Mariya Zakharova: ''Doesn’t what we are experiencing today in relation to Russia remind you an information Holocaust?''
Why journalists are soldiers of information warfare and why the production of fake news brings more and more money
The second day of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum turned out to be extremely rich in events: in addition to the ''headliner'' — the plenary session with the participation of Vladimir Putin, as well as several landmark for our Republic signings, the day was full of interesting discussion sessions. The correspondent of Realnoe Vremya attended the discussion of the problem number one for modern journalism — ''fake news'' and found out why the head of the Department of information and press of the Russian Foreign Ministry Mariya Zakharova called false news about Russia ''information Holocaust'', whether our country will pay back foreign colleagues for the fakes in kind and how much they pay for creation of fakes.
''What is happening today in terms of accusations against Russia is similar to how some people blame the Jews for everything''
The discussion session ''Fiction vs. reliable information: challenges of modern informational world'' with participation of Director General of TASS news agency Sergey Mikhailov, head of the Department of information and press of the Russian Foreign Ministry Mariya Zakharova, and also Vice President for international news of the world famous news agency Associated Press Ian Phillips and Director of the largest independent news agency of Japan Kyodo News Kakuya Ogata went a little rushed. Because of the protracted plenary session with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the session began with an hour delay, which significantly shrank the regulation and forced Ms Zakharova to leave the event almost in the midst of the discussion — she was late for a meeting.
The moderator of the session, First Deputy Director General of TASS Mikhail Gusman, perfectly understood that the guest from the Foreign Ministry would not be able to stay for a long time at the SPIEF, so he hurried to engage Mariya Zakharova in the discussion, asking her a question: ''Do we have to live with the fake news, can we try to get rid of them?''
''Many times in the modern history we have seen how man-made challenges became challenges of civilization and pushed it almost to the edge. And today in the speech the president of the Russian Federation has made another point, may be he did it not very seriously, but I was thinking about it for quite a while, and especially after the latest visit to the United States. He said what is happening today around the Russian Federation in the information field in terms of the accusations against Russia in everything is similar to how some people blame the Jews for everything. Honestly, when at the beginning of May I was in the United States, our delegation caught itself thinking that what we read in textbooks of the late 30s, Europe, Germany, Poland and so forth, and we thought it incredible that a people is accused of almost all the troubles… How did it happen that at one point all people are blind, deaf and believed in what they are offered as the truth? Remember what caused this (I can't call it information campaign) wave. What we are now seeing is a man-made crisis that can escalate into a crisis of civilization,'' said Mariya Zakharova.
Without pausing for breath, the speaker continued to broadcast and asked the question: ''Don't you think that what we are experiencing today, in particular, in relation to Russia, reminds an information Holocaust?''
''Today for a few hours we have been following the discussion, which was led by American journalist, which is very popular. Look, there was not a slightest doubt in the formulation of the question. The points she voiced were the statements: ''Chemical attack in Syria was committed by Assad''. I have a question including to this journalist: ''Who of the US journalists was at least near to the place where the attacks were committed?'' Our journalists have been there, and I would like to note that they are there all the time,'' continued the representative of the Foreign Ministry of Russia.
''We're not going to use a knife against a gas attack!''
In her fiery speech, Mariya Zakharova announced a proposal that could help to understand the problem of fake news: should a global protection mechanism or verification of information be developed.
''We had a conversation with acting Deputy Secretary General of the UN, and he supported this idea, moreover, he stated that even the organization is not protected from the flow of fake information. With regret I can tell you that almost all 10 days that the meeting of the Committee on information of the UN General Assembly lasted, we were watching opposition from the American delegation to include the proposals for a development in the UN efforts to counteract fake news in the draft resolution. I would like to note that this issue requires a detailed study, and I think there is a need to create a special global mechanism or structure,'' said Mariya Zakharova.
One of the foreign journalists attending the session decided to blame the diplomat, calling her proposal to create a kind of ''ministry of truth'' a mistake. Most likely, the journalist put it figuratively, ''generalising'' the proposal of the representative of the Foreign Ministry as ''ministry'', but this allowed Ms. Zakharova artfully turn reporter's question against him:
''Look, nobody has offered something similar. For the first time I hear about the proposal to create a state mechanism — a ministry of truth. Again, all of this should be based on the opinion of the professional community, not the state mechanisms.''
Next question was from a blazing with indignation Russian journalist, who offered Mariya Zakharova to create fake news as a symmetrical response to the West: ''We're not going to use a knife against gas attack!''
''Of course, no fake news or an own disinformation arsenal will be created — it is 100% because it is a road to nowhere. The information warfare cannot be won because the victims are ordinary people,'' categorically said Zakharova.
In fairness it should be noted that the Russian media sphere is not so ''sterile'' — it is enough to recall relatively recent history with the channel Russia One when they used a fake video as an example of gay propaganda among children in the United States. Then the audience was shown a mounted video in which a boy enters his bedroom, looks at the wall over the bed and screams in surprise. Then the camera turns and shows that there are pictures of naked men on the wall.
''Erosion of morals, born across the pond, the erosion of the institution of marriage — Europe obediently takes the example of the United States. Is a child's bedroom supposed to look like this?'' said in the narration of the story.
In the original video, which actually was a foreign adevertisement, on the wall in the children's bedroom there was a picture of a sports car with big wheels.
''Journalists should help to expose lies used as a weapon''
Director General of TASS news agency Sergey Mikhaylov in his speech said that today he more often hears that journalists are soldiers of information warfare. The speaker also pointed to the fact that the production of fake news, ''false in their nature, but packaged in beautiful propaganda wrappers'', brings more and more money. The latter point received support from Vice President for international news agency Associated Press Ian Phillips: in his opinion, everybody, and especially professional journalistic community, should bear in mind that in the world there are whole platforms, on which fakes are created.
''In 2016, there were more fake news than true ones, however, I see it as an opportunity: journalists should do their job — to expose the lies used as a weapon,'' said Phillips.
To this end, appropriate was the question of a Russian journalist about the publication of Associated Press of materials about a famous Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska. We will remind, in May of this year, Deripaska filed a lawsuit to the federal court in Washington against the news Agency AP for libelous publications against him. The businessman is sure that the article of the Agency put forward false accusations of his involvement in criminal acts and other offences.
''We cannot comment due to the fact that the trial is to occur. We published this report and we can't judge the arguments of the defence. After what happened, journalists had no problems,'' dryly commented Phillips.