There is war in Europe. The Russian propaganda machine is being blocked in the EU and several other countries. Some internet providers are also shutting down Sputnik and Russia Today (RT). The question is whether in the democratic world we should relate to Russian propaganda. Should we shut it out, or let our democratic principles apply. The principles of an open and free press. Another question I ask myself is what we do with Norwegian websites that are known disseminators of Russian propaganda. Should we close them too? I would like to have a debate on whether it is okay in a war situation to close down unwanted propaganda and misinformation.
Propaganda in a conflict
In the Russian invasion of Ukraine, propaganda is an important part. Propaganda is being used by Putin to promote a false explanation of why this war was necessary. Putin’s strategy of providing uniform information to ordinary Russians also shuts down critical journalism about the war. Several independent media outlets are shut down and it is forbidden to spread what Putin calls misinformation about the military operation. In other words, it is forbidden to engage in critical journalism about the war, forbidden to demonstrate against the war and in other ways go against the wishes of the regime.
The Russian websites RT and Sputnik are state-run propaganda by Russia. The aim is to spread Russia’s version and misinformation to the West. In our Western democracy, we are in a conflict. On the one hand, the consideration of removing such propaganda and false news. On the other hand, consideration is given to the principle of everyone’s right to express themselves.
What about Norwegian websites?
We have websites in Norway that are known for spreading Russian propaganda uncritically. The same sites are often known for also spreading conspiracy theories. Many suspect Steigan of being partially funded by Russia. The question is what should we do with such sites if we block RT and Sputnik? Should we block Steigan as well? Where, then, is the limit for freedom of expression? In a war situation, I completely agree that we must be able to use means that we otherwise do not. Shutting out “enemy” propaganda in a war situation is really a natural part of the war.
My question is whether we are in a war situation now? Is the war in Ukraine a European war, or a local phenomenon? Should we do as the EU and block RT and Sputnik? What about Steigan, which is a Norwegian website that runs Russian propaganda, should that site also be blocked? Democracy also involves statements we do not like. The question is when these statements should or should be stopped. The question is also when we should define this situation as our war.