Since 2014, the Czech media landscape has changed. The number of pro-Kremlin websites has mushroomed1. This has been followed by disinformation campaigns on social networks, chain e-mails targeting mostly elderly people, and various activists spreading false information and promoting interests of the Kremlin. Disinformation has also become a tool for so-called “patriotic politicians” building their campaigns and proclamations on fear and hate, as well as using foreign hostile propaganda.
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ROMAN MÁCA_RUSSIAN BID FOR CZECH HEARTS AND MINDS
The Czech Security Information Service described new elements in the Czech media landscape in its 2015 annual report2. The intelligence mentioned that Russian information operations in the Czech Republic in 2015 focused especially on:
- weakening the strength of Czech media (covert infiltration of Czech media and the Internet, massive production of Russian propaganda and disinformation controlled by the state);
- strengthening the information resistance of the Russian audience (prefabricated disinformation from Czech sources for the Russian audience);
- exerting influence on the perceptions and thoughts of the Czech audience, weakening society’s will for resistance or confrontation (information and disinformation overload of the audience, relativization of truth and objectivity, promoting the motto “everyone is lying”);
- creating or promoting inter-societal and inter-political tensions in the Czech Republic (foundation of puppet organizations, covert and open support of populist or extremist subjects);
- disrupting the coherence and readiness of NATO and the EU (attempts to disrupt Czech-Polish relations, disinformation and alarming rumors defaming the US and NATO, disinformation creating a virtual threat of a war with Russia);
- damaging the reputation of Ukraine and isolating the country internationally (involving Czech citizens and organizations in influence operations covertly led in Ukraine or against it by Russia).
This scheme is valid for the years following 2015, as Russian disinformation is widely spread in the Czech Republic. It is crucial to understand the general extent of this phenomenon as it clearly shows how widespread and far-reaching it is – and may still be.
Russian State-Controlled Outlet Sputnik and Czech Pro-Kremlin Websites
Russian state-controlled Sputnik has operated since November 2014. Nowadays, this outlet works in more than 30 languages – including Czech.
Apart from “news service” reflecting Russian interests, Sputnik also cooperates with Czech citizens mostly from radical, extremists, and conspiracy theorist scenes with a positive attitude towards the Kremlin. Sputnik often interviews them as “experts” and publishes their articles and commentaries prepared exclusively for this media outlet.
2 Security Information Service (2016) Annual Report of the Security Information Service for 2015. Available [online]: https://www.bis.cz/public/site/bis.cz/content/vyrocni-zpravy/en/ar2015en.pdf