Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine has complicated the geopolitical foundations of Europe and raised new questions about transatlantic security. Since the start of Russia's full-scale military invasion into Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the fighting has caused over nine hundred civilian deaths and pushed millions of Ukrainians to flee to neighboring countries. The current campaign is an escalation of Putin's aggression toward Ukraine that started in earnest in 2014 with Russia's annexation of Crimea; Ukrainian ambassador to the United Nations Sergiy Kyslytsya describes these actions as part of Russian president Vladimir Putin's campaign to re-unify the Russian Empire. Assessing accurate details of the conflict on the ground and the attitudes that Russian citizens hold toward the war is complicated by orchestrated propaganda campaigns emerging out of Russia. Targeted disinformation campaigns are an increasingly common (and alarmingly effective) tactic emerging out of Russia; in a 2017 Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe hearing, Senator Gardner said that Russian disinformation poses to a serious threat to the liberal international order, and that Russian's intention “to sow fear, discord, and paralysis that undermines democratic institutions and weakens critical Western alliances such as NATO and the EU.”
Russian disinformation campaigns have been influential in the ongoing invasion of Ukraine as well as the 2014 annexation of Crimea, but these campaigns have also been leveraged to take advantage of global democratic institutions and advance Russia’s strategic agenda in nations further from their own borders. This collection explores how journalism and information have been employed to counter the spread of harmful Russian propaganda across Europe, from Estonia's reserve of cybersecurity volunteers to Finland's public diplomacy program (and more).
Want to use some or all of these stories in a classroom or community setting? Here are some questions to get you started. Or make a copy of this collection and create your own.
- Why might the Finnish population be better prepared to mount a strong defense against concerted outside efforts to skew reality and undermine faith in institutions than, say, U.S. citizens?
- How would you describe the relationship between (official and inofficial) information pipelines and state power?
- What does Russia stand to gain through disinformation campaigns that attempt to exploit regional, ethnic, religious, and linguistic divisions? How might the goals of this kind of interference be different in the United States versus post-Soviet states?
- Explore the Checkology lesson on misinformation. How would you characterize the kinds of misinformation described in one or more of the linked stories? Back up your assessment with examples.
- Journalism is a collaborative practice: reporters are writing for their community, but they also depend on community members as sources for information. Indeed, the very purpose of journalism, according to the American Press Institute, is to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments. With that in mind, SJN wants to help connect news readers and journalists. Beside the name of the journalist on any of our story pages or the results page of the Solutions Story Tracker, you’ll find a Twitter icon that will link you directly to the journalists profile. Tweet at them with questions or compliments about their piece - you might be surprised by how much writers want to engage with their audiences! Don’t forget to tag us too (@soljourno) and use the hashtag #journalistintheclassroom if you are reading as part of an academic assignment.