In what is increasingly becoming a battle over the use of soft power and information, Western institutions have been losing ground, according to a new Foreign Policy Centre publication examining the ways in which the governments of former Soviet Union (FSU) look to shape international narratives.
Western governments, NGOs, donors and the general public need to become more aware of the challenges they now face and must take action in order to protect and strengthen their domestic institutions and societies, while enhancing support for human rights in the former Soviet Union, the report concludes:
The information battle examines the influence of Russian media content in the former Soviet Union and the wider world. This is delivered through Russian domestic TV channels reaching Russian-speaking audiences in the region, the developing role of the news agency Sputnik and the international broadcaster RT. The publication examines how these outlets are used not only to promote Russian political narratives but to challenge Western approaches and sow confusion about what is going on in the world. It offers ideas for how independent broadcasters and international outlets can provide effective alternatives.
Despite cracking down on Western-backed NGOs at home, the governments of the former Soviet Union are seeking to directly influence the European and US political debate through NGOs, think tanks and lobbying organisations, the report adds, proposing a number of recommendations:
To the donor and NGO community
- Fund the creation of new, independent Russian and local language news content, news coordination and dissemination
- Provide increased funding for independent consortiums of investigative journalists
- Support in depth independent survey work in the countries of the former Soviet Union to assess the audience reach of both domestic and Russian media outlets
- Facilitate non-partisan support of Parliamentary engagement on issues relating to the former Soviet Union, including country visits.
To Western governments and regulators
- Track the spread of misleading and untrue content emanating from Russian sources, working with civil society to rebut it where appropriate
- Actively monitor online threats to Western based critics of regimes in the former Soviet Union
- Strengthen lobbying registry requirements, including looking to expand the scope of the UK’s statutory register and delivering the proposed formal EU lobbying register
- Re-examine the governance structures of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors
To international broadcasters
- Expand the range of voices asked to provided comment on Western networks
- Collaborate with independent partners in the post-Soviet space to develop content