Monday

22nd Jan 2018

Opinion

No freedom to lie

  • Linkevicius: 'A lie isn't an alternative point of view' (Photo: eu2013.lt)

A few months ago, on national day in one EU country which I won't name, Russian uniforms marched alongside others in the celebration.

It was the same uniform which is currently taking part in aggression against Ukraine. Did it look good? Was it picked up by European media as being a bit strange? No. You never heard of it.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

There’s a tendency to consider propaganda as an exotic bug which only affects the lives of people far away - in Ukraine, Georgia, Russia.

But the carefully-packaged lies are finding their ways to audiences all over Europe.

It's the result of a systematic and heavily-funded campaign, and saying that the West is immune because we have a plethora of media outlets isn't true.

In fact, large, Russian-speaking portions of the EU audience, whether in the Baltic states, or in London, get the Kremlin's view first and foremost. It's the result of language limitations or old media habits. In this sphere, media plurality means plural TV channels all manipulated by one (Russian) authority.

Past gas crises involving the Russian gas supplier, Gazprom, should have taught us a lesson.

There is no such thing as diversity of supply if all the routes lead to one source. And lack of diversity is a security threat.

We had the courage to confront Gazprom’s monopoly in Europe. Now it’s time to confront Russia’s infoprom, which has weaponised information in the same way the Kremlin weaponised energy supplies.

We need to start thinking not just "what can we do for them?", referring to non-EU eastern European states, but also "what can we do to protect ourselves?".

There’s more to it than allocating some money from foreign relations budgets. It’s equally important to ensure the transparency of funding and ownership of media outlets which operate in the EU.

Kremlin mouthpieces know how to register in our cities. They put on a "made in the EU" label, then they begin to quietly incite hatred, hoping no one will question what they're doing because of the holy cow of free speech.

Some are starting to speak out.

Ofcom, the UK media regulator, has said "freedom of speech is not absolute".

A few months ago, the European Commission said limiting freedom of expression can be a proportionate course of action in order to protect the integrity of public information.

The European Court of Human rights has said freedom of speech is not a defence for defamation.

We should ensure there is a level playing field, and the same set of rules, for all of Europe’s media outlets. No one should be allowed to play rugby on a soccer pitch.

In January, four foreign ministers (from Lithuania, the UK, Estonia, and Denmark) called on the EU to respond to Kremlin propaganda, with a “4 A’s” approach: ensure information alternatives; raise public awareness; be assertive on proactive communication of facts; and request accountability from media outlets.

It’s nothing to do with censorship, or with producing our own propaganda/lies.

The Netherlands and Poland, together with the European Endowment for Democracy in Brussels, have come up with some concrete ideas on alternative TV content for Russian-language audiences, both news and entertainment.

The meeting of project donors, today in Warsaw, is part of this effort.

But to be successful, we need to change our thinking.

We need to understand that the propaganda is directed against all of Europe, not just the east, and we need to start calling things by their proper names.

A T-90 tank in Ukraine isn’t just a "vehicle". A lie is not an alternative point of view. Propaganda is not a legitimate form of public diplomacy.

Its our naivety which is preventing us from taking appropriate action, even as the other side advances its undeclared info-war.

Linas Linkevicius is the foreign minister of Lithuania

Taking full benefit of supercomputers in Europe

Newly-announced financial help for so-called 'supercomputers' can help both EU member states, and small and medium-sized companies to grow - in fields such as health diagnostics, driverless cars and even earthquake predicting.

Ten Commandments to overcome the EU's many crises

A series of missteps - from the faulty institutional infrastructure of the euro, to the migration crisis - have left the EU battered and in near crisis. Here are ten steps to re-democratise the union.

EU's 'old men' must pressure Poland on abortion rights

Despite fresh crackdowns on Poland's already restrictive abortion laws, EU commission president Juncker did not raise the issue with the new Polish PM Morawiecki - perhaps because it was an all-male event?

Ten Commandments to overcome the EU's many crises

A series of missteps - from the faulty institutional infrastructure of the euro, to the migration crisis - have left the EU battered and in near crisis. Here are ten steps to re-democratise the union.

EU's 'old men' must pressure Poland on abortion rights

Despite fresh crackdowns on Poland's already restrictive abortion laws, EU commission president Juncker did not raise the issue with the new Polish PM Morawiecki - perhaps because it was an all-male event?

News in Brief

  1. Belgium lowers terror alert level
  2. France, Spain set to gain seats in post-Brexit EU parliament
  3. Orban family probed over 'fraudulent' EU projects
  4. Spanish judge rejects Puigdemont arrest warrant
  5. Austria plans to sue Commission over Hungary's nuclear plant
  6. Puigdemont proposed as sole candidate for Catalan leadership
  7. Abbas in Brussels to discuss Palestinian state recognition
  8. Exiled Catalan leader leaves Belgium for first time

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  2. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other EU Border Regions to Work Together to Generate Growth
  4. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  6. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  7. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  9. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  10. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  12. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted

Latest News

  1. EU stands by Palestine on Jerusalem
  2. MEPs may bar killer robots and drones from EU research cash
  3. Europe's social democrats are having a hard time
  4. How Oettinger's CO2 permit sale could fill Brexit blackhole
  5. New Polish foreign minister tries to charm EU commission
  6. Middle East, Messi and missing MEPs on agenda This WEEK
  7. Instagram and Google Plus join EU anti-hate speech drive
  8. EU wants 'entrepreneurship' in education systems

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  2. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  3. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  4. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  5. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  6. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  7. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  8. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  10. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  12. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap