Poland - 7-13 March 2016

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Case One

In the Polish weekly Myśl Polska (13-20 March edition, no. 11-12), an article appeared under the headline “Intermarium? And what is it exactly?”

The false fact or narrative: It contains the following statement: “The mass attack from the West on Ukraine and the pressure on Moscow to carry out its ruthless and bloody intervention was aimed at building insurmountable walls between Russia and Ukraine. However, if Russia lost and Minsk and Kyiv became territories of neo-colonial exploitation for the NATO countries, Warsaw’s fate would be sealed. It would be unthinkable that we could be allowed to enter the circle of beneficiaries of that geopolitical change. In such a case, the future of the nation itself would be called into question.”

The truth: The West did not trigger the Kyiv protests that eventually toppled President Viktor Yanukovych’s regime and led to actual war between Ukraine and Russia. The Maidan movement—named after Kyiv’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti [Independence Square]—was led by Ukrainians and financed by Ukrainian entrepreneurs. The West, including the EU, sought compromise between the protesters and Yanukovych, yet Russia’s occupation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine caused relations between Moscow and Kyiv to collapse. No proof exists that the West seeks a neocolonial policy towards Belarus and Ukraine, nor is there evidence of any threat to Poland’s existence as a nation that would allegedly result from the pro-Western orientation of those countries.

Technique: Russian propaganda outlets have repeated the same statements for two years. They have also dramatized the supposed threat to the Polish nation, which is supposed to be caused by the pro-Western orientation of Ukraine and Belarus. Controversial statements are presented without any evidence to support them.

Audience: The readers of Myśl Polska, as well as conservative Poles who have a critical attitude towards the EU and the West, and would therefore be more willing to believe the Russian version of events regarding the Ukrainian conflict.

Analysis: The message is that the pro-Western orientation of Ukraine and Belarus will facilitate the acceptance of Russian policy—spread in the post-Soviet area—by Polish public opinion. Such articles seek to minimize the impact of that theory, popular among right-wing circles, that Eastern European countries could form an alliance to jointly oppose any threat from Russia.

Case Two

Separately, on 7 March, the Polish Radio Information Agency (IAR) posted a news item titled: “Russian minister: the state has no responsibility for doping.”

The false fact or narrative: Vitalij Mutko, Russia’s minister of sports, said individual athletes, not government authorities, were responsible for scandals of that kind.

The truth: German television broadcaster ARD, in its “Secrets of doping in Russia: how to make a champion”——revealed that Russia has systematically allowed athletes to hide their use of banned performance-enhancing drugs. Russian government authorities and secret services were also involved in the practice

Technique: Omitting in the IAR news item the alleged involvement of Russia’s secret services and central authorities, and instead presenting doping cases as the actions of individual persons and athletes.

Audience: Listeners of Polish Radio, Internet users visiting the IAR website, and journalists from other media who pick up stories from IAR.

Analysis: IAR has entirely adopted Russia’s narrative in describing the doping scandal. It doesn’t mention involvement by Russian authorities or secret services, only individual athletes, thereby making any discussion about punishing Russia for the existence of a doping system absolutely unjustified. That narrative aims to preclude any possibility of penalizing the Russian Athletic Federation, which could result—among other things—in preventing Russian athletes from competing in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.