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New Disinformation Digest from the East StratCom Task Force
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Translating Russian troops out of Ukraine

 
It comes as no surprise that translations can be subject to political agendas and can be used to influence public opinion. Two scholars from Ghent University recently looked into this question in an article entitled “Translating news discourse on the Crimean crisis: patterns of reframing on the Russian website InoSMI”. 
 
InoSMI.ru is a popular portal for Russian translations of international newspaper articles (219k daily visitors) and part of the government-owned holding Rossiya Segodnya, which also houses Sputnik and RIA Novosti. It states that it makes ”the most representative publications” in foreign media available to the Russian public. With that ambition in mind, some of the scholars’ findings give grounds for raised eyebrows.
 
Focusing on material covering Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, the researchers sought to quantify the representation of articles with positive and negative attitudes to Russia and “the West”, respectively, in European and American media in general, compared to the articles InoSMI has chosen to translate.

Their results show that InoSMI significant overrepresents positive depictions of Russia’s policies and negative assessments of Western policies among the articles chosen for translation and publication. Similarly, there is an underrepresentation of articles with negative views on Russian and positive views of Western policies.
LOST IN TRANSLATION
 
“I believe that the approach I prepared with the Foreign Ministers and that I will present, based on a balance between firmness and dialogue, will be the one that will keep us all together.”
EU High Representative Federica Mogherini on 20 October 2016
 
“I believe that the approach I prepared with the Foreign Ministers and that I will present, based on a balance between honesty and dialogue, will be the one that will keep us all together.”
Mogherini's statement as rendered by the government-owned news agency TASS, by Russian NTV and other Russian media 
 
”She's going to stick to notes a little closer this a.m., still not perfect in her head”.
Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin in personal email, discussing the presidential candidate, published by Wikileaks on Tuesday
 
”WikiLeaks reveals that Clinton has ”problems with her head”
Headline published by the government-owned news agency RIA Novosti 
On the level of the actual texts, the scholars found similar politically convenient omissions, twists and changes. Describing the history of the Crimean Tatar community and its deportation during World War 2, an article in Le Figaro mentions that “a minority of the community had collaborated” with the German occupying forces. In InoSMI’s translation the “miniority” disappears; instead, it becomes “the community” that had been collaborators. 
 
Similarly, the assessments of Russia’s leadership in foreign media are often twisted in InoSMI’s translations; for instance a description of President Putin being “engaged in an operation of ‘calculated posturing’” becomes “a well-calculated move”, stripped of the ironic quotation marks. Russia’s “military movements regarding all of eastern Ukraine” turns into “concentrating troops along [Ukraine’s] border” denying Russia’s military presence in its neighbour sate. Russia’s “blitzkrieg” turns into “a rather short war”, although the German word is often used in Russian.
 
In addition to many similar examples, the authors looked at changes in headlines, images and other forms of framing. While “InoSMI can hardly be labelled a purely propagandistic news outlet”, the authors conclude that “the original Western coverage on Crimea is being reframed through selective appropriation, shifts and omissions in translations”.
Read the full article online.
The Russian embassy to the UK has built a following of 25k on Twitter with its sometimes controversial posts. The image above, posted this week "for illustration purposes", shows Europeans as fearful pigs flying the flag associated with LGBT rights. Drawing them as piggy banks may indicate a focus on financial values. The shirt of the Russian bear, in contrast, is covered with the Russian words for family, faith, fatherland, heros, tradition, nation and others. In the background: planes and rockets, a church as well as a tractor (Image: Russian embassy to the UK on Twitter)

Reverse “Russophobia”

 
Danes eat vegetables without washing them. Danish children drink water from puddles in the street and in general, Danish lifestyle is unhygienic and a health hazard. And Danish women don’t care about their looks. This is what awaits a foreigner in a country that consistently finds itself top of the list of the world’s happiest nations.
 
The quotes are from an article published under the headline “Russians are better off living in Russia” by Gazeta.ru, authored by an immigrant with Russian background after five years in Denmark. Translations of the article in Danish media such as TV2, BT and Ekstrabladet took Danish readers by surprise and provoked bewilderment and a pinch of hurt national pride.
One of the images used by Gazeta.ru to demonstrate that it's better for Russians not to live in the world's happiest country, Denmark.
The article was also widely discussed in Russia, where blogger and travel writer Anton Nossik denounced the article suggesting to focus on the headline: That Russians are better off staying in Russia instead of pursuing Western lifestyle in Europe. 
 
As the Disinformation Review has shown, the myth about the West fundamentally disliking Russia and Russians is actively cultivated in pro-Kremlin media. This kind of reporting about Europe, which is new to respected Russian media, testifies to the general trend to stigmatise the West combined with a wish to respond to the “russophobia”, which, according to the disinformation, dominates Western perceptions of Russia.

Defamation against investigative journalists


The last weeks have seen two criminal cases opened concerning defamation and slander against journalists in Finland and Sweden. Both reporters concerned are well-known for exposing pro-Kremlin disinformation activities.

In Finland, the investigative journalist Jessica Aro was subjected to an elaborate international discrediting campaign following her coverage of pro-Kremlin trolling on Finnish internet sites in 2014. A suspect is now being investigated for coordinating the campaign against Ms Aro while one of her collaborators is suspected to have passed on information about her whereabouts and assignments. 
In Sweden, the political editor of Hudiksvalls newspaper Patrik Oksanen, was portrayed as a criminal on Facebook this spring, based on the false information stating that Mr Oksanen had previously been jailed for paedophilia. Like Aro, Mr Oksanen writes about pro-Kremlin disinformation and influence campaigns from Russia on a regular basis. (http://bit.ly/2dI0P0d, http://bit.ly/2eFLERW, http://bit.ly/2eRivE0). (Image: YLE)
Friday Fun: Sputnik Germany informs about the results of a study on life expectancy in European and Central Asian countries. According to the World Health Organisation, the average Russian man lives to see no more than 62.8 years, that is the shortest life span when compared to his 46 European and Central Asian peers. To explain this, Sputnik cites not only problems related to alcohol and tobacco consumption, but also the fact that Russians "prefer to die earlier". Evidence for this statement comes from a poll by the respected Levada centre: 68% of respondents "don't want to live eternally". (Image: Sputnik).
The Disinformation Review collects examples of pro-Kremlin disinformation all around Europe and beyond. Every week, it exposes the breadth of this campaign, showing the countries and languages targeted. We're always looking for new partners to cooperate with us for that.
The Disinformation Digest analyses how pro-Kremlin media see the world and what independent Russian voices say. It follows key trends on Russian social media, so you can put pro-Kremlin narratives into their wider context. And finally… some Friday fun before the weekend!
DISCLAIMER: The Disinformation Digest is based on the analysis of the EU East StratCom Task Force; opinions and judgements expressed do not represent official EU positions.
Copyright © 27/10/2016 European External Action Service. All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is: stratcom-east@eeas.europa.eu

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