Monday, 20 November 2017

Prague for EU to raise effort in stemming Russian disinformation

ČTK |
14 November 2017

Brussels, Nov 13 (CTK) - The Czech Republic is pushing for an increase in both the funds and staff that deal with strategic communication on the EU level with the aim to stem fake and misleading information coming mainly from the East, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek told reporters in Brussels on Monday.

Prague is not the only country to promote the goal, as other countries, mainly the eastern members of the EU, too, are calling for parrying fake information whose purpose is to distort or even influence political situation, Zaoralek said on the sidelines of a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

In reaction to Ukrainian developments, the EU's September 2015 summit decided on the establishment of a specialised team within the European diplomatic service.

The 14-member team, including a Czech representative, analyses and uncovers emerging fake news. It has uncovered at least 3,500 such cases so far, last time in connection with the turbulences in Catalonia.

Besides, the team is trying to boost the EU's positive image in the Eastern Partnership countries i.e. former Soviet republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

Most recently, a "Prague appeal" of more than 100 politicians and security experts from 22 countries of Europe and America called on European leaders, including EU diplomacy chief Federica Mogherini, to raise the number of the above team's members three times at least.

The signatories said EU representatives should start clearly labelling Russia the main source of the emerging hostile disinformation.

Mogherini would not comment on particular cases of disinformation on Monday. She said she had repeatedly proposed an increase in the team's budget as well as staff, but EU member countries always dismissed the idea.

She said she hopes that she will gain sufficient support for it this time.

Mogherini added that apart from preventing its negative image and stemming untrue information, the EU must also focus on effective communication about its own positive agenda.

Zaoralek said that members of mainly the EU's southern wing emphasised in the debate on Monday the importance of the EU's positive communication towards the southern neighbours and the Balkans.

This, however, is a different type of strategic communication, he said.

"We have to concentrate on the direction from where the biggest risks and the biggest threats come," Zaoralek said.

Earlier on Monday, the EC announced the establishment of an expert team and a launch of public consultations concerning the fake news issue. Next spring, it wants to come up with a strategy aimed against the spread of disinformation.

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