The CSS Blog Network

Fighting Disinformation in the Baltic States

Image courtesy of Justien Val Zele/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) on 6 July 2017.

Russian media played a key role in stoking the conflict in Ukraine, sparking fear in the Baltic states that they could become the next target. In the wake of the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine, Russian state-owned media shaped a nationalistic narrative regarding the annexation of Crimea that spread fear of the new Ukrainian regime and promoted reunification with Russia. Russian media also encouraged the separatist movement in eastern Ukraine and spread multiple false news stories intended to portray Ukraine in the most negative light possible.

In the current media environment, it is not possible to eliminate questionable or false sources of information. In the Baltic states, attempts to do so could backfire by reinforcing allegations that the Russian minorities lack full civil rights. However, encouraging independent media and thoughtful integration of Russian-language programming into mainstream sources will provide more credible alternatives for Baltic Russian speakers. In the longer term, an important tool for all countries facing propaganda and “fake news” is to increase education in media literacy, critical reading, and technical training to thwart hacks and other attempts to hijack information. A population trained to identify bias is the best defense against harmful propaganda.

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´Social Cohesion´ in Deeply Divided Societies: Five Findings for Peacebuilding

Courtesy El Bingle/Flickr

This piece was originally published by Political Violence @ a Glance on 30 August 2016.

Majlinda Kelmendi of Kosovo’s Olympic Gold Medal won in judo was doubly significant for her young country. First, Rio was Kosovo’s first-ever Olympics – it became controversially independent in 2008 and its Olympic Committee was not recognized until 2014 (conveniently, after the now much-maligned Sochi Winter Games); Kelmendi, already a champion in judo, carried the Kosovo flag first into the Olympic stadium. Second, by default, her gold medal was the country’s first-ever Olympic medal of any kind.

Back home, Kosovo remains deeply divided along the essentially ethnic lines that emerged during its mostly successful secessionist bid from Serbia (Kosovo’s independence is still not fully recognized, and tensions remain with a small Serb minority along with important Orthodox sites). July, for example, saw tense but mostly peaceful marches by Kosovo’s minority Serbs to holy sites.

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The Ukraine Crisis and the Issue of National Minorities

Pro-Russian Meeting, courtesy of Lystopad

This article was originally published by Security and Human Rights.

National minorities are a political and social fact in Europe and many other parts of the world. In Europe, the issue of national minorities became particularly acute after the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918 as well as more recently after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia and the collapse of the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 1990s. The newly created independent states became hosts to national minorities: for example, the Baltic States and Ukraine to a Russian minority, Romania to a Hungarian minority, Croatia to a Serb minority and vice versa, just to name a few. » More

Thailand’s Democratic Disorder

Democracy monument in Bangkok, Thailand

Democracy monument in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo: David Villa/flickr.

BANGKOK – From Thailand to Turkey to Ukraine, the relationship between ruling majorities and electoral minorities has become combustible – and is threatening to erode the legitimacy of democracy itself. The unfolding crisis in Bangkok – where a political minority has taken to the streets to bring down Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s democratically elected government – is a case in point.

Yingluck’s Pheu Thai Party (PTP) won an outright majority in Thailand’s 2011 general election, gaining 265 MPs in the 500-member lower house. But the opposition Democratic Party – which returned 159 MPs, mainly from Bangkok and southern Thailand – has lately been staging protests in the capital. The so-called “People’s Committee for Democratic Reform” – led by former Democratic Party MP Suthep Thaugsuban and supported by the Bangkok-based establishment – has effectively attempted to stage a coup.

The protests began when the government tried to enact amnesty legislation that would have overturned the conviction of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra – Yingluck’s brother and the PTP’s founder, who was overthrown by the military in 2006 – on charges of corruption and abuse of power. (It also would have superseded the murder charges brought against the Democratic Party’s leader, former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.) But Yingluck’s subsequent attempt to backtrack on the amnesty measure failed to mollify the opposition. » More

China’s Challenge in Northern Myanmar

Myanmar welcoming the Thai Prime Minister. Photo: Peerapat Wimolrungkarat/ Abhisit Vejjajiva

Northern Myanmar is strategically important to Beijing as a supply corridor and as a buffer between China’s ethnically diverse southwestern provinces and southern Myanmar. The heightened tension in northern Myanmar in the past several years presented Beijing with challenges regarding border security and maintaining a balance between Naypyidaw and various ethnic forces with strong connections to Beijing.

While Beijing remains the most important mediator in the ethnic conflicts, its broader strategic interests in the country played a part in Beijing’s reluctance to openly engage with ethnic forces involved in the fighting. With Naypyidaw gradually gaining support from the West, Beijing has to contend with Western threats to its energy and transport interests and with ethnic issues threatening stability along its border. » More

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