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The Information Battle : Executive Summary

Article by Adam Hug

March 21, 2017

The Information Battle : Executive Summary

The information battle examines the ways in which the governments of former Soviet Union (FSU) look to shape international narratives about themselves by using media, social media, advertising and supportive organisations to promote their worldview and challenge the people, institutions and ideas that oppose them. This publication examines the influence of Russian media content in the former Soviet Union and in the wider world. This is delivered through the impact of Russian domestic TV channels reaching Russian speaking audiences in the region, the developing role of the news agency Sputnik and the international broadcaster RT. It examines how these outlets are used not only to promote Russian political narratives but to challenge Western approaches and sow confusion about what is going on in the world. It offers ideas for how independent broadcasters and international outlets can provide effective alternatives.

 

Despite cracking down on Western backed NGOs at home, the governments of the former Soviet Union are seeking to directly influence the European and US political debate through NGOs, think tanks and lobbying organisations. This publication looks at how to improve the transparency and accountability of such actions. Repressive regimes that use advertising and the hosting of international events to promote themselves, are increasingly being challenged by human rights defenders through the publicity such activities bring. The publication argues that, in what is increasingly becoming a battle involving the use of soft power and information, Western institutions have been losing ground and must take action in order to meet the challenge.

 

Recommendations

 

To the donor and NGO community

  • Fund the creation of new, independent Russian and local language news content, news coordination and dissemination
  • Provide increased funding for independent consortiums of investigative journalists
  • Support in depth independent survey work in the countries of the former Soviet Union to assess the audience reach of both domestic and Russian media outlets
  • Facilitate non-partisan support of Parliamentary engagement on issues relating to the former Soviet Union, including country visits

 

To Western governments and regulators

  • Track the spread of misleading and untrue content emanating from Russian sources, working with civil society to rebut it where appropriate
  • Actively monitor online threats to Western based critics of regimes in the former Soviet Union
  • Strengthen lobbying registry requirements, including looking to expand the scope of the UK’s statutory register and delivering the proposed formal EU lobbying register
  • Re-examine the governance structures of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors

 

To international broadcasters

  • Expand the range of voices asked to provided comment on Western networks

Collaborate with independent partners in the post-Soviet space to develop content

Footnotes
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