Myroslava Gongadze of the Voice of America Ukrainian Service and Nenad Pejic, Editor in Chief and interim manager of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, spoke earlier this week at a panel entitled “Responding to Russian Propaganda.”
The panel, which also included William Stevens, Director of the Ukraine Communications Task Force of the U.S Department of State, discussed how Moscow’s prolific propaganda machine is influencing public awareness and opinion on the events unfolding in Ukraine.
To counter this imposing Russian influence, Stevens outlined the need for the U.S. to more actively engage audiences on social media and to continue to provide accurate facts and reliable information. Such engagement would help expose the Russian strategy of “muddying the water,” which includes the repetition of inaccurate facts to prevent the truth from being easily discernable.
Gongadze described a range of Russian activities, from the modification of facts to “shamelessly fabricating the news.” Examples included a photograph of Ukrainians crossing the Polish-Ukrainian border that Russian media said showed Ukrainians fleeing into Russia to escape government brutality; an image of a child killed in Aleppo, Syria, that Russian media identified as a victim in Donetsk; and a Russian blog post claiming the Ukrainian government is building concentration camps.
Pejic summarized Russia’s media propaganda as one component of a broad-based strategy for increased influence which includes energy, military, cultural and political campaigns. False election poll results, denials of the presence of troops, and intentional underestimates of the crowds at the Euromaidan protests were among the many examples of lies Russia offers up each day.
Pejic said that the aggressive promotion of the truth is a necessary response. He cited examples of RFE/RL’s ongoing accurate and comprehensive coverage, including the live-streaming of the Euromaidan protests to show viewers the sheer scope of the demonstrations, and programs “Lie of the Day” and “Ukraine Unspun,” which discuss and debunk Russian misinformation.
Other examples of VOA and RFE/RL coverage of events in Ukraine and Russia can be found here
The event was co-sponsored by the USC Annenberg Center on Communications Leadership and Policy and the Public Diplomacy Council.