How Militants' Media Manipulate the Consciousness of People in Occupied Donbas
«Vchasno» journalists studied TV channels and newspapers operating on the territory of certain districts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions (CDDLR) and found out that each mass media constantly allocates newspaper columns for anti-Ukrainian propaganda, and whole programs are devoted to Ukrainophobia on TV channels.
«Russia has temporarily stopped the active phase of military aggression against Ukraine, but at the same time has begun to conquer people's minds through the implementation of informational and propagandistic projects,» head of the Eastern Human Rights Group Vira Yastrebova said. «It is important to understand that people who permanently live in CDDLR do not have access to alternative sources of information — Ukrainian, European, or world media. Especially older people who do not have the skills to use or access the Internet. Only Russian and local media controlled by the militants operate in CDDLR.»
According to the Eastern Human Rights Group, there are currently 17 local, militant-controlled TV channels operating in the occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions. 9 of them broadcast in the so-called «DPR» and 8 in the so-called «LPR».
There are also 32 local newspapers in CDDLR (19 in the occupied Donetsk region and 14 in the occupied Luhansk region) and 8 radio stations (3 in the so-called «DPR» and 5 in the so-called «LPR»).
«The activity of all mass media in CDDLR is supervised by the special services of the so-called „LDPR“,» Vira Yastrebova said. «The activities of independent journalists, as well as the distribution of Ukrainian or world media news by residents of occupied Donbas on social networks are punished. CDDLR residents are constantly exposed to informational propaganda through local television, newspapers, magazines, radio, and all media are oriented to the Russian Federation.»
Human rights activists claim that most often residents of occupied Donbas believe that the information they receive from the militants' media is the only truth. And this contributes to the formation of their misconceptions.
Forming a negative attitude towards the Ukrainian authorities is one of the main tasks of «LDPR» propagandists. These are publications and stories about the economic, political, and gender state of Ukraine. At the same time, the media of the militants put Ukraine at a disadvantage and often use false information or distort the facts.
For example, the «main» TV channel of the so-called «DPR» «First Republican» constantly broadcasts the program «No fakes», which tells not about fakes, as the name implies, but about how badly people live in areas controlled by the Ukrainian government.
In another permanent program «Point of View» on the same channel propagandists talk about the crisis that will destroy Ukraine and the alleged success of the fake «republic». The complete collapse of Ukrainian statehood is constantly talked about in the «Replica» program.
The TV program «Schenevmerla», which is broadcast almost daily on the TV channel «Oplot», is dedicated to the demonization and humiliation of Ukraine.
CDDLR propagandists like to write and talk about the economic and energy collapse of Ukraine, «unbearable» utility tariffs, public debts for utilities, the fact that Ukraine's population is shrinking, and that in cities under the control of the Ukrainian government, «Nazism prevails».
Also, one of the favorite topics that is constantly raised by the media of militants is the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The articles and stories of the propagandists present the Ukrainian army not as professional soldiers, but as a place anyone can enter. The command of the Armed Forces is represented as criminals who are engaged in theft of property and budget money.
"Drunkenness, drug addiction and theft in the Armed Forces of Ukraine will disappear as soon as the soldiers ... learn English": heading in militants' media
The media's portrayal of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky deserves special attention — in the stories and publications he is called a «bloody clown», a «clown», accused of «trying to destroy the people of Donbas». In the news, the Ukrainian military is called «militants of the Armed Forces under the command of Zelensky». Also in the stories about the social condition of Ukraine, the propagandists emphasize that the blame for the bad situation lies with President Zelensky.
Thus, the media of the militants are trying to convince the population of CDDLR in the correctness of their choice and increase the authority of the occupation authorities through the humiliation of the Ukrainian government.
All media in the territory of CDDLR necessarily pay attention to the topic of integration with Russia — it is mentioned in almost every piece of news, newspapers and TV programs.
There are news about various events in occupied Donbas, which are held jointly with the subjects of Russia or events dedicated to Russia, such as «Day of the Russian language», «Day of Russia», festivals of Russian culture, forums and gatherings of various Russian organizations and more.
The media of the militants widely cover the trips of CDDLR schoolchildren, youth, athletes, and state employees to the Russian Federation for the participation in various forums, conferences, competitions, and contests.
Also in the newspapers and on television of occupied Donbas constantly talk about the possibility of obtaining Russian citizenship under a simplified scheme.
The militants' media openly position integration with the Russian Federation as the only wright way to develop CDDLR.
In the newspapers and on television of the occupied Donbas constantly talk about the possibility of obtaining Russian citizenship under a simplified scheme
Local news in the media of militants is, as a rule, reports about some festivals and exhibitions, forums and gatherings, as well as about the development of occupied cities and enterprises. For example, the news on the launch of a new mechanism on the mine or a new bus route, or even the installation of a payphone. At the same time, it is presented in a very positive way, and the occupation authorities are never get criticized.
The news on CDDLR TV channels is reminiscent of Soviet television, where labor successes and victories of the Soviet Union were covered and viewers were intimidated with the «horrors» of the Western world. Thus, people were convinced that they live in a prosperous, successful, equitable society, where no shortcomings and problems, and the outside world is a hostile, aggressive environment from which you should defend yourself and be ready for the war with it.
This is the parallel reality that has been forming in the minds of the CDDLR residents by media for five years.
They completely ignore the real problems that the population of the occupied territories suffers from — unemployment, meager wages, which are 3 times less than in neighboring cities under the control of the Ukrainian government, closure of dozens of enterprises and wage arrears, lack of specialists in almost all areas. Problems are silenced. If any problems get into the news, then only as positively resolved by the occupation authorities.
At the same time, propagandists constantly tell people that all their difficulties are the result of the activities of the Ukrainian authorities.
The media in CDDLR manipulate the consciousness of the population, they deliberately distort real information, keeping silent about some facts and fabricating others. Thus, the media of the militants keep the population in constant fear with reports that the Ukrainian authorities pull together troops to the war zone, use weapons prohibited by the Minsk agreements, and shell civilian objects.
At the same time, the propagandists use hate speech, calling the Ukrainian military «punishers», «militants of the Armed Forces», and «banderites». They constantly draw parallels between the Armed Forces and the Nazis, and demonstratively compare the Ukrainian military and Wehrmacht soldiers. CDDLR media also often publish articles about the alleged spread of Nazi ideology in Ukraine.
"The language doctrine of Ukraine was written off from the Nazis": heading in militants' media
"Ukrainian Defense Ministry continues to destroy Russian-language schools": heading in militants' media
"Hitler's birthday is planned to be widely celebrated in Kyiv": heading in militants' media
The favorite fakes of propagandists are reports of alleged crimes by Ukrainian security forces against «citizens of the republics».
News about alleged harassment of CDDLR residents by Ukrainian special services on the line of contact are also often published.
Also, propagandists periodically voice fakes about the alleged plans of the Ukrainian authorities to completely destroy residents of the occupied territories with the help of chemical, bacteriological weapons or artificial cataclysms. Last year, militant newspapers reported on the Ukrainian government's alleged plans to use chemical weapons and prepare to blow up a dam on the Myronivka Reservoir in the occupied Luhansk region.
At the same time, propagandists who cover the consequences of the war, always shift the blame for the civilian casualties to the Armed Forces. The occupiers are holding and widely covering mass events dedicated to the «victims of Ukrainian aggression», opening monuments and even museums. In this way, they create in the population of occupied Donbas the illusion of the inevitability of punishment for the Ukrainian government and at the same time the illusion of concern for the civilian population.
"You need to know the enemy by sight. Three Krasnodan VKontakte groups conduct propaganda": heading in militants' media
Residents of СDDLR, who receive information from the local media, believe that it is the only truth, which contributes to the formation of misconceptions, experts from the Eastern Human Rights Group believe.
Last year, human rights activists studied the print and other media outlets operating in the occupied territories and interviewed local residents who regularly read newspapers to determine the impact of militants' propaganda on the population.
The experts conducted 159 interviews. The results showed that people who receive information from the media of the occupation authorities are in a state of chronic stress.
«Reading news in the CDDLR media leads to fear and aggression among consumers of information,» the human rights activists said in a report. «During the interview, the connection between the topics of the CDDLR media and the mood and opinion of occupied Donbas residents was revealed. The results showed that a large number of respondents changed their attitude towards Ukraine for the worse after reports of «aggression by Ukrainian punitive forces» and «demonstrations of the results of Ukrainian shelling.»
Human rights activists reported that one of the respondents said that after another report in the local media about the alleged violation of the ceasefire by the Ukrainian military, he stopped communication with his relatives who live in the territories controlled by the Ukrainian authorities.
«CDDLR media is a tool for managing the socio-political situation in occupied Donbas, the main element of manipulating the consciousness of people living in these territories,» human rights activists said.