On 16 March 2016, the Polish Radio Information Agency (IAR) broadcast a news item under the headline: “Putin: let us not make the doping scandal political.” The same day, the Polish Press Agency (PAP) ran a similar article that was subsequently reprinted by various media. Here are some examples:
The false fact or narrative: The news item presented by IAR contains the following statement: “Many Russian competitors, including athletes, volleyball players and skaters, have been caught using forbidden substances.” The Russian news agencies quotes President Vladimir Putin as saying: “It is obvious that here it is our sports activists who demonstrated the lack of understanding in such matters and who did not convey in time the appropriate information to the athletes.” Both the IAR and PAP news items omit an important thread in the doping scandal.
The Truth: German television network ARD—in its documentary, “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, according to the documentary, leading the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to launch an inspection against Russian athletes. Its subsequent report revealed widespread corruption among Russian athletes concerning doping. As a result, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) will likely vote in May to ban Russian athletes from participating in the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Technique: In describing the meeting in which Putin took part, Russian media omitted all information about the origins of the doping scandal as well as the accusations leveled by ARD and WADA. Both IAR and PAP reported those events in a similar fashion.
Audience: Listeners of Polish radio as well as journalists representing other media who pick up IAR and PAP news reports.
Analysis: Omitting the scandal’s origin helps Russia because it effectively puts the blame on individual athletes and sports activists, completely eliminating the role of Russian authorities—and letting Putin avoid acknowledging the existence of illegal corruption-doping practices.
Separately, on 19 March 2016, the website konserwatyzm.pl published an article titled “Restitution: A European cause.”
The false fact or narrative: The article contains the following statement: “Poland, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia – the citizens of those states will coordinate their actions to recover former properties today located in the territory of the failing Ukrainian state.” It goes on to claim that Ukraine is home to roughly 850,000 Romanians (mostly in Bucovina), Hungarians and Slovaks (in Carpathian Ruthenia), and Bulgarians (concentrated along the Black Sea), not to mention 1.2 million Poles who still live in the former eastern borderlands of the Second Polish Republic ((Podolia, Zhitomir and, to a smaller extent, Volhynia and Lviv). “What will happen to them when the Ukrainian state finally falls apart?” the article muses. “In this case the only uncertainty is when this process will eventually take place, and not whether it will take place.”
The Truth: Despite the serious crisis gripping Ukraine, nothing indicates that it is likely to cease to exist as a state. Besides, the article’s author, Kondrad Rękas, did not offer any evidence to support his thesis, nor did he reveal the source of his data regarding the size of Ukraine’s ethnic minorities. A 2001 census reported 151,000 Romanians and 144,100 Poles living there—numbers which Polish community leaders in Ukraine do not dispute.
Technique: The author quotes theses which suit his theory without bothering to present any arguments to support them.
Audience: Visitors to the konserwatyzm.pl website as well as descendants of people who inhabited the former eastern borderlands of the Second Polish Republic—which existed from 1918 to 1939—and who once owned land in Ukraine.
Analysis: Rękas, the author, is deputy president of the European Center of Geopolitical Analyses [Europejskie Centrum Analiz Geopolitycznych]. He closely cooperates with Russia, among other ways, by organizing observer missions during elections in Russian-controlled “quasi-states” that are not recognized by the international community. For about a year, he has been trying to expand the activities of the so-called “Borderland Trusteeship” [Powiernictwo Kresowe]. Now Rękas wants to establish similar entities in order to unite citizens of European countries with ethnic minorities in Ukraine. His aim: to jointly demand—on behalf of former landowners—compensation from Ukraine for properties confiscated during World War II. In Romania, as in Poland, pro-Russian parties like Partidului Romania Unita have launched similar efforts. This suggests that such an alliance may be monitored with tacit support from Russia.
But Ukrainian legislation precludes any possibility of such restitution—making this, in all likelihood, only a propaganda game aimed at threatening inhabitants of today’s Ukraine with the prospect of former property owners returning. Russian media portrays the activities of the Borderland Trusteeship in a similar light, claiming that such restitution will be the result of any rapprochement between Ukraine and the European Union.