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Two Ukrainian TV channels push Russian propaganda amid presidential election: report

How hybrid war fake narratives reshape the agenda of Ukrainian TV amid presidential election: Report
Two Ukrainian TV channels push Russian propaganda amid presidential election: report
The report of Ukrainian media watchdog StopFake Fake Narratives in Times of Presidential Elections: How Hybrid War Reshapes The Agenda of Ukrainian TV by Anastasiya Hrynko with contributions from Artem Laptiev focuses the fake narratives spread by Ukrainian opposition TV channels during the 2019 presidential election campaign. The study is based on one-month long monitoring of talk shows on two channels, NewsOne and 112.

The authors analyzed the themes of the shows aired on both channels and found that they both spread typical narratives of Russian propaganda.

StopFake’s newest research analyzes the content of talk shows on two Ukrainian opposition TV channels, NewsOne and 112. And the researchers have found that the oppositional TV channels tend to give airtime to promoting Ukraine-related fake narratives that are mostly centered on Ukrainian domestic agenda issues.

Back in 2016, StopFake co-founder Yevhen Fedchenko identified 18 major Ukraine-related fake narrative topics spread by Russian propaganda by analyzing 500 debunked disinformation items.

The two channels were picked for the analysis because both 112 and NewsOne were previously criticized by the independent media watchdog Detector Media and the National Council of TV and radio broadcasting for their utilization of hate speech, disseminating of fakes, and “setting agenda that is too close to Russian propaganda.” Importantly, the political talk shows of the oppositional TV channels faced the strongest criticism.

The popular Russian propaganda narrative of Ukraine as a “failed state” dominated in December 2018, when the researchers monitored NewsOne and 112. At the time of the presidential campaign, the two media tended to connect the failed-state narrative to the “failed government” idea backed by “failed reforms and “ineffective government leading Ukraine to total collapse” statements

Top-3 Fake Narratives on 112 and NewsOne in December 2018.

The TV channels closely linked the failed-state “leitmotif” often combining it with two more narratives, “poor and starving Ukraine” and “Ukraine totally dependent on Russia.”

In many cases, these narratives “appealed to emotions and fake claims intending to depict Ukraine as a totally ruined country sinking into poverty (again, as a result of the ineffective government) claiming that to survive “Ukraine must negotiate with Russia,” the study says.

Among the statements intended to promote the fake narratives of this kind were the following:

  • “Ukrainian industry dies without Russia”
  • “nobody else will purchase Ukrainian products”
  • “if there will be no Russians in Ukraine, Ukrainians will have no work”
  • “Ukraine and Russia are friends, they can not be separated since they share a big border”
  • “many Ukrainians support Russia.”

Another group of fakes spread by NewsOne and 112, according to StopFake’s research, were narratives related to Russia and Western stakeholders. Both TV channels contributed to the legitimization of the annexation of Crimea and described Russia as “not a part of the occupation/war.”

Meanwhile, mentioning the Western stakeholders, both channels promoted the fake narratives of the “decline of Western support for Ukraine” and manipulated data on international organizations.

Other Fake Narratives. NewsOne and 112. December 2018. One of the statements denying the Russian occupation was “Poroshenko started the war on Donbas and this led Ukraine to poverty,” the decline of Western support was often presented with the slant “the West is tired of Ukraine.”

Opposition MPs and guests of the shows who were introduced as “experts” were most active in voicing propaganda narratives.

The report reads, “In some cases, the narratives have also been repeated by other invited politicians and in a few cases, they were embedded within the comments of the talk show hosts or as a part of data presented as survey findings.”

Themes in which fake narratives were embedded.

At the same time, the Ukrainian media didn’t widely use other topics popular in Russian propaganda such as the ones related to Russia’s invasion and war, to the Ukrainian Army and volunteer battalions, to the religion in general and the Tomos in particular. However, these narratives were promoted at least once on the channels:

As we can see, NewsOne and 112 channels prefer Russian propaganda narratives that are mainly directed against the Ukrainian government and its policies.

It is noteworthy that the idea of “impoverished Ukraine” which should negotiate with Russia to survive is widely used by many presidential candidates as a cornerstone of their campaigns: all populists refer to poverty and promise to raise salaries and pensions, as well as they often promise to halve gas prices. As well as they insist on negotiations in various forms, such as changing negotiation formats (Tymoshenko), negotiating with Putin face-to-face and to “agree somewhere at a middle point” (Zelenskyy), direct talks to not only Russia but also to the representatives of the so-called Luhansk and Donetsk people’s republics (Boiko).

Meanwhile, more than enough negotiation platforms have already been used for negotiations – the Normandy Format, “Minsk Group,” meetings of special representatives of Russia and the US – the only problem is Russia’s unwillingness to obey the paragraphs of the Minsk agreements and de-occupy the Ukrainian territories.

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