Latvia - 9-16 May 2016

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  • Monitoringa ziņojums (9.– 16. maijs)  Šis raksts ir pieejams latviešu valodā

Object of manipulation:

Date: 13 May 2016

Source of manipulation: Россия 24

Date: 7 May 2016

The false fact or narrative: On 7 May, the Russian TV channel „Россия” broadcast news about Latvia’s 9 May celebrations marking the 71st anniversary of victory in World War II. The story insisted that Latvia’s Victory Day would be celebrated only in Daugavpils, the second-largest and the most Russophone city in Latvia — thus ignoring 3,000 veterans and concentration-camp victims living in Lativa. The journalist also claimed that the Latvian state calls World War II veterans “occupants” and that for a long time, it has prohibited Red Army veterans from receiving financial support from Russia. The program stated that Victory Day symbols are prohibited in Riga — unlike in Daugavpils — and that the only the pro-Moscow organization “May 9” dares to congratulate World War II veterans.

The truth: About 50,000 people attend the annual Victory Day celebrations at Riga’s so-called Victory Monument— making it the country’s largest 9 May observance. Latvia has never officially defined the veterans as occupants, nor has it forbidden them from receiving financial support from Russia. Although it is illegal to publicliy display the symbols of Nazi or Soviet regimes in Latvia, public displays of Victory Day symbols such as the St. George’s ribbon or Soviet medals is allowed.

The Russian-language version of the website criticized this incorrect news, which was broadcast by the pro-Kremlin „Россия” — one of the largest Russian-language TV channels. On 13 May, published a news story criticizing the unprofessionalism and incompetence of the „Россия” journalist who had disseminated such false information. In contrast to that story, pointed out the many people who participate in Victory Day observances in Riga, as well as the active participation in the march of the so-called “Immortal Regiment” — which also took place in Riga. The mayor of Riga, Nils Ušakovs, first called the „Россия” report an insult to all the residents of Riga who took part in the celebrations and asked the network to apologize. However, he later backed off from this demand, claiming that subsequent programming on „Россия” showed that the channel corrected its earlier mistakes.

Technique: Dissemination of untruthful information. The discussion of misleading information may have generated interest in the object of disinformation.

Audience: The target of this disinformation is Latvia’s Russian-speaking minority. 

Analysis: This is an interesting disinformation case which is atypical of Latvia’s public space, since the most popular Internet portal among the country’s Russian-speaking minority—as well as their opening leaders—chose to criticize the pgoram. On one hand, this illuminates certain limits of Kremlin propaganda. In this case, efforts to manipulate the Victory Day story failed because they undermined the identity of local Russian speakers. On the other hand, the inconsistent opinion of Mayor Uškovs shows that excessively critical reactions to the spread of disinformation may not succeed when they are too critical of influential institutions within the Russian-speaking community.