Russia is waging an information war in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus region. DW Akademie is taking action and training journalists and media users in these regions how to deal with disinformation campaigns.
In many small towns like here in Borjomi,Georgia, people also watch Russian satellite TV. The local media markets are financially weak.
The audience in Tiraspol attending the DW Akademie panel discussion on migration and refugees was an eclectic mix. Crowded into the venue belonging to an independent cultural association, one of DW's cooperation partners, were journalists, teachers, students and two UN refugee agency representatives, as well as four official panelists sent by the government (or the country's intelligence service).
Military transports like this one in Georgia are part of everyday life in many post-Soviet countries due to frozen conflicts
It's an unequal battle where glossy, wealthy media supported by rich Russian investors fight it out against financially weak and less professional media.
These countries don't have independent media; instead, the media (alongside banks and the courts) has become a tool used by oligarchs to fight their power battles. In most of the post-Soviet countries, people's trust in politics and the media is at an all-time low. The media in Moscow are quick to use this to their advantage, filling the vacuum with pro-Russian information.
In the non-linear, hybrid war that's being waged to advance Russia's national interests, the media play a key role. The first casualty of this war is truth. Among its victims are journalists and independent media companies as well as everyone else who's trying to navigate the jungle of half-truths and biased, or blatantly false, information.
This is where DW Akademie comes in, with its focus on strengthening media literacy among tomorrow's decision-makers. We specifically seek to train young people, civil society organizations, teachers and university professors. First and foremost, media literacy means asking the right questions and developing a critical approach to the media. What distinguishes fact from opinion? How can I find alternate information? The overall goal is to strengthen the basic human right to freedom of information. For Eastern Europe and the Caucasus region, this means equipping civil society, media users and media professional with the appropriate tools to keep a cool head under fire in the information war, distinguish fact from fiction and realize the importance of, and use, research and facts.