Serbia, Bulgaria and other countries in the region have media that openly favor the Russian side in its aggression against Ukraine and deliberately release disinformation on this conflict, while at the same time they get funding from the West for their operations, said the participants of a debate held at the European Parliament on Tuesday.
The debate heard that large Western companies operating in the Western Balkans region often advertise in the so-called Kremlin media, despite the fact that their internal policies and guideline forbid this, as does their publicly voiced commitment to the fight against disinformation, and not just in the context of Russia’s aggression on Ukraine.
The media in Serbia and Bulgaria are not strong enough, there isn’t enough funding for quality, independent journalism, said Peter Horrocks, long-time BBC director.
He explained that instead, through advertisements, the money from the West goes to the websites and television stations that have low editorial standards and support the pro-Russian narrative.
This is why it is important that the advertisers who appear in such media understand this problem, Horrocks said.
The data of the Center for Research, Transparency and Accountability (CRTA) shows that over 65 percent of advertisers in the media that report negatively on the European Union (EU) and positively on the Russian propaganda – come from the West.
Some of them don’t know how their advertising money is spent, because that kind of decision-making often goes through middlemen who choose the media in which to advertise.
The problem escalated during the coronavirus pandemic when many companies, without knowing, financed media and portals that spread disinformation.
The Russian war in Ukraine showed the extent of the problem and indicated the need to stop such practices. That is why these companies need to be made aware of the reality – that they are directly financing the propaganda against the countries they come from.