IBB Deputy Director Jeffrey Trimble and VOA Eurasia Division Internet Managing Editor Alen Mlatisuma discussed Russia’s propaganda efforts and avenues to counterbalance the Kremlin’s influence including U.S. international media programs at a panel hosted by the Public Diplomacy Council and the University of Southern California. They were joined at the Dec. 1 forum by William Courtney, former U.S. Ambassador to Georgia and Kazakhstan, and executive director of the RAND Business Leaders Forum.
Mlatisuma described how Russia harnesses state-sponsored TV and manipulates digital media to, in part, crowdsource propaganda among various groups – ranging from far-right to far-left elements – to sow confusion, undermine meaningful conversations and influence opinion abroad to support Putinist agendas and counter the West.
Ambassador Courtney described the different media landscapes in Georgia and Kazakhstan and emphasized the importance of media training as well as cultivation of media partnerships to provide alternative sources of news.
Trimble shared highlights of the range of U.S. international media offerings for audiences inside and outside Russia in Russian as well as other languages. This includes:
- Current Time, a newly-launched joint production of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Voice of America undertaken in partnership with public and private broadcasters and websites in Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, and Ukraine.
- RFE/RL’s “Crimea.Realities” website in Russian, Ukrainian, and Crimean Tatar along with other reporting to debunk misinformation.
- Studio Washington, VOA Ukrainian’s new five-minute daily news update in Russian, being aired on Ukrainian TV stations and supplementing its popular Chas-Time program in Ukrainian.
The assembled group agreed on the importance of long-term goal of cultivating independent and responsible press in Russia as well as the neighboring countries, especially those like Serbia that are being increasingly targeted by Russia.