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Media IQ at work: January review

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Media IQ, a Warsaw-based team of Belarusian disinformation experts,  analyze mass media content related to Belarus for fakes, false narratives and propaganda, — the tools commonly used by Lukashenko’s regime to influence or shape public opinion. This winter, the Media IQ team has spotlighted  three distinct trends/instances: 

  • The Belarusian State Security Committee, the KGB, ‘cooks’ the script for a state-run television show.
  • Russian independent media change the subject of the Financial Times’ article from Belarus to Russia.
  • Belarusian state-run media frame Poland’s PM Donald Tusk’s official visit to Kyiv as a sign of the ‘deepening conflict’ between the West and Ukraine, thus changing the connotation of the event from positive to negative.

KGB runs the show

Media IQ analysts find discrepancies in a television show, which has previously been implicated in collaboration with the KGB. 

On December 10, 2023, Igor Tur, the host of the Belarusian show To Be Continued on the state-controlled television channel ONT, presented a segment about ‘The Path to Freedom’ conference held in Kyiv by the Kalinousky regiment, a military formation in the Armed Forces of Ukraine consisting of Belarusian volunteers. Allegedly, the video and audio recordings from the conference had been leaked to the producers of the show.

Media IQ analyzed the segment and discovered that at minute 06:04, soundbites from two different people were edited together and attributed to a single person, the Belarusian political analyst Pavel Usau. The forged soundbite conveyed the idea of the victory of the regime over its opponents, and end of the opposition.

This forged narrative is one of several instances of foul play on television noted by Media IQ. In November, 2023, the host of the show, Igor Tur participated in the televised operation, organized by the KGB and aimed at intimidating the Belarusian civil society in exile.

In another instance, the Media IQ team looked at how Russian media manipulated a media article about Belarus to favor their own agenda.

Russian liberal media show no ‘Big Brother’  love  to Belarus.

On January 8, 2024 Financial Times published an article about the European Commission calling on Google, Meta and other Big Tech companies to promote the exiled Belarusian media. This was the EU’s response to the joint appeal by the Belarusian journalists at the end of 2023. Exiled Belarusian media struggle to reach their audiences due to the Big Tech’s algorithms suppressing their content in light of their banned status inside the country. Another issue raised in the FT’s article was the absence of localized Google News for Belarus.

Several Russian independent media reprinted the FT’s story. However, they consistently framed it as though the EU urged the Big Tech to support Russian independent media. Notably, the original FT’s article only mentioned the Kremlin and challenges of the Russian independent media in passing. Several other Russian publications mentioned Belarus, but only as an ‘add-on’ to the Russian media agenda.

Media IQ argues that by falsifying the information presented by the Financial Times, a number of Russian independent media participated in the problematic, colonial narrative of the «inextricable link» between Belarus and Russia. More so, by distorting the facts, several Russian media outlets, such as Meduza, and Russian services of  DW and RFE/RL, misled their audiences and skewed search results on the topic. This incident, argues Media IQ, illustrates that some Russian independent media continue to see Belarus through the prism of colonialism, as Russia’s ‘little brother,’ which is similar to how Belarus is seen by the Kremlin.

Finally in January, 2024, our media experts analyzed how the Belarusian state-run media negatively framed an event to shape public opinion about Ukraine.

A lie is the truth in Belarusian Newspeak.

State media frame Poland PM Donald Tusk’s visit to Kyiv as “the deepening of the conflict” between Poland and Ukraine. 

Media IQ analyzed the news coverage of Donald Tusk’s recent visit to Kyiv and the subsequent  statement by the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on cooperation by the Belarusian state-controlled media. The team found that the Belarusian state media manipulated the information about the event to present it in a negative light suggestive of a growing conflict between Poland and Ukraine.

Though most of the state-controlled media, monitored by Media IQ,  only covered Tusk’s visit briefly, the stories showed instances of bias and manipulation. For example, the STV channel  commented on the event by stating that not everyone was interested in resolving ‘the situation in Ukraine,’ and that some parties were inclined to drag the conflict out. The STV journalists further commented that the decision to build joint Polish-Ukrainian weapons facilities would lead to the prolonging of the war.  The Media IQ team concluded that the state-controlled television channel used the coverage of Tusk’s visit to Kyiv to boost the narrative that the West was to blame for the war, as it provided weapons to Ukraine.  A number of print media, including The Belarus Today, echoed STV’s negative rhetoric, creating the false  illusion that Ukraine was losing its allies.

The Media IQ team suggested that the negative coverage of Donald Tusk’s visit by the Belarusian state-run media served to misrepresent and undermine the relationship between Poland and Ukraine, and influence public opinion about Ukraine  inside Belarus.

Disinformation and propaganda are commonly used by Lukashenko’s regime to control public opinion in Belarus. The Media IQ’s mission is to monitor the Belarusian media sphere and dispel the many myths and falsifications spread by the state-controlled mass media in Belarus and abroad.

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Польша стала пристанищем для многих беларусов, спасающихся от репрессий, и бегущих от войны украинцев. А ещё – главной мишенью для беларусских пропагандистов. Чтобы дискредитировать Польшу, они манипулировали историей и использовали миграционный кризис на границе Беларуси и ЕС.

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