Institute of Mass Information monitored the content of news in eight online media of the occupied territories of Donbas. The experts analyzed whether the news contained hate speech and fakes and, secondly, the number of news and the tone of narration about authorities of Ukraine, Russian authorities and self-proclaimed authorities of the so-called republics. “In total, we analyzed nearly 2100 news published on January 17 – January 25,” said Olena Golub, expert of the Institute of Mass Information, presenting the results of monitoring within a discussion “Information warfare in the Internet. Revealing and countering the Kremlin propaganda in Central and Eastern Europe” held at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
Nearly 11 per cent of news was very likely fake, as the source of the news is not mentioned, or the news came from sources, which are very close to the authorities of the so-called “republics”. The experts, based on government-controlled territories, were unable to check whether the information about events which took place on the occupied territories was true. However, they easily identified as fakes several “news” about events that allegedly happened in Ukraine. For instance, one of the news said that “In Kyiv region hunters fire on people using thermal imaging devices”. “In fact, there was just one case when the hunters accidentally wounded their friend, who was also a hunter,” explained Olena Golub. Another fake news said that people in Kyiv are burning books to heat their houses. The majority of news about Ukraine deals with criminal accidents. A lot of them are real facts, but they are described as typical everyday events.
“In fact, there are fakes and there is “semi-truth”, and the latter is even more dangerous than fakes. On the one hand, it is not completely false information, but it is extremely manipulative,” the expert noted.
About 11 per cent of news contained hate speech. “Ukrainian media write about the self-proclaimed authorities unfriendly, but this attitude is not spread on all people living on the occupied territories. However, media on the occupied territories described the whole Ukrainian society like that. […] They emphasize that not only Ukrainian authorities are bad, but the whole society has a very negative attitude towards people who live on the uncontrolled territories, despite the fact that this is not true,” she noted.
The narratives in the news usually refrained those spread by Russian media, such as that the US would soon lift sanctions against Russia. “It was a week of Mr. Trump inauguration, and they wrote that the first thing he will do after inauguration would be lifting of sanctions against Russia,” noted Olena Golub. The second widespread message said that Ukraine is not independent in its decisions, they use terms like “puppet regime” and “Western curators”. The media also actively promoted the narrative about discrimination of Russian-speaking population in the context of new draft laws about language, they even called it “a genocide”. The experts also noticed manipulative information about the Volyn tragedy, very similar to those published in Poland.
About 20 per cent of news was about the self-proclaimed authorities. Of these, 82 per cent was complimentary, 18 per cent was neutral. There was no news with criticism at all. About 32 per cent of news was about Ukrainian authorities. 87 of this was negative and only 13 per cent of news was neutral. The majority of the latter was about the political party “Opposition Block”, Victor Medvedchuk and Nadia Savchenko. There was 8 per cent of news about the Russia authorities, 91 of this was complimentary and 9 per cent was neutral.
“These are horrible trends, because we are waiting for the day when these territories will come back under control of Ukraine. It is hard for me to imagine how these people, influenced by propaganda, would reintegrate into Ukrainian society,” noted Olena Golub. She emplasized that with regard to this situation it is too early to talk about elections in Donbas. “If there is no independent media and there is no balanced coverage of activities of local authorities, the normal democratic elections are impossible,” said the expert.