Russian Journalists Fight Back Against Disinformation


Factory of Lies is the name of a new television documentary introducing a number of journalists who have uncovered the hidden processes of the disinformation campaigns coming from Russia.

Some of these journalists are themselves Russians who have not been afraid of doing this kind of investigative work in the difficult conditions of their country’s highly controlled media environment.

Click to watch the Factory of Lies trailer where we meet Andrey Soshnikov and Roman Dobrokhotov – two Russian journalists who specialise in investigating disinformation and trolling. 

Andrey Soshnikov

In Factory of Lies, we follow Andrey Soshnikov – a Russian journalist working in Russia for BBC’s Russian service – in his investigation of a fake video, which was spread by the famous St. Petersburg troll factory and purported to show an American soldier shooting at a copy of the Quran with his automatic rifle.

Soshnikov also tells the story about how he worked for almost a year to identify the exact location of a building that was used for recording another famous fake video, which claimed to show ISIS members fighting on the Ukrainian side in Donbas.

“My name is Andrey Soshnikov. I am an investigative journalist. I am 27 years old and I am keen on debunking fake news that is being spread through the media”.

“I don’t want journalism to be a lie, to be fake. If you produce fake stories, nobody trusts journalists anymore”.

“When you have only one owner of most of the media, which is the state, they have a specific agenda they promote. That is why it is very important not only for the audiences, but for the whole community of journalists to debunk the lies of their ‘colleagues'”.

Andrey Soshnikov in Factory of Lies

Roman Dobrokhotov

The chief editor of the Russian online magazine The Insider, Roman Dobrokhotov, is also portrayed in Factory of Lies. We hear how The Insider made a Russian national living in Germany admit in a telephone conversation that she had received money from two leading Russian state media, Zvezda and Pervy Kanal, for appearing as an actor in staged productions with disinformation stories about violence and chaos in Germany due to the arrival of immigrants.

Dobrokhotov also describes his team’s work with using voice recognition and open sources to reveal the identity of a Russian Colonel General who, according to The Insider’s and Bellingcat’s joint investigation, was in command of the BUK missile launcher which downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, killing 298 innocent passengers.

“My name is Roman Dobrokhotov. I am editor-in-chief the Insider, an online magazine that is dedicated to journalistic investigations. One of our focuses is the “anti-fake” project; these are investigations of Russian governmental propaganda and how this state propaganda makes fake news and fake stories”.

“Russian TV is actually like ‘Russian Hollywood’. It is all fake from the very start to the very end. It is very difficult to find real facts on Russian TV because Russian TV is not about facts; it’s about a picture they want to implant in the minds of the Russian population”.

“It’s very important to show the situation in the European Union as very bad, that Europe is in crisis. It’s important to persuade Russian voters that Russia is not an exception, that every country has their own problems, and maybe Europe is a little bit richer, but actually there are some problems that are more tough than in Russia itself”

Roman Dobrokhotov in Factory of Lies

An international co-production

Factory of Lies premiered on 5 June and is a co-production between Danish and Swedish public service television (DR and STV), Israel’s Channel 8 and the Danish Film Institute.

Producer and director Jakob Gottschau was also behind Facebookistan – a documentary from 2015 which took a critical look at Facebook as a form of a state with its own citizens and set of laws.

Further reading:

MH17: Time is Running Out for Disinformation

Fuel hysteria, sow discord, spread confusion. Detailed account on manipulation attempts before US elections

Images: Screenshots from Factory of Lies.

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Cases in the EUvsDisinfo database focus on messages in the international information space that are identified as providing a partial, distorted, or false depiction of reality and spread key pro-Kremlin messages. This does not necessarily imply, however, that a given outlet is linked to the Kremlin or editorially pro-Kremlin, or that it has intentionally sought to disinform. EUvsDisinfo publications do not represent an official EU position, as the information and opinions expressed are based on media reporting and analysis of the East Stratcom Task Force.

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