Editorial: readiness required regarding info attacks

Please note that the article is more than five years old and belongs to our archive. We do not update the content of the archives, so it may be necessary to consult newer sources.
Photo: tacstrat.com

In light of Rossiya 1 TV news «Vesti» clip assumed to cover creation of ETV+ and making an arbitrary montage of material obtained: info war is in full swing. In war, anything goes. And we must go by that. 

Europe lacks a harmonised understanding of how to treat Russian media. Over time, a pattern or two has emerged. Basically, it is assumed that democracies do communicate with the public and share information concealing nothing even if a media channel is known to be biased. With a caveat: information better be granted with live broadcasts, when the transmission should be paused for control of content. Or, when options exist to check the outcome of montage. With the «Vesti» programme, it was neither.

As for handling of material by Russian TV channels, illusions should be a thing of the past. Hopefully, makers of ETV+ made a calculated choice and acted not out of ignorance. On how the Russian media works, read Peter Pomerantsev’s book «Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible». Having worked in Russian media for years, the British journalist builds on personal experience to show that lion’s share of their media has next to nothing in common with journalism. Just before the book was published, Mr Pomerantsev told Postimees in interview that the Russian journalistic reality is artificial from start to finish.

«Facts» are decided before they are found out, with «news» the camera crew is on location before the event «happens to happen». Reality is not covered, it is staged.

Among other things, report by Peter Pomerantsev and Michael Weiss «The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture and Money» published last year lays out some goals of Russian media. Let’s cite two: spreading wrong and misleading information, and creating mistrust towards investigative and political journalism. With the news clip by «Vesti», both occur.

In a situation like this, what does one do? One is ready for every sentence to be turned into a weapon against the one who uttered it. Russian interest towards the creation of ETV+ was a given, as it is already assumed to be a Western weapon in information war against Russia. Equally predictably: whatever the message presented, they outcome would never been the 50:50 of tossing a coin, rather the house-always-wins known from casino.

The result, thus, was as expected, yet regrettable. Trust is a fragile commodity. Without trust of viewers, however, the new channel will have a difficult time indeed. Sadly, the fear in Estonia’s Russian speaking population that ETV+ is but channel of governmental propaganda has hereby been further confirmed.