Following a debate on the issue on Tuesday, the parliamentarians voted on a report warning that propaganda pressure from Russia and the Middle East is distorting the truth, inciting fear, provoking doubt and dividing the EU.
They noted that “the Russian government is employing a wide range of tools and instruments, such as think tanks [...], multilingual TV stations (e.g. Russia Today), pseudo-news agencies and multimedia services (e.g. Sputnik) [...], social media and internet trolls, to challenge democratic values, divide Europe, gather domestic support and create the perception of failed states in the EU’s eastern neighbourhood”, the European Parliament website said.
MEPs suggested reinforcing the EU’s “strategic communication” task force and investing more in awareness raising, education, online and local media, investigative journalism and information literacy, in order to counteract the campaigns aimed at destabilising the 28-member bloc.
The resolution, which was approved by 304 votes to 179, with 208 abstentions, stresses that the “Kremlin is funding political parties and other organisations within the EU” and deplores “Russian backing of anti-EU forces” such as extreme-right parties and populist forces.
Polish MEP Anna Fotyga, the initiator of the resolution and member of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, said that Russian aggression on Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea was “a wake-up call”.
“We have to invest much more in these campaigns to fight radicalisation,” she was quoted as saying by the European Parliament ahead of the Tuesday debate.
“From our point of view in Central and Eastern Europe, Russia started to distort information and influence media markets much earlier. It was a pure continuation of methods and tools used during the Cold War,” she said.
“Of course it does have an influence on societies in the EU and on other countries. Surely the citizens of the United States of America are also the target of Russian propaganda with the use of many tools such as Russia Today.”
Fotyga is a member of the Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party. The Polish Defence and Foreign Ministers recently participated in a workshop on disinformation and anti-propaganda. (rg)