SMA hosted a speaker session with Mr. Peter Pomerantsev (Senior Fellow, Johns Hopkins University), Mr. Yuriy Butusov (Chief Editor, Censor.NET), Mr. Vitalii Rybak (Analyst & Project Coordinator, Internews Ukraine), and Mr. Mykhailo Makaruk (Speaker of the International Volunteer Intelligence Community, InformNapalm) as part of its SMA EUCOM Speaker Series.
Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine was preceded by nearly a decade of Russian propaganda, claiming that Ukraine is Russian and that Ukraine is run by Nazis, and overall, perpetuating the dehumanization of Ukrainians. Journalists—especially Ukraine’s war-time journalists—are playing a crucial role in combating these Russian narratives and setting the groundwork for future legal trials relating to war crimes and sanctions. Disproving propaganda deeming Ukraine as a failed state and Russian territory is important for stopping Russia’s ability to define reality. Currently, the Kremlin believes that it can make claims that seem ridiculous to many Westerners but are widely believed in other areas of the world, Mr. Pomerantsev commented. It is important to note that these narratives have been used since 2015 and enabled Russia’s quick and complete annexation of Crimea as well. Mr. Rybak added that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could not have happened at such a massive scale if it were not for its aggressive and enduring propaganda campaigns.
These ongoing narratives include Russian justification of attacks on civilian targets, claiming they were military installations, Mr. Makaruk stated. Moreover, following Russia’s invasion, the jobs of journalists in Ukraine have changed. Mr. Butusov commented that journalists no longer only describe what is occurring around them, but they are now becoming active participants in the war. Ukraine also does not currently have a formal policy relating to wartime journalism, creating the need for the protection of journalists to be institutionalized as more are killed. Furthermore, how journalists capture information and evidence has important implications for future legal trials. Mr. Makaruk argued that journalists from Western countries did not cover enough of the hardships faced by displaced Ukrainian citizens in Europe, including the assault by pro-Russian groups that these groups experienced. The presenters argued that while more weapons from Western countries will help Ukraine fight a conventional war, more wartime journalists, better training for wartime journalists, and further cooperation with allies and partners will help disprove Russian propaganda. The presenters emphasized that targeting pro-Russian audiences both globally and in Russia is also paramount to undermining Russia’s false narratives.
For access to the recording of the session, please email Ms. Nicole Omundson (firstname.lastname@example.org).