War and Peace. A new World Order
Thursday, 15 September 2022, Orangery Palace, Potsdam/Germany
“In these few hours,an extraordinary wide range of issues has been tackled by a similarly wide range of speakers,” said Hella Pick, doyenne of the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium and a participant since the first edition in 2005, summing up the 18th M100 Sanssouci Colloquium. “The title of our conference is ‘War and Peace – A New World Order‘. That’s a broad brief, and I don’t think anyone expected a blueprint to emerge!
The reports of the Strategic Working Groups have already given all of us an overview of the discussions and the conclusions that have been reached. I am sure that all of us who came here today believe that the world, and specifically Europe has become a dangerous incendiary place. Even so it has been sobering to listen to expert analysis of the growing dangers to democracy; or learn more about the war in Ukraine and its repercussions for Europe and the wider world. And turning to our media world we always need to be reminded about the threat to free speech. But in that context, it was equally important to tackle Europe’s long-standing struggle to gain autonomy for itself in the digital battlefield.”
PRESENTATION M100YOUNG EUROPEAN JOURNALISTS WORKSHOP
The conference part was introduced by the presentation of the M100 Young European Journalists Workshop, which took place in the days before the conference with 21 participants from 17 European countries on the topic of disinformation and fake news at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Berlin. The participation in the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium was the final event of the workshop week for the young journalists. Here you can find the summary of the seminar in written form and as a video.
“I make no predictions about the war, except one: Ukraine will win,” said Olga Rudenko in her moving and lastingly impressive opening speech. Olga Rudenko is editor-in-chief of the Ukrainian news platform “The Kyiv Independent“, an independent, English-language and already multiple award-winning news platform media start-up. “It is a question of time and price,” Olga Rudenko continues. “And it will be decided by Ukraine’s partners. If Russia breaks the West with its false narratives and disinformation campaigns, the price of victory will be unspeakably high. However, if the West stands firmly behind Ukraine, victory will come more quickly and many lives will be spared.”
You can read the entire speech here as well as watch it as a video recording.
STUDY “HIGH EXPECTATIONS, LOW TRUST”
Finally, as another Food for Thoughts, Hardy Schilgen, project manager of eupinions, presented a study on “European Public Opinion in Times of Crisis”. The study (authors: Isabell Hoffmann and Hardy Schilgen) was conducted exclusively for the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium. The data were collected in June 2022 with almost 12,000 online interviews. They are representative for the EU27 as a whole and for the individual Member States Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Belgium and the Netherlands. In short, the findings are following: EU citizens want to see a more active European Union on the global stage and are generally satisfied with the political system of the EU. At the same time, their short-term expectations towards the EU to fulfil its potential in this regard are rather limited and trust in the “actors” of politics remains low.
STRATEGIC WORKING GROUPS
I. “European Digital Strategic Autonomy: A Panacea on the international digital Battlefield?”
Impulse I: Huberta von Voss, Executive Director, ISD Germany
“While we and other organizations uncovered the complex ecosystem of anti-democracy forces, our societies haven’t been able to mount a strategic answer that is proportionate to the challenges we are facing”, Huberta von Voss stretched. “Since we are technologically more and more able to monitor threats like the rise in terrorist and extremist content, hate and disinformation across mainstream and smaller platforms, our commitment to defend democracy in all possible ways is missing.” According to Huberta von Voss, the amplific
ation and targeting of anti-democratic content through the products and services of social media companies had “reached levels beyond our worst expectations.” She included the responsibility of media companies which “cannot afford anymore to fall for decontextualized, conspiratorial, sensationalist content to drive engagement on their own platforms if they want to work in a stable environment. Democracy is the one and only framework that allows your businesses to thrive.” Therefore, traditional media outlets must stop damaging it by a lack of due diligence and adapt their ethical guidelines to the digital age, she said. “We see more and more actors, state and non-state, entering the scene, who learn from each other, inspire each other, and even support each other. National phenomena have turned into transnational challenges. The Internet has become a prolific co-working space for bad actors. Their strategy is to damage trust and democracy.
The emergence of alternative media platforms utilizing blockchain as a financial tool reminds us that these threats will continue to evolve in complexity.
The migration crisis in Europe, the global pandemic, the polarization of the United States, the economic downturn, the Russian war against Ukraine, the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, the climate and energy crisis – we are facing a perfect storm. We are witnessing a hybridized landscape in the midst of constant technological innovation. Any attempt to tackle the current challenges needs to take a 360-degree perspective to be sufficiently comprehensive, preventative, forward looking, agile, horizontal and nuanced.”
Huberta von Voss emphasized that the Internet “is no free speech environment. It’s a curated speech environment. The algorithmic amplification of sensational content by the platforms themselves is at the heart of their business model. If we don’t learn the lessons in regard to the impact of disinformation based on our experiences with the UK Brexit referendum or the recent US presidential elections, we leave ourselves open to a range of domestic and foreign threats. The future of democracy depends largely on our ability to build an Internet that works for democracies – and not against them.”
The EU Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act are pointing into the right direction, she said. Now it is up to each EU partner government to ensure that the new framework on independent data access, algorithmic design, transparency, and accountability is being implemented and enforced.
“We hope that this vanguard piece of legislation made in Europe is sending a very strong impulse to our transatlantic and Pacific partners for a global vision on how to best protect democracy in the digital age.”
Impulse II: Prof. Dr Paul Timmers, Research Associate, University of Oxford, Oxford Internet Institute, Belgium
“The global challenges such as the pandemic, climate change, cybercrime, as well as global malign powers don’t care about our sovereignty. They don’t respect borders. To safeguard our sovereignty, we need the necessary capabilities, capacities and control, that is we need strategic autonomy”, Professor Paul Timmers emphasized in his impulse. He said that opening speaker Olga Rudenko made everyone feel what European sovereignty means when sovereignty, freedom and democracy are threatened, as in Ukraine. European sovereignty is much clearer today than it was four years ago, but it is threatened by three forces:
1. Geopolitically from China and Russia, who would remind us how important sovereignty is, and would continue to do so in the years to come.
2. digital disruption and the threat from the big digital platforms, including the fight against disinformation in social media.
3. global challenges that threaten sovereignty, such as COVID 19, climate change, cybercrime, etc., which do not respect borders but undermine our sovereignty.
“If we want to protect, defend and preserve our sovereignty, we need strategic autonomy,” Timmers emphasised. This has nothing to do with autarky, with closing ourselves off and doing everything ourselves. Rather, he said, we need to work with like-minded partners – like the United States, Japan, South Korea, Canada, South Africa, the United Kingdom, possibly India. “We need to understand that we have and will continue to have strategic interdependencies with others. And we should be committed to working on global solutions that don’t threaten anyone’s sovereignty.” Timmers cites the example of working on the hole in the ozone layer, which was a global effort because it threatened everyone’s sovereignty. According to Timmers, it is important to act together and quickly, and to be innovative in the way we act. Meanwhile, laws in Europe – for example on digital markets and digital services – were being passed much faster than before. And there is also closer cooperation in areas such as public health, which are actually national affairs. In the field of defence, too, there is now a greater willingness to cooperate at the European level.
More European sovereignty does not necessarily mean less national sovereignty, Timmers said. The digital COVID passport, for example, would not restrict national sovereignty, but rather increase European credibility and, in a certain sense, Europe’s standing in the world.
Also, a strong cyber defence and cyber offensive are “essential for war and peace, as we also see in Ukraine”, Timmers said. “But the gaps need to be filled. We are too weak in anticipating threats and triggers for attacks and don’t yet have a proactive approach to cyber security.” In addition, we need to “better position Europe in the world in like-minded partnerships, for example in ICT supply chain security with our transatlantic partners, but also in global solutions.”
Timmers concluded by saying that he does not believe that digital strategic autonomy is a panacea on the international digital battlefield. It is a necessary but not sufficient condition for sovereignty. It is existential to mobilise all means for democracy and freedom and for sovereignty.
The outcome of Strategic Working Group I was summarised by Dr Antonio Nestoras, Head of Policy and Research at the European Liberal Forum (ELF). He explained that the issue is a very loaded political concept that affects many different areas – from security to economy to online digital relations – that we have to answer the same question for each of them separately. For example: a certain degree of digital autonomy may be feasible and desirable when we talk about cybersecurity, online encryption or data protection. In other cases, this digital strategic autonomy may be neither feasible nor desirable.
• It is currently difficult for Europe to be autonomous. This raises all kinds of questions and policy conundrums for policymakers in Brussels and European capitals because that is the essence of strategy: deciding where and when to be autonomous.
• The big gamble for the future: deciding when we need to work with the United States, what the terms of engagement and cooperation with the United States will be, or what kind of institutional governments the transatlantic partnership will have in the future to be effective.
• We need to redefine the terms of engagement with our (sustainable) rivals: What is China’s role in 5G connectivity, 5G development and 5G rollout on our continent? We need to be very specific and careful in regulating different sectors.
• How is this compatible with our values, which the EU has promoted and protected over the last seven decades? In other words: We should not legislate or create online frameworks or industrial frameworks that are not compatible with our values. In this respect, we also have to consider the protection of democracy – it’s a balancing act.
• There is a lot of digital strategy autonomy fatigue in Brussels. On the other hand, it is put on the table at the higher administrative level as an important goal for the EU. One can see that strategic digital autonomy, although initially suspected of being a French, Gaullist concept, is now making the rounds, even in the public debate in Germany, and is being seriously considered by the Scandinavian countries and in the South.
• Despite some pessimism and initial scepticism, the concept will dominate the political debate in Brussels and beyond in the foreseeable future.
• We should watch what happens in the United States and learn from the good and bad experiences there.
• If the EU wants to move forward, it has to create a strong single market. Each national market alone is too small for being successful. That is the only real chance to develop our own strong European businee in the digital field.
• China is not a model that should be followed. We do not share any values with China – neither how they use the Internet, nor how they regulate and control it. This is the exact opposite of what the EU wants to achieve with regulation in Europe.
• We need closer cooperation in the European Union and greater awareness and interest in this issue, which is as important as it is widely neglected. Because the issue affects us all: our prosperity, our consumption, the way we live, what films we watch and how, what music we listen to, how we use online platforms and the internet in general.
• For this, we need rules that do not restrict and control consumers, but enable a European marketplace for digital business, so that the EU becomes competitive in this area as well.
• Since the EU’s interests do not always coincide with those of the United States, we need to be able to act autonomously. Therefore, an institutional structure for the transatlantic partnership should be created, for example along the lines of the Trade and Technology Council (TTC), a transatlantic political body that serves as a diplomatic forum for coordinating technology and trade policy between the United States and the European Union. This model could be applied to other areas to provide some structure to the EU’s most valuable and longest-standing alliance and to create forums for transatlantic cooperation.
This event was supported by the European Liberal Forum. Co-funded by the European Parliament. The views expressed herein are those of the speaker(s) alone. These views do not necessarily reflect those of the European Parliament and/or the European Liberal Forum.
II. “Europe’s Role in a new World Order”
Impulse I: Dr Julia De Clerck-Sachsse, EU Diplomat and Academic Visiting Senior Fellow GMF, Brussels
In her impulse, Dr Julia De Clerck-Sachsse said that “Europe’s geopolitical awakening is clearly linked and inseparable from the war in Ukraine”. According to her, for Europe’s position in the world the following issues are particularly important:
• The lasting support for Ukraine, both in the short term and in the long term. Especially in these days, it is becoming clear that this support is paying off and what the advantages are that can be observed in the developments on the ground. Energy security, energy independence from Russia, which has been talked about for a long time, but has now become very topical.
• What Europe can do to ensure that the current needs do not undermine the confidence of the citizens, but that it helps the citizens to carry this burden as well.
• Partnerships around the world.
• Strengthening Europe in the world and its goals.
Then she focused on three other important topics:
1. EU and EU enlargement:
“It is crucial for Europe to focus on its near abroad if it wants to play a role in the world,” said Julia De Clerck-Sachsse. With the war in Ukraine, the issue of EU enlargement has moved up the agenda. Ukraine and Moldova have been granted candidate country status. But there is a lot of frustration and disappointment with the European Union in the region. Focusing on the Balkans will be crucial for the European Union’s ability to defend its security, way of life, values and interests in the world. More efforts must be made to bind this region more closely to Europe.
Another point is Africa, Julia De Clerck-Sachsse continued. The African continent is at the centre of development on the one hand and migration on the other and is also the new strategic frontier in the confrontation with China. The entire continent must be in the geopolitical focus of Europe, of economic and political cooperation and defence cooperation, she said. De Clerck-Sachsse underlined nderlined that Russia’s war against Ukraine “is about all of us, that Europe stands up for everyone everywhere. This is not a Western war. And I think there is more to be done.”
2. European defence:
For the first time, Europe has supported Ukraine with coordinated arms deliveries on an unprecedented scale. Julia De Clerck-Sachsse stressed, that this is a big step for Europe, but Europe needs to do much more to become a real player in the field of defence. In addition, military, foreign and security policy must be linked to economic policy, climate policy and energy policy: “We are seeing right now with the example of the war in Ukraine how these areas must work together.” Furthermore, Europe must work more strategically with its partners to coordinate its positions and ensure that its position is heard around the world. And not to think in silos, as is so often the case.
Europe is currently experiencing not only a hot war on its continent, but also a battle of narratives. Winning this battle of narratives is just as important as winning the war on the ground. Russia is trying to divide and conquer the Europeans, the West. “The European Union has set up a disinformation task force, three task forces,” Julia De Clerck-Sachsse said. “It needs to go beyond debunking and working on debunking fake stories, but also proactively putting that narrative out into the world. I think that’s what all of us here can do and can contribute to, whether we come from government, civil society, or the media. We need to figure out how we can all work together to make this happen.” The war in Ukraine is certainly a wake-up call for Europe, showing that it needs to “position itself on the global stage”, she ended her impulse. But whether it will lead to a lasting geopolitical awakening is an open question: “Will this really mobilise forces in a sustainable way, or will the toxic mix of disinformation, rising energy prices and the spectre of populism cause this wake-up call to fizzle out before it can really lead to a lasting geopolitical awakening? I think that’s up to all of us.”
Impulse II: LTG (Ret) Ben Hodges, Senior Advisor, Human Rights First, USA
LTG (Ret) Ben Hodges gave an insight into the American view of Europe and its role in the world. He said the war against Ukraine was a disaster for the Russian Federation and for the Putin regime. It is too early to start planning victory parades, he said, but we have reached a point of no return. He believes that the Ukrainians would push Russian forces back to the 23 February 2022 line before the end of this year and that “Crimea will probably be fully liberated by the middle of next year”.
The first question that kept coming up, he said, was the question of nuclear weapons. Putin is cornered, and yes, he could use nuclear weapons, he has thousands of them. Nevertheless, Ben Hodges does not believe that Putin will use them. Because nuclear weapons are most effective as long as he does not use them and they only serve as a deterrent. Everyone is afraid of a Third World War, but a nuclear strike in Ukraine, General Hodges emphasized, would not give Russian forces any advantage on the battlefield. Studies have shown that a tactical nuclear weapon can do no more than what the Russians have already achieved in the last six months with missiles that have killed many innocent Ukrainian people.
Second, if Russia were to use a tactical nuclear weapon, the United States could no longer stay out of it. They would have to respond, not necessarily with a nuclear response, but they would have to respond because China, North Korea, Iran are watching, General Hodges said. It would be a disaster if the United States did not respond to a nuclear weapon, “then we would face much worse challenges.” There would be many non-nuclear options that the Pentagon had worked out for President Biden. Therefore, a decision by the American president would not necessarily be a nuclear one. However, NATO is a nuclear alliance that would have to think seriously about a response. Therefore, General Hodges considers it “very unlikely that the Kremlin will use a nuclear weapon specifically in Ukraine”. Nor does he believe that Putin and the oligarchs surrounding him want to plunge the country into total ruin. Therefore, General Hodges concluded, we should stop “deterring ourselves”.
A third point concerns Germany, America’s most important ally. From his first day in office, President Biden “took some political risks to restore a relationship that had been destroyed by the previous administration”. There are millions of Americans, as well as Poles, Estonians and Britons and others, who wonder which country has done more to atone for its past than Germany? This is about defending democracy and human rights, and no country has said “never again” more often than Germany. So how could Germany now sit on the sidelines and not take an active role in stopping Russia? “Compared to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and other countries, Germany is certainly not doing enough,” General Hodges said. “Why is that? What is the reason?”
But, de facto Germany has given a lot to Ukraine, he stressed. Yet, Germany is constantly attacked and asked why the most powerful and important country in Europe is not doing more. According to Ben Hodges, this is also due to Germany’s failed communication strategy. He knows of at least five different explanations by Germany as to why they cannot supply tanks. This undermines the credibility of the government of America’s most important ally.
Germany must make a substantial, significant contribution to the Ukrainian victory, General Hodges said. If that does not happen, “no one will respect Germany anymore, not even Russia”.
According to General Hodges, the centre of gravity of power in Europe has already shifted to the east. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland are now “the centre of gravity”. The accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO will further increase the geographical shift of the centre of gravity of power in what Germany and France are concerned about, he said. And although Britain is no longer part of the EU, it is filling the vacuum created by Germany and has doubled its military commitment.
The US, on the other hand, is in a very difficult place right now. One of the reasons he joined Human Rights First, Ben Hodges said, was because he was very concerned about democracy in his country: about threats to voting rights, about extremism starting to creep in even in the military, and more. Nevertheless, he is convinced that the United States will remain engaged in Europe “because our prosperity is directly linked to European prosperity, which depends on stability and security in Europe”. He believes that there will be a kinetic conflict with China in the next five years. Therefore, it must be ensured that Europe is able to defend itself without a large American presence. There are only 35,000 American soldiers permanently stationed in Germany anyway, he said, which is barely half the size of the stadium where Eintracht Frankfurt plays. A comprehensive European defence strategy and capability is essential for the future.
Ben Hodges is concerned, that we are at the beginning of the break-up of the Russian Federation. We, Europe and the world must be prepared for this. The break-up of Russia would mean further fragmentation: within Russia, parts of Chechnya and various ethnic groups would fall away; in the neighbourhood, probably countries like Kazakhstan and Belarus, which are “tied to a body” at the moment. “Are we prepared for that?” asked Hodges. “What happens to all the nuclear weapons? What happens to the energy infrastructure? Russia is a part of every international organisation. What does that look like?” To illustrate, General Hodges quoted a passage from Ernest Hemingway’s early novella “The Sun Also Rises”, in which one man asks another: How did you go bankrupt? And the other says: Gradually and then suddenly. And I am concerned,” said the general, “that’s what we’re facing in Russia in the next five years.”
Dr Ali Fathollah-Nejad, McCloy Fellow on Global Trends of the American Council on Germany (ACG), presented the results of Strategic Working Group II. In the discussion it was stressed that Europe is Europe is lacking behind the role of the army and the military to become a fully global power. The question is how a new world order might be defined. Which is a post-unit world order with decentral economic gravity moving from the Atlantic to the Pacific which is not be translated into geopolitical power shifts?
• When it came to Berlin’s support for Ukraine, there was a lot of disappointment not only by the Ukrainian participants but also by other participants.
• Germany could barely become a European leader because of the trust deficit that exists in other parts of Europe, especially in East-Europe, regarding Germany.
• The lack of a robust military backbone, also in terms of disappointment of other parts of Europe, but also in terms of public perceptions. The eupinion poll which was presented at the beginning of the Colloquium, has showed a large willingness to have a more robust European policy.
• Lack of a unifying European foreign policy, the wish for reforms in terms of decision making. All this should be done before embarking a new enlargement.
• If Europe wants to stay globally an important actor, it would need to keep its economic potency. The question is: How to keep it? Does Europe have to engage with dictatorships to keep this economic power base?
• Are European values universal? Are they very much supported in other areas of the world? In some parts of the world – in Middle East for instance, but also in Ukraine – there is a lot of belief in those European values. But those values have a lot of problems in Western societies themselves.
• Participants from Ukraine pointed out the absurd situation occurring because of lack of German leadership. Other countries, be it Poland, be it Baltic countries and even a country like Turkey are seen as more vigorous leaders and better fighters for liberty and democracy than Germany. It is time for Germany for stepping up, because otherwise others would fill the void.
• This conflict situation could change the tectonics in the European Union. For example, the Baltic States become a stronger voice in the EU.
• In the Baltic states, which are confronted with multiple dictatorships and autocracies like Belarus, Russia, China, is a strong feeling, that they require greater solidarity from like-minded countries, militarily, politically, economically.
• The EU has not learned its lessons from recent history. How can we avoid more of spoiling governments like Hungary in the future? Will Europe learn from its mistakes?
• Europe should start to engage in a paradigm shift in foreign policy and proactively manage those transitions that are ongoing in its immediate neighbourhood, which also include regions and countries like Northern Africa (Arab Spring countries), Iran and other areas.
• Concerns were expressed that due to the misguided Russian policy and the war in Ukraine with all its repercussions, the EU could break apart.
III. “How do we respond to Information Warfare: Can we claim back Information as a European Public Good?”
Impulse I: Meera Selva, Chief Executive for Europe, Internews, UK
Meera Selva’s organisation Internews was founded to promote independent journalists behind the Iron Curtain by identifying local journalists and giving them support and equipment. Today, she and her colleagues are looking at what it takes to create a healthy information environment. In doing so, they have identified five elements that they consider important for a healthy information environment:
1. We need good information. This is good journalism but also reliable and timely data from governments and academic institutions.
2. Safe access to this information. We need to get the information without fear of arrest, harassment or physical harm.
3. Accountable institutions. If journalists uncover corruption, there need to be consequences for the wrong doers. Otherwise, public trust in all
4. Strong business models for independent media. Authoritarian governments know this is vital. It’s why they weaponize advertising revenue to support friendly outlets and strangle critical ones.
5. Critical assessment. We speak of media literacy but it’s about something more: promoting critical thinking, fostering constructive debate and disagreements.
Disinformation and misinformation have always been with us, she said, present in society since the dawn of time. However, in the digital age, misinformation spreads at a much greater speed and in larger quantities. It’s “not just a few bits of misinformation, but huge gigabytes spread at very, very high speed.”
Meera Selva pointed out conspiracy theories jump across national borders from the Philippines to France to the US. The development is not linear, and it is not always related to current events. While journalism tries to report on what is happening, misinformation can also be completely timeless. “Misinformation undermines society”, she said.
Meera, who just returned from a conference in Asia, said that Asia is absolutely at the centre of the misinformation storm, with huge urban populations and that digitisation has happened very quickly. Facebook is also a huge presence in the region, which provides a large share of users, but a small share of revenue. The platforms also provide an important space for civil society for the distribution of independent journalism. But it is a sensitive environment. Laws passed in Europe and the United States have a very direct impact on Asian countries and on civil society spaces in those countries.
“I come from the country of Brexit,” said Meera. “It was clear to me that we have to learn lessons from what happened There was a misinformation war, but the media itself also made mistakes. And when we look at how we fight information wars, we should keep that in mind. We need to understand the people. We need to understand the target groups. We need to understand society. We need to know what people are afraid of. We need to know what they need. We need to know what they lack. We need to know what they think of those in power. And you can only do that if you represent the people. That’s why the political institutions of the media have to be diverse and representative, because otherwise you don’t get a true picture of what’s happening on the ground. That is why it is important that part of the role as journalists is to create a narrative. Part of that is to report on corruption, but also to report on the impact that corruption has on the weak and vulnerable, to create a society and then paint a picture of who we are and, more importantly, who we want to be.”
Impulse II: Roman Badanin, Founder and Editor-in-Chief Agentstvo, Founder Proekt
“I firmly believe that we already have the most powerful weapon to fight propaganda and misinformation campaigns,” Roman Badanin started his impulse. “It consists in meticulous adherence to high journalistic quality standards.” In times of war, a journalist should be a double journalist and very thorough – and of course likewise in times of peace.
Even if events unfold very quickly during war, that should not be a reason to deviate from journalistic standards. “If you are a journalist at war,” he said, “the mere fact that you are on the right side does not make your information better or more credible. Propagandists like Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of the Kremlin propaganda channel RT, don’t care about the quality of their information. They don’t care about the mistakes, because all the information they provide is made up of mistakes and lies.”
War is a tough time when people die, and sometimes it is hard as a journalist to maintain standards under these conditions, Roman Badanin pointed out. The cited the example of Russian independent media that have been forced to leave Russia and now often publish unverified information based on sources from the Kremlin that are not very authoritative. Western media have also recently published stories based on statements by Ilya Ponomarev, a Russian politician who emigrated and now lives in Kyiv. According to Roman Badanin, his colleagues at Bellingcat had already proven many years ago that Ponomarev was directly involved in misinformation campaigns. A recent New York Times article on the results of the local elections in Russia was also unfortunately very unprofessional.
He gives another example: recently, the respected publications Forbes Magazine, American Edition, and Politica had published stories whitewashing the Russian oligarch Grigoriy Berryozkin. Grigoriy Berryozkin plays an important role in maintaining censorship in Russia. Now he owns RBC Media Holding, the largest private media company in Russia, which played a very important role in Russian propaganda and censorship. Roman Badanin said that Berryozkin was about to challenge the sanctions imposed on him, “and at this very moment Forbes and Politico are publishing articles, opinion pieces, whitewashing Berryozkin’s image in the West. This is not only unprofessional, this is shameful. In Russian there is a saying that during the war all other problems are unimportant. I cannot agree with that. Verified and quality information is even more valuable in war than in peacetime.”
He concludes his impulse with some practical advice: “The most important thing the European media community can do now is to support journalistic standards in every possible way. If we need to organise scholarships or internships for Russian, Ukrainian or Belarusian journalists, then we need to do that. If it is necessary to bring journalists to Europe for internships, we must do that. If the Western media feel that they lack expertise on the situation in Russia, Ukraine or Belarus, please contact us. It is a mutual process. It is a mutual study.”
The results of Strategic Working Group III were summarised by Prof. Dr Alexandra Borchardt, senior journalist, book author, lecturer, media consultant and member of the M100 Advisory Board. She pointed out the divers and interesting viewpoints of the discussion about if we can claim back information as a European public good – which raised the question if there has ever been information as a European public good. Problem definition: The changed information environment and the media’s lack of gate keeping capacities and non-democratic actors exploiting this opportunity. There is a lack of responses by other actors like states, like traditional media, the platform companies.
Other problem: The young generation that hasn’t been raised on traditional media platforms and how traditional media will gain back or increase trust of the young generation.
Misinformation as we framed it is just a secondary issue. Information accuracy is the primary one. Getting the accurate information and getting it out is much more of the problem than misinformation. The audience is not entirely stupid. Many people are aware that there is propaganda and has always been propaganda, particular in war times.
• Media independence and plurality is key. Media need to be transparent about ownership and particular financing of independent media and keep them working economically.
• There is no one-size-fits-all model for media and journalism (and the rules governing them), it depends on cultures and is different in peacetime/war, global north/south. The issue is mostly discussed from a Western and peacetime perspective with democratic actors. The answers we need to develop have to target the individual situations which makes it very hard to find a one-size-fits-all-solution for all of Europe.
• We need an increased media literacy for all generations and in all parts of society. But that cannot be achieved by the media alone. It is the job of all educational institutions to make transparent how media and new media platform work.
• Traditional media have failed the new generation. Young people want more explanation, a systemic view rather than a narrow focus on breaking news, solutions, and they need to feel seen and represented.
• Media need to listen to their audiences. They need to make truth attractive and help audiences to manage uncertainty. Journalism as a service to people. We have to be accurate but still popular which is the fine line journalism has to walk. Helping the different audiences by managing uncertainty is a vital task of media organisations.
• We should think about press and the media as an important vital democratic institution.
• Traditional media should build more inclusive newsrooms with different perspectives and should also more listen to young journalists (less hierarchical structures and interaction).
M100 SPECIAL TALK “LEFT ALONE?”
Following the conference part, Dr Wolfgang Ischinger, former Chairman of the Munich Security Conference, spoke with Dr Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu, President of the Republic of Kosovo, about the European Security Strategy and the role of Eastern European countries. Please find here the written summary of the M100 Special Talk as well as the video recording.
M100 MEDIA AWARD TO THE PEOPLE OF UKRAINE
The ceremonial presentation of the M100 Media Award to the people of Ukraine, accepted by Dr. Wladimir Klitschko, was introduced by a keynote speech by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. The guests were welcomed by Mike Schubert, Lord Mayor of the state capital Potsdam and Chairman of the M100 Advisory Board. The laudatory speeches were given by Dr Amy Gutmann, Ambassador of the United States of America to Germany, and Donald Tusk, President of the Civic Platform and former President of the European Council, Poland. You can find all speeches in written form and as videos here.