How pro-Russian politicians are promoting their agenda in the regions. Media breakdowns October 5-11, 2020
Since the beginning of the election campaign, Detector Media has been monitoring all-Ukrainian and regional television channels, online media and social networks on a daily basis for the dissemination of (pro-)Russian disinformation. In the regions, we have focused on the eight regions of the east and south of our country as those that traditionally show a higher percentage of citizens with pro-Russian sentiments concerning various issues - from Ukrainization to military operation in the Donbas.
You probably know what is happening in the all-Ukrainian media. Ukraine is a Nazi sub-state in which a civil war is going on and which is under external control. Those are the narratives that the Kremlin has been spreading for years through the media in its own country and through the media of its henchmen in our country. The emphases change adapting to current events. For example, as the local elections approached, all-Ukrainian media outlets increased coverage of Crimea and the circumstances of its loss; mentions of the "Nazi state" became more frequent; and one of the key narratives was "strengthening of anti-Western sentiments." There are also frequent examples of the spread of the "disruption of local elections" narrative, designed to delegitimize or question the election results in those communities where pro-Russian forces do not gain the desired victory. Most examples of the spread of (pro-)Russian narratives, as before, we record in the Strana.ua, Vesti, MigNews, Podrobnosti publications, on the 112, NewsOne, ZIK and Inter channels, as well as on various platforms, which disseminate (often without changes and amendments) statements by the Opposition Platform - For Life party.
In the regional media everything is a little different: classical (pro-)Russian narratives are much less common. The leader of the anti-rating today is Kherson region: during a week, you can find here 50 cases of distribution of such narratives, concentrated in 29 materials. The most common narrative here is "external ruling": western owners, puppeteers from Washington, secret and dangerous American biological laboratories, in particular in Kherson. Another recurring narrative is "Ukraine is a Nazi state": we are talking about "bold attacks by radicals", "pressure" on Russian-speakers, etc. Slightly fewer materials propel the "Zelenskyi deceived voters" narrative, where the president is afraid of the streets and of the radicals, submits to the West and to the oligarchs. Pro-Russian propaganda messages are most often associated with the Opposition Platform - For Life party: their representatives become speakers and dubious experts praise Viktor Medvedchuk and the political force in their publications. Most (pro-)Russian narratives appeared in Kherson.life local online publication. Slightly fewer of them appeared on the News of Kherson Region website where the feed is an "automatic selection" of texts from different websites. The VTV Plus local television channel and the It Is Important program, whose guest was Yuriy Boyko, the leader of Opposition Platform - For Life party, also managed to stand out. During the twenty minutes of the broadcast, Boyko managed to voice at least three Kremlin propaganda theses.
In other regions everything is more modest: in Odesa region, for which many people are afraid, we encountered 13 (pro-)Russian narratives during the week, and in Kharkiv region only five. But why then all these launches of Kyiv.Live and Odesa.Live? (By the way, what do you hear about their popularity, except that they are launched without the permission of the National Council?) Why all these attempts by regional television channels to rebroadcast 112 Ukraine channel and these scary stories about the purchase by the Opposition Platform – for Life party of regional printed media in bulk?
The voice of pro-Russian forces in the regions is really strong today, but it appeals to much more mundane issues, criticizing the government for tariffs, pensions, medicine, education, etc. - that is, it has the external characteristics of a normal democratic process although it pursues quite hostile goals of changing the country's political course after their desired increase of representation in the authorities. Therefore, the tools to combat them should be appropriate: from penalties for violating advertising laws to self-regulation in terms of violating professional ethics (do not laugh at ethics: the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy has already received messengers with a proposal to include in the rules of state financial support by the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation the requirement to comply with the media code of the Commission on Journalistic Ethics and to pass an expert evaluation by the Independent Media Council).
But winter is near. Despite the unusually warm October, after the results of the local elections in Ukraine, we may get an unpleasantly cold political rain.