In the middle of January, a rather unique chain of events began in the Netherlands, which today includes media publications, the courts, the Dutch Parliament and ministers. Estonian politicians are also discussing the topic.
The event concerns the European External Action Service, EU Stratcom Task Force website, EUvsDisinfo.eu, which deals with analyzing and reporting on Fake news and Russian propaganda.
The story began when the Dutch web publishers, De Geldlander, GreenStijl and The Post Online discovered that they were included in EUvsDisinfo’s Fake news database. More than 3,500 entries have been collected on the database with brief descriptions of their content and reasons why their news is considered to be Fake news.
One incident was the blog posting published in November 2015, in which in the form of a question format, the Ukraine’s problems with corruption as well as human and narcotics trafficking were referred to prior to the visit of the President of Ukraine to the Netherlands. Another story in the database came from September 2016 and spoke of the press release of Almaz-Antey, a Russian arms trafficker, on the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines passenger aircraft. A third report in the database came from November 2015 and talked about a meeting of the Dutch political party, FVD, where the journalist Stefan Huijboom, who was invited to attend gave a critical overview of the current situation in Ukraine. All three stories were added to the database by the non-for- profit organization Promote Ukraine.
This discovery in January created a lot of media in the Netherlands, focusing on the European Union’s involvement in freedom of the press. Media outlets and journalists as well as local Politians, who also became involved, led it. The publications filed a legal injunction against the EuvsDisinfo website. By mid March, the activities of the politicians were able to have the Dutch Parliament’s lower house instruct the Minister of the Interior, Kajsa Ollogren to require the closing of the European Commission’s East Stratcom unit.
As of today, EuvsDisinfo has eliminated all three articles from their database.
In Propastop’s opinion, it is an unfortunate coincidence, where several regrettable cases coincided, the results of which various parties have deliberately and in their own interests exploited and amplified the situation.
It is clear that there must be freedom of speech and freedom of the press in a democratic country. You may like it or not but it cannot be restrained. On the other hand, it is extremely important to check very thoroughly all of the Fake news charges against publications in democratic nations. Thirdly, Russia’s influence activities are wide ranging and non-selective, therefore, it must continue to be dealt with and contributing to it cannot be questioned in order to increase its popularity. The topic has also been raised among Estonian politicians. The MEP Ambassador, Yana Toom has spoken for the closure of propaganda fighting publications, while the leader of the IRL, Helir-Valdor Seeder has opposed her.
In the previous incident, ambitious actions have been taken by all parties, but this should be a case of lessons learned for everyone, not a reason to close the units fighting against Russian influence activities.
Photo: outtake from the euvsdisinfo.eu website