Children in Russian disinformation spotlight - watchdog
Russia last week tried to discredit the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and use it as a platform for the disinformation campaign. As often, children were put in the disinformation spotlight.
First, an interview with an 11-year-old Syrian boy was internationally broadcast on Russia Today, shared on social media through In the Now – an offspring of Russia Today but with no traces of Russia in its branding – and promoted by Russian diplomats. Later the same boy was brought to The Hague to tell what he had experienced, EUvsDisinfo wrote in its "Disinformation Review" this week.
The interview was presented as "evidence" for the key claim of Russia's ongoing disinformation campaign: that the chemical attack in Syrian Douma was a fake. The same disinformation was spread in several languages.
Experts note, the first problem is that, contrary to the reporter’s claim, according to the Intercept’s investigation the interview appears to be filmed at a Syrian army facility where Russian military advisers were present.
Secondly, numerous testimonies, findings of medical NGOs, authenticated photographs and videos, and reports from WHO partners, all correspond to gas intoxication of the patients, the report reads.
Read alsoWith influence activities exposed, Kremlin acts even more boldly – Estonian intel chiefAnd thirdly, contradicting Russia’s claim that there was an organized OPCW briefing on the subject, there was in fact no such thing. Instead, 17 countries stated that "Russia is trying to create the false impression that the OPCW has convened this meeting at Russia’s request. Nothing could be further from the truth."
The Director General of the OPCW distanced himself from the event and "informed Russia that such a meeting, in which 'witnesses' will claim to have been hired to simulate a chemical weapons attack, runs against the work currently being carried out in Syria by OPCW investigators; if these 'witnesses' have useful information on the incident, they should first be presented to the FFM to be interviewed."
Abuse of eye witnesses has a crucial role in Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaign on the Douma chemical attack, the European watchdog says, adding that there are several reports that Syrian doctors are forced under pressure and threat to say that the chemical attack has not occurred.
There is a deeply rooted tradition to use children in pro-Kremlin disinformation campaigns without following any norms of journalistic ethics and practices. Children’s names and photos are revealed and published and further used to serve the aims of the disinformation campaign. This was seen earlier with the faked story of a 13-year-old Russian-speaking German girl, Lisa, and with the years’ long disinformation campaign claiming that “Scandinavian countries take kids from Russian families.”
Read alsoPACE passes resolution on countering Russian propagandaDuring the past week a further variation of the same disinformation narrative was published in Georgia, claiming that incest has been legalized in Norway and that the UN has issued a new order on “sexualizing five-year-old children.” Both claims are false.