L’altra faccia della propaganda – The other face of propaganda
“If the war goes on for months, 90% of Ukrainian citizens will end up in poverty.” The guest in the studio says just like that, “voyna”, and hearing it makes you jump in your chair given the now well-known news that in Russia it’s not possible to mention the word “war” and instead to refer to a “special military operation”. The words “invasion” and “offensive” are also banned according to the fact that the Kremlin and the Russian army are in a peacekeeping activity, a defensive action aimed at denazifying Ukraine. Points of view, they could say in Moscow, except for penalties the seem to be of up to 15 years in prison as part of a law on the increase of penalties for those who spread fake news. Yet, if you zap a little between the talk shows of Rossiya1, Pervey Canal and Gazprom, the most pro-government Russian TVs and about the main state propaganda amplifiers, it turns out that things are not exactly like they are told by most western media.
At least not for everyone, unless within the most popular talk shows which seem the exception that confirms the rule, and look to have a bigger space for freedom of expression than what we have been told. Vasil Vakarov, Ukrainian political scientist, fierce opponent of Putin's policy, talks about war and even repeats it on Rossiya 1 state TV in the living room of Vladimir Solovev, the standard bearer of disinformation, the Russian propaganda that according to the US Administration and the European Union pollutes the debate for weeks. Reason why the journalist was punished with harsh penalties including the freezing of two villas on Lake Como. Yet Vakarov seems perfectly at ease in the role of the "critical voice" to the point of criticizing the Kremlin line even under the eyes of the Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova who has also been affected to sanctions. In the March 25th episode of the Talk show Pravo Zonato, "Right to know", aired by TVC Centro the exchange is very direct: "I'm talking about Ukraine and the war", says Vakarov, "the main cause is in the policies of the Russian Federation and the conflict of 2014 could have been resolved in many ways, there was no need to turn it into a war in 2022 ”. He says it again, very clearly, and Zhkarova doesn't seem upset. "You say we call it a special military operation, but what do you call what you did in 2014 ?!". The atmosphere heats up but is part of the format, starting with the disposition of the guests, on the one hand the spokesperson of the Minister, on the other 4 commentators including the liberal Maxim Yusin.
Not that the climate in Russia is the most serene. After the blackout of sites and TVs accused of carrying Western propaganda, the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, with six journalists killed including Anna Politkovskaya and, according to many international observers "the last independent voice" in the country, has decided to censor itself. If the High Representative for EU Foreign Policy Josep Borrell took the opportunity to point the finger at the "manipulation and disinformation of the state media”, a few weeks ago Russian TVs decided to take a counterattack by trying to undermine Western propaganda with a dense series of fact checking programs. Rossiya1 60 minutes program was among the first, through a careful analysis of backdated and out of context videos, to deny the news, later confirmed by the Ukrainian government itself, that the "thousand deaths" caused by the bombing of the Mariupol theater didnt't exist. Some commentators also do not fail to recall how Ukrainian TVs, now merged into a single government information platform, have never given much space to Russian guests opposed to Zelensky's line. Unlike Moscow, where critical voices continue to alternate on the screens. While the Israeli diplomat Yaakov Kedmi has his say in The evening with Vladimir Solovyov, the American journalist Michael Bohm talks about the war in Svoya Pravda's studio, "Our truth", on Gazprom TV where he even jokes about the Russian law according to which he should blame the own views to the West. When the conductor shows him the images of Mariupol destroyed, Bloom does not hesitate: "The fault lies with the Russian aggression" and when the studio asks for the images of the marches in Kiev for Stepan Bandera, amidst torches and portraits of the Nazis, Bloom replies that in Ukraine none of these characters are in power. In short, debate. At least, for now...