In addition, Russia media pro-actively engage with alternative information – they have been actively using this strategy at least since 2014. For instance, images of destroyed buildings in cities posted by Ukrainian citizens are incorporated in news reports and debunked. Journalists claim that these photos are fake. E.g., they were taken in eastern Ukraine long ago, and the buildings were actually destroyed by the Ukrainian army. Based on this strategy, state-controlled media attempt to instil distrust in alternative information – such analyses are often followed by calls not to trust social media because they are used for disinformation.
Finally, Russia’s own anti-war movement is not covered. Recent protests across the country were quite significant. These protests are not reported on national state media at all, except for some local channels which broadcasted the Ministry of Interior’s statements urging citizens not to participate in protests. The idea behind this strategy is that by reporting on events journalists publicise them, even if they criticise them. Ignoring any anti-state protests has been the main strategy of Russian state media for years.
These tropes are used by state TV channels, but they also spread to other media. On February 24, Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor made a statement claiming that based on Russian ‘fake news law’ introduced in 2019 Russian media ‘are obliged to use only information from official sources’ to report on the operation in Ukraine. This constitutes a soft form of wartime censorship which incentivises non-state sources to use the same tropes described above even if they do not fully agree with them.