Tag Archives: disinformation

Borrell denies “kowtow” to China

Disinformation around the coronavirus pandemic: Opening statement by the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell at the European Parliament on April 30.

“…As is the case for all of the European External Action Service’s publications, there are internal procedures to ensure the appropriate structure, quality and length of our products. Given the sensitive nature of the information, every claim is verified before it is used in public material, which often delays by some days its publication. However – and let me underline this – the content and the timing of the European External Action Service’s public assessments on disinformation around the coronavirus pandemic are determined by the European External Action Service, and the European External Action Service alone. We have not bowed to anyone.

“Let me be clear: we are a diplomatic service. We maintain constant contact with representatives of third countries. This includes listening to their views on our policies and our assessments. But this cannot be presented as bowing to political pressure from outside. Especially on such crucial issues as disinformation at the time of this pandemic, where transparency is key.

“Let me address, therefore, directly what I can call the main “accusation”, if I can refer to it in such terms. An accusation that, I believe, has led to our discussion today: that the European Union “bowed” to Chinese pressure, as formulated in an article by the New York Times.

“After having been informed by the services about the way they proceeded in this case, I can assure you that no changes have been introduced to the report published last week to allay the concerns of a third party, in this case, China. The report very clearly points out State-sponsored disinformation campaigns and very specifically names the actors behind them – including China. There was no “watering down” of our findings, however uncomfortable they could be. Please check it personally, it is all online (link is external). You can compare the three reports, where we have progressively been refining our analysis and increased our understanding of how the different actors have been developing their messages and narratives.

“Let me also make a point about the functioning of a diplomatic service and activities. As you know, calls to present complaints or to advise in favour of a given course of action are the daily bread of diplomacy. We, at the European Union, practice them constantly, as do all other international actors, even our closest partners. It would be wrong to consider this inappropriate. I can assure you that I am very much used to it.

“Large international actors can accompany diplomatic demarches with a range of incentives and disincentives, which sometimes do not even need to be explicitly mentioned. We all bring things to the table, so that other decision makers take them into account. This is happening every day, from everybody, including us.

“The European Union is an international player, and this is our added value. Most of our Member States, taken separately, would stand no chance at all when faced with larger powers. Unsettling us is not easy as long as our Member States stand together. Those that are currently fanning the idea that the European Union may be giving up on its interests or principles under pressure by third countries should read attentively the report we published on disinformation. They should read it, and then they will acknowledge that we are among the very few to dare refer to such facts and publicise them.

“The choice of words used by those that criticise the European Union, saying “bowing to pressure”, has a clear historical resonance: it comes from Georges Macartney, a British diplomat who, in the XVIII century, went to China and failed due to his refusal to “kowtow” to the Emperor, which in Chinese means “to bow”. You see, now the word comes back. Working in the field of disinformation raises awareness regarding narratives, some of them rooted in the historical unconscious of the people who use it.

“Let me finish by saying that the European External Action Service will strive to maintain its position as the leading institution collecting, analysing and challenging disinformation, including on the coronavirus…” (Image: archive)

COVID19: China disinformation caused deaths

As the country of origin, China initially allowed disinformation to spread as quickly as the virus. Rather than helping other countries prepare a swift and strong response, it is increasingly apparent that they manipulated vital information about the virus in order to protect the regime’s image“, commented the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the British Parliament, Tom Tugendhat MP. The Committee has published a Report on Viral Immunity – The FCO’s role in building a coalition against COVID-19.

At present over a million of established cases of coronavirus worldwide are reported by medical instances (1,289820) and more than 70 thousands related deaths (70,624). However the experts warn that the statistics available is not exact, because not all dead received conronovirus port-mortem examinations, subsequently the real numbers could be substantionally higher.

Mogherini concerned with disinformation

The EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini (pictured) stepped forward with the declaration on behalf of the European Union on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day, 3 May 2019. In the declaration a considerable attention has been devoted to the the problem of “disinformation”, especially in the context of the upcoming European elections.

“On World Press Freedom Day we celebrate the essential role of a free press not only as a conveyer of reliable and accurate news, but as a pillar of democracy. The quality of democratic processes is linked to the state of freedom of expression as well as media freedom and pluralism. There is no democracy without a truly free press.

“While bearing the great responsibility to guarantee checked and correct news to the public, free, diverse and independent media are at the very same basis of a pluralistic and open society. Investigative journalism fulfills a necessary watchdog role that assists the public in holding governments and institutions, at all level, accountable for their actions and obligations. However, we see more and more attempts to curb the space for free media, also by systematically undermining their credibility, and too many journalists have lost their lives or have put their lives at risk for having exposed inconvenient truths.

“This year’s 26th worldwide commemoration addresses the current challenges faced by the media in elections in times of disinformation, as well as the media’s potential to support democracy, peace and reconciliation. Disinformation has a high potential to negatively influence democratic processes and public debates all over the world, and the European Union makes no exception.

“This is why we have launched the ‘EU Action Plan against Disinformation’, that steps up the European response to strengthen the resilience of our societies against disinformation. The Plan focuses on improving detection of disinformation, coordinating and joining up actions by the Union and Member States, mobilising the private sector to deliver on its commitments, raising public awareness and empowering citizens. Healthy democracy relies on open, free and fair public debate and it is our duty to protect this space and not allow anybody to spread disinformation that fuels hatred, division, and mistrust in democracy.

“The EU is promoting free and fair media not only at home but also globally in our relations with third countries, including by providing funding for targeted projects that enhance quality journalism, press freedom and access to public information.  With free journalism under increasing pressure, the EU reaffirms its determination to defend press and media freedom within its borders and worldwide.”

Mogherini to counter disinformation

At January Foreign Affairs Council participants discussed the action plan against disinformation presented earlier (5.12.018).

Ministers exchanged views on the implementation of the action plan, focusing on its external aspects. They underlined the need to build a common and holistic response to the security challenges posed by foreign interference, while respecting national approaches and protecting freedom of expression and of the media.

They highlighted the creation of an EU “Rapid Alert System to share expertise and best practices, and to promote coordinated action, notably through awareness raising campaigns. Ministers stressed the need to engage with civil society to tackle disinformation, including with CSOs, NGOs, business and academia, as well as to work with international partners, in particular NATO and the G7, to address disinformation more efficiently. They also underlined the importance of contributing to strengthening the resilience of neighboring countries.

First of all, our work on disinformation, to counter disinformation coming from outside the European Union. This is a work we are doing together with the different institutions – we have put together an Action Plan that we presented already at the end of last year – and that is now subject to a common work for the implementation that requires a stronger determination and inputs also from our Member States”, the EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini said, while commenting on Foreign Ministers Council agenda.

We discussed with the Foreign Ministers their side of the work and ways in which we can do better in this respect. Obviously, in particular in view of the European Parliament elections, but there was a very strong focus on the need to look at all different kind of disinformation that come from within, from outside the European Union, and in different forms. We decided to move forward together, at full speed, with a lot of determination, and implement the Action Plan we have put forward” Mogherini added.

“European mandarins will decide for you what is truth. Brrrr”, wrote Belgium politician Theo Frnacken.