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EU states call for plan to tackle Russian ‘propaganda’

January 9, 2015

Britain, Denmark, Estonia and Lithuania on Friday urged Brussels to prepare an EU-wide plan to tackle Russia’s “propaganda campaign” amid tensions over Ukraine.

“Russia is rapidly increasing its disinformation and propaganda campaign, as an asymmetric response to Western economic power,” the countries’ foreign ministers said in a letter obtained by AFP.

“At the same time in Russia the free media is suppressed by the government, intimidated and pushed out of the public sphere, when foreign media outlets are discriminated and forced to close.”

The letter to Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, warned that “propaganda aims at hindering the EU and Western unity”.

It called on the EU’s diplomatic arm (EEAS) to prepare a plan for 2015-2016 that would include alternatives for Russian speakers.

Ukraine and the West have repeatedly accused Russia of waging an “information war” to justify Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine.

Russia in turn has launched a television channel in Britain and a foreign news service called Sputnik to promote its “alternative” voice abroad.

The letter said the 28-member bloc must “provide credible and competitive information alternatives to Russian speaking populations and those using Russia’s state-controlled media”.

Russian-speaking minorities represent around a quarter of the population in the Baltic states of Estonia and Latvia, and around six percent in Lithuania.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s pledge to protect compatriots beyond the country’s borders and his readiness to revisit history has spooked the region scarred by decades of Soviet occupation.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.