Lithuania: 21-27 November 2016

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Pro-Kremlin media in Lithuanian broadcasted Russian media’s accusation that Europe introduces censorship against Russian state media.

Event: On 23 November, the European Parliament (EP) voted for a resolution urging the EU to counter disinformation campaigns and propaganda from countries like Russia as well as non-state actors like al-Qaeda and other violent jihadi terrorist groups. Pro-Kremlin media and the TV channel Rossiya 1—broadcast by—severely criticized the resolution, claiming that the EP itself had introduced censorship in order to increase tension between Europe and Russia.

The false facts and narrative: On 24 November, the Lithuanian-language website rebroadcast the pro-Kremlin TV channel Rossiya 1 talk show of Vladimir Solovyov, who is well-known for his pro-Kremlin views. In the show, Solovyov and his guests argued that the EP’s resolution introduces censorship against Russia and undermines freedom of speech. He also said that the West is so afraid of alternative opinions that it resorts to Soviet propaganda methods to create tension between Europe and Russia. In the program, Russian political analysts, scientists, academics and Orthodox Church representatives also criticized the resolution but failed to present concrete arguments. On 23 November,—a pro-Kremlin, Russian-language website based in Kaliningrad—voiced  similar emotional criticism of the resolution. In its report, sarcastically noted that Europe had named the Russia Today and Sputnik TV networks Russia’s most dangerous media outlets.

Reality on the ground:  The resolution “EU strategic communication to counteract propaganda against it by third parties” warns that hostile propaganda against the European Union from Russia and Islamic terrorist groups is growing. It says that such propaganda seeks to distort the truth, provoke doubt, divide the EU and its North American partners, paralyze the decision-making process, discredit EU institutions and incite fear and uncertainty among EU citizens. EP lawmakers warn that the Kremlin has stepped up its anti-EU propaganda since annexing Crimea and waging hybrid war in the Donbass. They note that ”the Russian government is employing a wide range of tools and instruments, such as think tanks [...], multilingual TV stations (e.g. Russia Today), pseudo-news agencies and multimedia services (e.g. Sputnik) [...], social media and Internet trolls to challenge democratic values, divide Europe, gather domestic support and create the perception of failed states in the EU’s eastern neighborhood.” MEP Anna Fotyga, who wrote the resolution, called the situation a continuation of Cold War methods. On 16 November, Lithuania suspended Russian TV’s “RTR Planet” program for three months for “inciting war, discord and hatred toward nations.”

  • Denying facts; 
  • wolf calls wolf; 
  • drowning facts with emotions;
  • diminution.
Target audiences: Russian-speaking minorities in Lithuanian, the Baltic states and the West.

Impact and analysis: This disinformation case seeks to frame Europe and the European Parliament as non-democratic. It aims to construct the impression that Russia is a victim of Western attacks. Pro-Kremlin media diverts public attention by accusing the West of employing its own methods.