eastern member states such as Poland). Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkēvičs told Buzz Feed News that the EU's Russian TV channel would translate 'very factually accurate news' as well as entertainment programmes.


The EU has lagged behind Russia in this field, as it is not oriented to geopolitics and understands soft power differently than Russia. NATO has already realized the significance of propaganda and created the Strategic Communication Centre of Excellence in Riga last year to provide an alternative to the official Russian narrative.


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