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New #DisinfoReview from the EEAS East StratCom Task Force
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Issue 52 - 20 December 2016

Fake news is free speech?


We have described in the past how pro-Kremlin media have attacked efforts to counter disinformation, see for example http://bit.ly/2fNSKqe or http://bit.ly/2hiVJFx. According to Zerohedge.com (http://bit.ly/2hJA9JY), the war on fake news is a war on free speech. In an article which was quickly translated into Czech (http://bit.ly/2hJiZNR), all such fakes and distortions are described simply as "alternative" news sources. In the website paulcraigroberts.org, we saw material (again promptly translated into Czech: http://bit.ly/2hx3avK) quoting Zerohedge and claiming that the proposed American law countering disinformation and propaganda (http://bit.ly/1R5VOqv) is "a law against telling the truth" (http://bit.ly/2heUOFY).

Escalation in Ukraine


Already two weeks ago, we showed you the parallel between the rise of disinformation targeting Ukraine in the information space, and military activity on the ground (http://bit.ly/2hrUtDG). This trend has continued. As the fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk escalated (http://bit.ly/2hMoX2W), so did the discrediting of Ukraine in pro-Kremlin media. Ukrainian forces were accused of hitting a civilian car with a tank (http://bit.ly/2hVWJTU) – but the residents in the village have heard nothing of the alleged deaths nor has the OSCE monitoring mission (http://bit.ly/2gZMHAY). Ukraine was also accused of violating Russian airspace over Crimea (http://bit.ly/2gVFDSP), though of course the airspace over Crimea is not Russian but Ukrainian  (http://bit.ly/2gTMOcn). Further claims, disproved in this week's table, were that Ukraine is paying over the odds for European gas (http://bit.ly/2hxmCrV); that the Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister accused the EU of betrayal (http://bit.ly/2gP7yCf); that Ukrainian soldiers sell fuel in order to buy clothes (http://bit.ly/2gZ7wuI); and that there are only three ways forward for Ukraine: to be returned to Russia, to be divided or to be subjected to a coup (http://bit.ly/2hr1C6s).

Aleppo


Many of the themes that we have reported on regularly with regard to the conflict in Ukraine (e.g. http://bit.ly/2h5e9M3) have been seen this week with regard to the situation in Aleppo (http://bit.ly/2hRA73Ehttp://bit.ly/2hPC03t, http://bit.ly/2i46HTd).

One video, which was widely shared via well-known conspiracy theory sites, pro-Kremlin media and social networks, was presented in these outlets as an independent journalist telling off mainstream media at a UN press conference (http://bit.ly/2h44h6X). In fact this was not a UN-organised press conference but an event organised by the Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations. The "independent journalist", moreover, is in fact someone openly in favour of the Syrian government and who recently went on a tour of Aleppo invited by the Syrian government. She also frequently appears on Russia Today (where she has been cited for her claims that mainstream media is lying about Syria, that there are no international organisations on the ground and that the White helmets are not saving lives in Aleppo http://bit.ly/2hwDwIc); and she is cited by well-known conspiracy theory sites.

Among the claims she makes in the video is that the bombing of Al Quds hospital in Aleppo earlier this year was a fake and never happened. For her proof she cites Russian satellite images which have been disproven by the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab (http://bit.ly/2gJhVaN). Moreover the bombing was also confirmed as true by Medicines Sans Frontiers at the scene (http://bit.ly/2hhIvsE).
The EU was criticised by several Kremlin representatives this week for its lack of humanitarian support in Syria. The MFA's spokesperson blamed EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and EU Council President Donald Tusk for spreading disinformation concerning humanitarian aid to Syria (http://bit.ly/2gT3KzY). A Russian MoD spokesperson called claims that thousands of people were trapped in Aleppo "Russophobic chatter" (http://bit.ly/2gDyJVg), while Foreign Minister Lavrov claimed that the West is lying about Russia hindering access for humanitarian aid in the area (http://bit.ly/2gKfsQm). The Russian ambassador to the EU and an MoD spokesperson both claimed that the EU does not engage in delivering humanitarian aid to Syria (http://bit.ly/2hCcL4S, http://bit.ly/2hBY2qm), while Deputy Foreign Minister Rybakov blamed UN special envoy for Syria Staffan di Mistura for the failure in Syria (http://bit.ly/2hAZjv8). In fact Russia has twice vetoed UN Security Council resolutions aiming to secure the delivery of humanitarian aid to Aleppo (http://bit.ly/1O5yESF). The EU is the leading donor in the international response to the Syrian crisis since the beginning of the conflict (http://bit.ly/2hr9zZ3).
This is the last Disinformation Review of 2016. We would like to thank very much all our contributors across Europe who helped us monitor disinformation – our job would be impossible without you. We will return in January, with a refreshed newsletter for 2017. Meanwhile, we wish you a peaceful Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Download the FULL TABLE (.pdf) of disinformation pieces
collected for the Disinformation Review issue No 52

East StratCom Task Force
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DISCLAIMER: The Disinformation Review is a compilation of reports received from members of the mythbusting network. The mythbusting network comprises of over 450 experts, journalists, officials, NGOs and Think Tanks in over 30 countries. Please note that opinions and judgements expressed here do not represent official EU positions.
Copyright © 2016 European External Action Service, All rights reserved.

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