Alleged territorial claims and anti-Russian policies fuelled disinformation in Estonia
Throughout the month of January pro-Kremlin media focused on two disinformation narratives against Estonia: that it is making claims to Russian territory and the rights Russian media and the minorities are discriminated in Estonia. Other dominating messages containing disinformation focused on Estonian defence budget.
Throughout January 2021, Debunk EU identified 181 articles containing disinformation related to Estonia. The main topic (62 articles) focused on the New Year’s Eve speech of the Speaker of the Parliament Henn Põlluaas. In his speech he stated that the boarder agreement between Estonia and Russia stated in 1920 Treaty of Tartu is still valid. This is not a new claim, the Russian-Estonian boarder has been an issue since Estonia reclaimed its independence from USSR. The pro-Kremlin media presents this as Estonia making official claims to reclaim the territory listed in the treaty. The quote was made by the Speaker because that is one of the key principals his party stands for. However, it is not the official position of Estonia.
Also, in January, an increase of ‘Human rights are violated in the country’ related narratives was observed. That narrative was increased by the claims that Russian media and minorities are persecuted in Estonia
Nevertheless, the application of particular narrative continued to remain reactive, rather than planned in advance as narratives tended to correlate more with sound statements and/or events of national or international significance, but not between themselves.
The number of articles containing disinformation throughout January was 11% higher when compared to December and the main narrative and sub-narrative used to slander Estonia was Country/organization is Russophobic — Estonia pursues anti-Russian policy.
Distribution within mentions suggests that in their production, amplification and dissemination, digital media outlets, this month tended to focus on Estonia specifically, abstaining from more abstract and/or general statements, addressing the issues of interest. Nonetheless, ‘problematic information’ continued to remain the outcome of both reactive and pro-active negative responses to Estonian foreign and domestic subjects.
After the analyses of the data, it became clear that three pro-Kremlin sources, baltnews.ee, rubaltic.ru and ri.ru, were the top three media sources responsible for the spread of content containing disinformation. The disinformation detected in December potentially reached close to 160 million readers.