Interview of Minister Yurii Stets to Latvian Portal "Latvian Mass Media Community"
Ukraine’s Ministry of Information Policy was established to counter Russian propaganda and improve upon the laws concerning the state media policy. Referring to famous anti-utopia “1984”, it was immediately dubbed “The Ministry of Truth”.
They Only Have Today, We Have Tomorrow
In interview to news portal “Meduza” the Minister of Information Policy Yurii Stets said that “unfortunately many journalists read Orwell, but never read Churchill, and that's the problem.” (source: https://meduza.io/en/feature/2015/03/04/my-3-year-old-ends-her-day-by-singing-the-anthem) The reference was made to Information Ministry of the United Kingdom, which operated in the First and Second World War and which, the Minister believes, proved itself. He wants to achieve the same.
“But after my advice, they started reading Pelevin and other authors”, says the minister. “And I continued reading materials about American counter-propaganda during Vietnam War and Iraq-1, Iraq-2. […] These are our main differences”. He admits, though, he hasn’t yet read Churchill himself.
The Ministry works on multiple projects, for example, TV channel in foreign language “Ukraine Tomorrow”. The similarity of the name to “Russia Today” is intentional. “They only have today, but we have tomorrow”, Mr. Stets notes as announcing the channel creation. (source: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/ukraine-to-counterbalance-rt-with-new-channel-ukrainian-tomorrow/516375.html)
It’s Time to Fight Russia on Information Front
Another project concerns Russian annexed Crimea, which, in Stet’s opinion, is losing international recognition both from politicians and media. “Every day we are going to give news on what’s happening in Crimea, so that everyone in Ukraine and abroad knows that Crimea is a part of Ukraine”, he says.
But the most attention-grabbing has been the Ukraine’s Information Army or iArmy, which urges to join the struggle against Russian propaganda online. “In a year we have created a strong army which courageously protects us in Donbas. Now is time to fight back Russian occupants on the information front”, reads an announcement on the website’s English version. (source: http://2.i-army.org/index_en.php)
Already on the first day, 23rd of February, about 35,000 people joined the information forces.
Mr. Stets counters the question of how many people have joined the iArmy so far by asking: “What is the population of Latvia?” I reply that the number is two million. “We will soon reach this number”, he chuckles.
The Promise Not to Imitate Kremlin Propaganda
The newly-formed “army” cast doubts that Ukraine has started to imitate the methods of Russian propaganda.
Especially because on the first days a rumor spread that the website teaches how to form bots – just like the one Kremlin trolls use. The minister denies this to be true and blames journalists for such allegations.
At the core of the rumour there’s a letter, in which the Information army explains to its members how Russian trolls create bots. Stets claims that journalist, as said before, misinterpreted it as instruction to do the same. In one part of the cases inattention is to blame, in other part – an intention to discredit.
n another letter the Information army related its stance on the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, then urges to spread those views on website of the Russian propaganda channel “LifeNews”. In other tasks people are asked to share the content of the Information army and to attract new members.
No Intervention in Work of Journalists, Just Defending the Country
“The main difference between us and the Russians is that every person recruited by Russian Special Forces to disseminate its information receives financial reward. It’s a fact,” says the Minister. “A person registered with our platform has no financial remuneration. This is his or her right to pass the information, but not an obligation”.
The Ministry also reveals Russian trolls, therefore a special group of people monitors their activities on the Internet.
Stets shows a screenshot which shows several Twitter posts. The users are different, but the message – identical to a single letter: “Translation of the tweets.”
“By spreading such screenshots, people see that these [posts] are apparently fakes; that this is actually an information attack, because thousands of people just cannot replicate the same sentence with the same mistake at the same time”.
When asked whether they would also watch over Western and Ukrainian media, Stets replies that the ministry will not interfere with the work of journalists at all. “We’re not a regulatory institution. We have different goals”, the Minister claims. “The task of the journalists is to inform. Our task is to defend the country”. Yet he admits that the functions of the ministry and the media overlap a little. Nevertheless, he promises that not a single journalist is to be persuaded to co-operate.
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