Briefs

Estonia 8-14 May 2016

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Object of manipulation: Estonia’s Russian-language news portal stena.ee

Date: 10 May 2016

Title: “North Korea learned democracy from the Baltic states” (Северная Корея научилась у Прибалтики демократии)

Author: A registered user named Leo

Source of manipulation: Russian-language news portal Rubaltic.ru

Date: 10 May 2016

Title: “North Korea learned democracy from the Baltic states” (Северная Корея научилась у Прибалтики демократии)

Author: Aleksandr Nosovich

The false fact or narrative: The article claims that restrictions by Baltic state on people entering the country—for example, Russian academic Valery Tishkov and Italian journalist Giulietto Chiesa—are no different than the ones imposed by North Korea, which recently expelled a team of journalists from the BBC. The article also says that it is unacceptable for any democratic country that values free speech and human rights to restrict entry to anyone. Finally, it maintains that North Korea learns from the Baltic states, and can point to restrictions by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to justify the regime’s own restrictions. 

The truth: Banning the entry of BBC journalists into North Korea is not comparable with banning the entry of Valery Tishkov and Giulietto Chiesa into Estonia. Their intention was to participate in meetings of the Impressum Club—which the Estonian Internal Security Service claims is part of Russia’s information warfare campaign and actively engages in pro-Kremlin propaganda. It is highly doubtful that the BBC had comparable intentions in North Korea.

Furthermore, banning entry to specific people does not contradict the principles of democracy, free speech or human rights. Both Tishkov and Chiesa were treated in accordance with Estonia’s law on prohibition of entry. Also, both had the right to appeal to Estonian courts, both used that right—and in both cases, the court upheld such restrictions as legal. Given geographic, political, economic and cultural realities, North Korea does not resemble the Baltic states in any way.

Techniques: Inadequate comparison; false interpretation (facts are presented correctly, but interpreted in a way that fits the Kremlin’s narrative); exaggeration and tu quoque (we may be bad, but others are just as bad). In the latter, Russia justifies its behavior in comparison with that of Western countries.

Audience: The website stena.ee receives about 3,100 unique visitors per day, according to hypestat.com. At last count, 437 people read this particular post.

Analysis: This piece of disinformation attempts to portray the Baltic states as “failed states” that have no regard for democracy, free speech or human rights. It uses four techniques to do so: false interpretation, inadequate comparison, exaggeration and “you, too.”

Description of sources: Stena.ee is a Russian-language news portal registered by Vjatšeslav Vorobjov, an Estonian citizen. Most of its content is not original, but rather copied from Russian-language sites with permission. Any registered user can post news to this site. Rubaltic.ru is a Kaliningrad-based Russian-language news portal that provides news and analyses on the Baltics. Its selection of news, its general interpretation of events and its generous amount of disinformation point to strong, pro-Kremlin tendencies. Public access to Rubaltic ownership data is restricted due to privacy matters. According to hypestat.com, Rubaltic receives about 417 unique visitors per day.