A pro-Russian propaganda school in occupied Ukraine
Mediatopol in south-east Ukraine: officially a journalism school, in reality a propaganda school in the service of the Kremlin
RSF (22.09.2023) – One year after the pseudo-annexation referendums organised by Russia in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, a movement backed by the occupation authorities is launching a crash course in “journalism”. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) denounces these insidious methods of teaching propaganda in Ukrainian territory.
With support from the Russian occupation forces, a group of enthusiastic young Ukrainians who like using English terms has been participating in a course in “journalism trades” at the Mediatopol centre in Melitopol, in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region, since 4 September. The teenage participants in this first crash course, which is due to finish on 29 September, are supposed to learn how to take photos, to film, to organise a shoot and to edit video in the space of a few weeks. The school says it plans to organise four such courses, with 25 young people on each course. The goal is to prepare a total of 100 young people to work in the new propaganda media in the illegally annexed territories by the end of the year.
“Lacking journalists willing to collaborate, the new Kremlin-controlled propaganda organs are trying to recruit their future ‘information soldiers’ among the local youth. We denounce the use of such methods, which aim to integrate Ukrainian territories by means of a media landscape controlled by the occupation authorities.”
Jeanne Cavelier, Head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk
Founded in November 2022, Mediatopol is officially headed by Aleksandr Gurov, a 20-year-old Ukrainian who is backed by the occupation authorities, and by Youg Molodoi (“Southern Youth”), an organisation of volunteers that organises pro-Russian events and demonstrations with young people.
A particularly active advocate of the Russian vision, Gurov was one of the winners of a competition organised this year by the Russian Federal Agency for Youth Affairs (Rosmolodezh) to reward projects created by young people in Zaporizhzhia.
In a video, Mediatopol says the school consists of a team of around 20 volunteers. No prerequisites are mentioned in the simple online form on Yandex, the Russian search engine, that enables young people to register for the Mediatopol course, which was widely advertised in propaganda media such as the Zaporizhzhia News Feed and Zaporizhzhia Press Agency.
Lacking qualified personnel, local propaganda media outlets are desperately seeking to recruit in order to be able to broadcast content more tailored to their audience than Russian national TV content, while providing a positive vision of Russia as a way to integrate the Ukrainian population. This course is a new stone in the Russian propaganda edifice, which already has an extensive network.
Last April, RSF published a report about Alexander Malkevich, a Kremlin ally running a propaganda factory network in the occupied territories. Alexander Malkevich has displayed support for the Youg Molodoi movement by participating in their events, including one in August, a forum in Berdiansk, in the Zaporizhzhia region.
Photo credits: RSF