From 21 to 25 September 2022, the ICDS hosted the International Interdisciplinary Seminar on “Information Disorders in Politics, Media, and Historical Memories”, co-organised with the Federal Agency for Civic Education (BPB, Die Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung).
The Seminar gathered a group of almost 50 leading academics, media, public, and private sector representatives with diverse backgrounds and unique perspectives from Bulgaria, Czechia, Georgia, Germany, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Serbia, Sweden, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States. With the primary focus on disinformation and its severe impacts on public health, the ICDS pursued an ambitious goal to educate our European colleagues on the Baltic and Ukrainian perspectives, as well as to share our practical experiences in treating information disorders in democracies.
Seminar’s programme co-director, ICDS Chief Executive Dmitri Teperik introduced the event with the words of gratitude to the German partners and stressed the importance of discussing, planning, and taking concrete measures beyond disinformation studies. “Truly European cooperation is required to tackle the consequences of disillusionment among many citizens who became intoxicated by the mix of external propaganda and homegrown populism. One of the lessons learned during previous crises is to recognise the indispensable role of free media to raise threat awareness within our societies”.
The Seminar launched with one of the leading media voices from Ukraine – Nataliya Gumenyuk, co-founder of the Public Interest Journalism Lab, who delivered an opening speech “On Tyranny: Russia’s War in Ukraine” and gladly answered the participants’ questions on how the ongoing events are viewed in Ukraine and emphasized how essential it is for the Ukrainian voices to be heard in Europe and beyond.
The first day began with a deep dive into Europe’s complicated history and the role historical memories play in today’s security developments. Prof Andrii Portnov from Europa University Viadrina challenged the audience with a hot-topic lecture – “Why Talking about Bandera is Always a Trap? Historical Narratives as Part of Propaganda Wars.” Prof Rory Finnin from Cambridge University followed with his lecture on the fundamental but often overlooked issue – “Hiding in Plain Sight: The Question of Colonialism in Russia’s war of Aggression against Ukraine.” Next on the agenda was a panel discussion on “Instrumentalization of Memory in the Baltic states,” featuring Dr Irena Vaišvilaitė, a distinguished historian and Lithuanian diplomat, Sergei Metlev, editor-in-chief of the Estonian daily Postimees (in Russian), and moderated by Dalia Bankauskaitė, an associate professor at Vilnius University.
The last item on the agenda that day was a panel discussion on “Disinformation, Media, and Security in Europe.” The journalistic community was represented by Galyna Petrenko, director at “Detector Media” NGO (Ukraine) and Holger Roonemaa, head of the investigative team at Ekspress Meedia (Estonia), and moderator Mārtiņš Mūrnieks, head of Eastern Partnership Programme at the Baltic Centre for Media Excellence (Latvia), who shared their opinions on the free independent media’s role in national security and combating information influence. Whereas LTC Darius Barčius from Hybrid Resilience Group at the Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence presented the national security community’s perspective on the countermeasures to deter disinformation.
On the next day, the participants travelled to Tallinn, where they attended a presentation at the E-stonia Digital Centre and familiarised themselves with the country’s biggest success story – state-of-the-art digital public infrastructure. Visiting the ICDS office, they had meetings with Dr Kristina Reinsalu, programme director of e-Democracy at the e-Government Academy, who introduced Estonia’s invaluable experience of digital transformation in public administration and citizen engagement, as well as discussed related vulnerabilities in cyber security. Kersti Luha, head of Strategic Communications at the Government Office, delved further into information security and resilience within Estonia’s national security concept, as well as into psychological defence, crisis communication, and the importance of cooperation with media and international partners. As the culmination of the day, the Seminar’s attendees were invited to join Ott Sandrak, a renowned historian, for a guided walking tour of the political history of Tallinn.
The final day of the Seminar started with an impulse panel discussion – “War in Ukraine: Disinformation and Perception in the West”, featuring Dr Andreas Umland from the Stockholm Centre for Eastern European Studies based at the Swedish Institute of Internal Affairs, Dr Rumena Filipova, chairperson and co-founder of the Institute for Global Analytics (Bulgaria), Molly McKew, a writer and lecturer on information warfare (the United States), and Jarosław Kuisz, historian, political analyst and editor-in-chief of the Polish weekly Kultura Liberalna. Moderated by Dr Zaal Andronikashvili, a scholar from The Leibniz Centre for Literary and Cultural Research, it allowed the audience not only to listen to our distinguished experts but also to engage with their pertinent questions.
The second part of the day offered the participants to test their newly acquired skills and knowledge by working in groups to present their ideas and advice the government on “Countering Disinformation in Media and Society”, as well as playing for the bad guys on the other side in the “Simulation Game: become a manager of a troll factory”, facilitated by Bram Alkema from Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.
Apart from its intensive educational agenda, the International Interdisciplinary Seminar on “Information Disorders in Politics, Media, and Historical Memories” provided our participants with an excellent opportunity to expand their professional network, as well as to form new meaningful relations beyond a professional scope.