16:51 Oct. 26, 2016
The original Stratcom had already "done a lot to denounce" Russian falsifications, despite its meagre resources
One year after its launch, East Stratcom, the EU's "tiny" counter-propaganda cell, has created a 20,000-strong following and could get a €1 million budget, EUobserver reports.
Some MEPs question whether it is the right way to fight Russian propaganda and whether Russian media pose a threat, but deputies will, in Strasbourg on Wednesday (26 October), still vote for the new money.
Anna Fotyga, a Polish conservative MEP former foreign minister, had called for the East Stratcom upgrade in a recent report.
"We have to act against Russia's propaganda efforts," she told.
"They are trying to to divide us. The Kremlin wants to portray [Russian leader] Vladimir Putin as the only defender of traditional Christian values, and countries in the EU neighbourhood as belonging to Russia's sphere of power."
She said the original Stratcom, which had just nine staff, had already "done a lot to denounce" Russian "falsifications", despite its meagre resources. Lithuania and Sweden have also shown faith by recently posting two more diplomats to the group, which now counts 11 members.
East Stratcom has documented Russia's campaign to blunt the Dutch public's reaction to findings that Russia was responsible for the flight MH17 tragedy two years ago.
It has also documented its campaign to sway the Dutch referendum on the EU-Ukraine treaty earlier this year.
The Kremlin spends, by its own admission, has, since at least 2010, spent hundreds of millions of euros a year on its foreign and domestic media operations.
"The situation is a novelty for both politicians and high-ranking officials of the EU," Fotyga said.
Propaganda pressure on the EU from Russia and Islamic terrorist organizations is growing, say Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs in a resolution voted on Monday. It seeks to distort the truth, incite fear, provoke doubt and divide the EU, European Parliament's web-site informed on October 10. However, this pressure should be countered, not with more propaganda, but with positive messaging, awareness raising and education to increase the information literacy amongst EU citizens, MEPs add.
"Hostile propaganda and disinformation directed against our societies by both Kremlin and non-state actors such as ISIS/Daesh is a fact. In order to counter it effectively, we first need to be able to fully identify them," said rapporteur Anna Fotyga (ECR, PL). "This report is a very important step in raising awareness of the problem, both across the EU and within the member states. The European Parliament cannot stay silent on such a vital issue for the European security", she added.
The resolution on the "EU strategic communication" stresses that the EU is under growing pressure to counter disinformation campaigns and propaganda from countries, such as Russia, and non-state actors, like ISIS/Daesh, Al-Qaeda or other violent jihadi terrorist groups.
"Hostile propaganda against the EU and its member states seeks to distort the truth, provoke doubt, divide the EU and its North American partners, paralyse the decision-making process, discredit the EU institutions and incite fear and uncertainty among EU citizens," says the text.
MEPs worry that "with the limited awareness amongst some of its member states that they are audiences and arenas of propaganda and disinformation" and urge media representatives and experts from EU member states to compile data and facts about the consumption of propaganda.
MEPs are concerned about the rapid expansion of Kremlin-inspired propaganda, seeking to divide. They note that "the Russian government is aggressively employing a wide range of tools and instruments, such as think tanks [...], multilingual TV stations (e.g. Russia Today), pseudo-news agencies [...], 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".
"Kremlin propaganda directly targets specific journalists, politicians and individuals in the EU," notes the text. MEPs also stress that falsifying history is one of Russia's key strategies.
Islamic terrorist organisations are actively campaigning to undermine and increase the level of hatred against European values and interests, says the resolution. As the EU and its citizens are major targets of Daesh, MEPs call on EU member states to work more closely to protect society from its recruitment drives and enhance resilience against radicalisation. They also suggest developing a narrative to counter Daesh, "including through the empowerment and increased visibility of mainstream Muslim scholars who have the credibility to delegitimise ISIS propaganda".
The resolution was approved by 31 votes to 8, with 14 abstentions. It will be put to a vote by the full House during the November plenary sessions in Strasbourg.