Kyiv, October 2, 2014. Russian media is changing its strategy in the information war against Ukraine and the West. Kremlin-controlled Russian media broadcasters, such as Russia Today (RT), are simultaneously expanding their operations and finding more clever ways to spread false or misleading information. This was said at Ukraine Crisis Media Center in Kyiv by Stop Fake editor and co-founder, Margo Gontar.
Stop Fake is an independent Ukrainian organization that exposes misinformation and falsified information emanating from the Russian media with the intent of turning Russian and international opinion against Ukraine. Russian media regularly spread falsified or doctored photographs from Ukraine, or disseminated blatantly falsified media reports. Stop Fake was established to push back against this campaign, fact checking such claims. Stop Fake has proven remarkably successful in combating the Russian media offensive, even despite problems surrounding funding. “Stop Fake is an independent organization, and we have some problems because of this, including lack of finance,” stated Gontar.
Gontar mentioned one recent incident of journalistic misconduct by the Russian media and government. Recently, the official Twitter of the Permanent Mission of Russia to the UN office in Geneva tweeted an image of the Ukrainian flag flying next to the flag of Nazi Germany, claiming that the photo was indicative of Ukraine’s “Nazi persuasions.” Stop Fake revealed that the photo was actually taken during the filming of a movie in Kharkiv three years ago, prompting the Russian diplomatic mission to take down the photo.
Gontar stated that the efforts of Stop Fake have impelled the Russian media machine to change their strategy. Russian media is now less likely to use photographs from other conflicts, which is easily fact checked, and have turned towards doctoring photographs. They have also turned to taking stories out of context, covering supposed anti-Kyiv rallies in southern Ukraine without providing real quotes or evidence of the rallies’ demands.
Gontar and Stop Fake are expecting a re-initiated anti-Ukrainian media campaign. “We are apprehensive that at the moment we have some calm, some pause, but we are anticipating a more active Russian media campaign,” she stated. “Russia Today will get 2.5 times more financing than what they initially were planning for next year.” In addition, RT is expanding its operations by adding French and German language broadcasting. This is particularly worrying as it is aimed at undermining support for Ukraine in Western Europe. “German society is not ready for the attack from Putin’s mass media in German,” said Gontar. Although the pause in the fighting in eastern Ukraine has created a sort of lull in falsified reporting, all indications show that Russia is ready to expand its media assault in the future.