Disinfo: West falsely claims Russian media not free

Summary

In 2020 Russia ranks 149 on the World Press Freedom Index, annually published by Reporters Without Borders. Many in the West will take this for a fact, because for decades their media have been hammering into their heads the Kremlin kills journalists. However, the numbers given by New York based Committee To Protect Journalists clearly indicate that under Putin’s predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, things were much worse. The same press freedom index ranks The Netherlands 5th globally, but this certainly does not mean that a Dutch journalist is better off than a Russian one. In Russia, it’s possible for the media to depict president Vladimir Putin as a dog, like The Moscow Times did. In the Netherlands, offending the king carries a prison sentence of up to 5 years and a 20,500 euro fine.

Disproof

The article combines cherry-picking and outright falsehoods to support its central claim. The RSF Press Freedom Index is based on a detailed methodology which evaluates a given country’s media freedom based on 87 questions posed to “media professionals, lawyers, and sociologists” based within that country. Answers to these questions are then converted into six qualitative indicators, such as “pluralism,” “media independence,” self-censorship,” and “transparency,” which in turn form the basis of the country’s press freedom ranking. The author attempts to deflect this by focusing exclusively on the numbers of murdered journalists, which were supposedly “much worse” under Yeltsin. However, even this claim is problematic. The seventh, quantitative indicator (“abuses”) featured in the Press Freedom Index is determined by a separate team of RSF experts and used to calculate a separate score. RSF explains that “[a] country’s final score is the greater of these two scores. This method prevents an inappropriately low score (high ranking) being given to a country where few or no acts of violence against journalists take place because the provision of news and information is tightly controlled.” Nonetheless, Russia’s “abuse” score in 2020 (53.38) still exceeded its “underlying situation” score (47.20). The press kit accompanying RSF’s 2020 index also states that “[a]t least 37 Russian professional journalists have been killed in connection with their work since 2000,” compared with 40 reporters killed in 1992-9. This gives the lie to the author’s claim that the situation of Russian journalists has seen a marked improvement under Putin. The author then dismisses The Netherlands’ 144-place lead over Russia in the RSF ranking by citing the extremely specific issue of Dutch lese-majeste laws on the one hand, and the supposedly progressive way the Russian state treats depictions of Putin on the other. Moreover, the argument itself is riddled with inaccuracies and relies on outdated sources. Since 2018, deliberately offending the monarch has carried a maximum sentence of four months (not 5 years). Even before the law was relaxed, the highest prison term issued under it was 5 months and concerned an individual charged with property damage and violent speech in the course of the same proceedings. The law is also more difficult to apply in cases where freedom speech is directly concerned including comedy, public debate, and journalism. Conversely, the Russian parliament passed a law in 2019 criminalizing “public insult of a representative of power” and stipulating up to one year of “corrective labour” (i.e. penal colony) upon conviction (Art. 319). Although the law does not exclusively criminalize insults directed at the Russian president, half of all cases (51 out of 100) and three-quarters of all convictions (38 out of 51) between March 2019 and March 2020 concerned individuals who criticized Putin (pp. 5-6), including at least two journalists (see here and here).

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 200
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 03/06/2020
  • Outlet language(s) English
  • Countries and/or Regions discussed in the disinformation: The Netherlands, Russia
  • Keywords: Russian superiority, Human rights, Freedom of speech, Media
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Germany accused Russia of hacking the Bundestag either to advance the NordStream 2 or as a pretext not to participate in the Victory Parade

There are two versions of the events [regarding the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoning the Russian ambassador in relation to the cyber attacks on Bundestag in 2015]. Either they have a trump card, for example a photo of S.Naryshkin [the director of Russian Foreign Intelligence Service] awarding a hacker for the attack, or the Germans really want the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, against the wishes of the other Europeans and Americans. The Germans are facing an enormous pressure and must make some kind of reverences. And the reverences to Americans are always Russia-related. […] And then there is a second reason, and I might be mistaken but I suspect it exists: the Russian envoy to Germany was summoned the next day after it was announced that Russia will hold a Victory day parade on the 24th of June. Earlier, it was discussed in Germany that it would be represented at a very high level, possibly the Chancellor, and now they have a pretext not to come.

Disproof

Unsubstantiated claims obfuscating Russia's responsibility for cyber attacks on the German Parliament in 2015. The Germany's domestic intelligence agency said Russia was behind a series of attacks on German state computer systems, including the German parliament in 2015. According to the reports of the German media, the federal prosecutor's office has issued an international arrest warrant against Dmitriy Badin, a hacker reportedly working for the Russian military intelligence service in relation to the cyber attack. The public attention to the 2015 cyber attack and its attribution to Russia again became prominent in May 2020 as the German Chancellor told the German Parliament she had hard evidence that Russia was behind the attack. There is no evidence to suggest that the investigation of the German intelligence agency of the Chancellors statement are in anyway connected to the NordStream2 pipeline or the Victory day parade in Moscow. The disinformation claims were presented during a TV broadcast as series of speculations and a personal opinion of an expert, that were unchallenged and were shown on a state-run TV channel. The disinformation message appeared in the same TV broadcast as the claims that accusations against Russia with regard to the cyber attacks in Germany are groundless, in the same way the accusations over the Skripal poisoning are.

Accusations against Russia of hacking the Bundestag follow the same pattern as accusations over the Salisbury poisoning

All these stories about a hacker Badin, who supposedly works for GRU are following the style of “highly likely” like they did with Novichok [attacks]. […] It is a German attempt to distract the attention of critics and complete the construction of Nord Stream 2.

Disproof

Unsubstantiated claims obfuscating Russia's responsibility for cyber attacks on the German Parliament in 2015. The Germany's domestic intelligence agency said Russia was behind a series of attacks on German state computer systems, including the German parliament in 2015. According to the reports of the German media, the federal prosecutor's office has issued an international arrest warrant against Dmitriy Badin, a hacker reportedly working for the Russian military intelligence service in relation to the cyber attack. The pro-Kremlin media frequently use the moniker "highly likely" in reference to the Salisbury poisoning to mock the attempts of the British authorities to establish responsibility over the use of the military-grade nerve agent on the British soil. Moscow's involvement in the poisoning has been proven via a thorough investigation. The British Police have presented a solid chain of evidence with pictures, connecting the suspects to the locations in the case. The evidence was sufficient to charge two Russian nationals, Anatoliy Chepiga and Aleksandr Mishkin with the attack in Salisbury, both Russian military intelligence operatives from the GRU, who travelled to the UK using fake names and documents. There is no evidence to suggest that the investigation into the cyber-attacks against the German Parliament is in any way connected to the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The claims appeared in the same TV broadcast as allegations that Germany was trying to use the investigation into the cyber attacks as a pretext not to participate in the Victory Day parade in Moscow.

The West is engaged in the degradation of the Ukrainian education system

The West is engaged in the degradation of the Ukrainian education system. This is all done in order to make Ukraine into some kind of agrarian neocolony. This is also an IMF requirement – degradation of the Ukrainian education system, because they do not need qualified personnel in the West, but they need cheap labour, obedient biomass.

Disproof

No evidence provided. The common pro-Kremlin narrative about the aggressive West and Ukraine as a non-sovereign country. The Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal said that the new agreement with IMF does not require any conditions for structural reforms, and educational reform as well. "It spells out the structural actions that Ukraine must take with or without the IMF because we are moving towards a civilised world. These conditions absolutely coincide with the directions of reforms that are taking place in Ukraine and will take place, despite the crisis," said Denys Shmyhal. You could read similar debunks here: "In Ukraine, schools will be closed in large numbers" and "Cultural genocide and the loss of 1300 primary schools awaits Ukraine".