‘Putin’s propaganda machine has spent decades attempting to poison and divide our societies’ Kalniete MEP
MEPs considered the recommendations made by a Special Committee on Foreign Interference and Disinformation at this morning’s plenary in Strasbourg (8 March). The debate focused on the situation in Russia and the recent decisions to ban Russia Today and Sputnik, as well as Putin’s decision to mete out 15 year prison sentences to anyone for telling objective facts about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The lead MEP Sandra Kalniete said: “Putin’s propaganda machinery was not turned on only on February 24. It has been working in Europe for decades already attempting to poison and divide our societies. While the war is ongoing in Europe, online platforms and tech companies need to take a stand by proactively suspending accounts engaged in denying, glorifying and justifying aggression, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
Kalniete called for the EU to reinforce content in Russian and Ukrainian to help resist the disinformation coming from the Kremlin.
Ministry of Truth
The EU High Representative Josep Borrell defended the decision to ban Russia Today and Sputnik from broadcasting in the European Union: “I am not the Ministry of Truth, but they are not independent media. They are assets. They are weapons in the Kremlin’s manipulation ecosystem. […] according to Russia Today’s, Editor-in-Chief, Russia Today is capable of conducting an information war against the whole of the Western world. Both channels facilitate and engage in cyber facilitated influence operations, including those that have been attributed to the Russian military intelligence, the famous GRU.”
Vice President for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová welcomed the decision of Netflix to withdraw from Russia. She said that Putin not only wanted his nation to be blind and deaf, but also apathetic: “President Putin wants the people to be entertained, not to pay attention to what’s happening. And my response is I welcome this decision of Netflix, because it would not be right to see Russians being entertained. And next door Ukrainians being killed.”
The Commission has plans for a new mechanism to sanction malign disinformation actors, as part of a wider toolbox. The EU will step up its support for civil society and independent media in non-EU Countries, as well as reinforcing the strategic communication ability of EU delegations. There are also measures under the Digital Services Act to stem disinformation. Borrell also argues that the ‘battle of narrative’ has to be a central part of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy.
The vote on the report will take place on Wednesday morning. Having passed the committee stage it is likely to be adopted.