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Punked by the Russians? Czechs are buying into the disinformation machine

One quarter of Czechs believe fake news being spread out of Russia, think tank finds.

By BOHEMIST STAFF

PRAGUE – One quarter of Czech citizens believe Russian disinformation, and over half believe that the U.S. is responsible for Syrian refugees coming to Europe, Prague-based think tank European Values found in results of a nationwide survey released yesterday.

The report, titled ‘Impact of Disinformation Operations in the Czech Republic,’ is part of the non-government think tank’s ‘Kremlin Watch’ program and found significantly pro-Russian and anti-American sentiment among Czechs.

The survey showed that one in four Czechs saw America and NATO forces as being responsible for the Ukraine Crisis and nearly one in five believed that there were no Russian occupying forces in the Crimea.

Russian-government backed information services have expanded their reach in recent years, most significantly with the 24-hour cable news style Russian Television (RT). In response, many organisations have sprung up across Europe to monitor and track what they call Russian ‘disinformation.’

The European Values report also traced a keen eye on Czech attitudes toward the EU, finding that less than a third of Czechs think that membership of the European Union is a good thing, and that one in four are undecided about whether EU membership is good or bad.

“[This] means that in the case of a referendum on EU membership, we can expect that these people would decide only based on the experience during the campaign. The campaign can be strongly influenced by disinformation operations,” the report reads. “Efforts to promote a referendum on leaving the EU come from the far right, far left, and the President of the Czech Republic.”

More than half of respondents ultimately were in favor of a more neutral, Central European approach, where Prague was aligned with neither the West nor the East.

“There are obviously different roots for this outcome, nevertheless we would argue that the middle “in between” position corresponds with the aim of pro-Kremlin disinformation campaigns and their subversive narrative of ‘do not trust anyone, if not Russia than the West neither,’” the report’s authors wrote.

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