Countering Russian Propaganda Narratives about Ukraine in Western Media

From December 2022 to March 2023, the Lviv Media Forum Analytical Center for Communication Research “Networks” conducted research “Countering Russian Propaganda Narratives about Ukraine in Western Media.”

The goal of the research is to identify the most common Russian propaganda narratives related to Ukraine in the media of Germany, Italy, Hungary, Latvia, and France, as well as to understand why this is the case and what can be done to reduce these narratives.

Countering Russian Propaganda Narratives about Ukraine in Western Media

Methodology

The authors of the research have analyzed the reports prepared by Let’s Data and NGO Detector Media analytics as part of Monitoring of Media Discourse on Ukraine Around the World and Monitoring Media Discourse on Russia’s Full-Scale Invasion of Ukraine covering many countries. A list featuring five countries of primary interest to the Lviv Media Forum researchers — Germany, Italy, Hungary, Latvia, and France, and a list of the most widely spread Russian narratives was established.

Germany, Italy, and France are the major powers in the EU, and partnership with them is important for Ukraine. At the same time, they’ve had strong ties to Russia, which are now gradually being eroded. A great many residents of these countries still have reverence for the “great Russian culture», allegedly not connected with Putin’s Russia. Latvia resists the Russian influence in the media landscape and at the same time supports Ukraine a lot and accepts many refugees. Russian media in exile, which can be a conscious or involuntary source of propaganda, are provided a base in Latvia. Hungary is a neighboring country to Ukraine. After February 24, 2022, its government did not cease cooperation with Russia. More to that, Budapest blocks sanctions against Russia and refuses to send any military assistance to Ukraine.

Countering Russian Propaganda Narratives about Ukraine in Western Media

The authors of the research have engaged media experts from each of the above countries to find out what features their media landscape has; what specific media, according to their observations, spread Russian propaganda narratives; what narratives they encounter most frequently. Their list was checked against the one we had established. The next stage is in-depth interviews with media representatives. The authors of the research have focused on the media that reported on Ukraine the most and those that used Russia-imposed language on Ukraine, such as calling the war a “Ukraine crisis” or using Russian names for Ukrainian cities. In each of the countries, employees of three influential media were interviewed for the research to find out what journalists and editorial staff lack for their reporting on events in Ukraine to be comprehensive and correct.

The research consists of six key blocks:

  • The most common Russian propaganda narratives.
  • How media representatives see the situation.
  • Peculiarities of coverage of Ukraine-related topics in the studied countries.
  • Lines of effort to improve the situation.
  • What can be done by the governments and media of European countries.
  • What Ukraine has to offer.

Read the full research in English here. Translations into Italian, French, Ukrainian, German, Hungarian, and Latvian are available at the link.

These documents are abbreviated versions of the research conducted by the Lviv Media Forum team with the involvement of media experts.

We invite you to share your thoughts on how to prevent the spread and minimize the impact of toxic narratives in European media. Send your feedback and suggestions to the email: havryliv@lvivmediaforum.com.