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Georgia-Russia war. An information control story.

Presentation about the information control war around the topic of the 5-day war in South Ossetia in 2008. Created for COMM597 "Information Control", MACT program (University of Alberta)

Tanya Erofeeva

on 6 May 2014

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Transcript of Georgia-Russia war. An information control story.

an information control story
Russia–Georgia War
of 2008
- the greatest information control war on an international media landscape

- huge impact on current political situation in the world

- information control performed by all the sides of the conflict
- numerous evidences of the manipulation of information
- all G20 countries were involved, both directly and indirectly
August 2013
5 years
since the conflict
Try to remember anything about this conflict.
A big Russian bear attacked
a small peaceful Georgia?
The US supported Georgians, so it means they are right?

And Russia is the Evil Empire anyway.
Or maybe (just like this person) you
thought that Russia occupied the US state? :)
Wikipedia articles still provide different information about the war and its causes.
let's take a look at the
Georgia attacks and captures Tskhinvali, capital of South Ossetia Republic. Casualties amounted up to 2000 dead (mostly Ossetians). Russian peacekeepers are also injured and killed during this attack.
7-8 of August 2008
Before the conflict:
- Georgian-Ossetian conflict.
South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia in 1990.
The Georgian government responded by abolishing South Ossetia's autonomy and trying to retake the region by force.
The war ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire, which established a joint peacekeeping force.
8 of August 2008
Russia reacts by deploying units of the Russian 58th Army and Russian Airborne Troops into South Ossetia, and launching airstrikes against Georgian forces and military infrastructure
9 of August 2008
Russian naval forces blockade a part of the Georgian coast and land marines on the Abkhaz coast. The Georgian Navy attempts to intervene, but is defeated. Russian and Abkhaz forces open a second front by attacking the Kodori Gorge, held by Georgia.
10 of August 2008
Georgians continue to shell Tskhinvali. Russian Airforce attacks several Georgian cities' surroundings. Georgian president Saakashvili asks for a ceasefire; Russian authorities request to remove Georgian army from South Ossetia and sign an non-use of force agreement.
Russian military forces enter the territory of Georgia and occupy (
or patrol - the opinions vary
) several Georgian cities.
Temporary ceasefire agreement is signed.
11-13 of August 2008
15 August 2008
- ceasefire agreement signed in Tbilisi by Georgia
16 August 2008
- ceasefire agreement signed in Moscow by Russia
Independent international mission was established by the European Union to determine the causes of war.
conflict started with a massive Georgian attack against the town of Tskhinvali
there was a series of provocations from South Ossetian side, so all the parties share the responsibility
however, the Georgian actions were disproportionate as a response to low level attacks by South Ossetian forces
all parties violated the international law
Russia lost the information war.
Professional PR management agencies were taking care of conflict presentation for Western countries.
Washington Post:
in April 2008, Georgia signed a USD 200 000 000 contract with "Orion Strategies", a consulting company which worked with John McCaine
Georgia signed a contract with a Belgium PR agency.
There are numerous evidences that this PR agency distributed press-releases about the war among news agencies, politicians, etc. The press-releases contained Georgian interpretation of events.
Blocking the information:
During the war and its aftermath, Georgian government limited news coverage by stopping the broadcasting of Russian TV channels and blocking the access to Russian websites on its territory
Interesting fact:
Only Russian and Ukranian TV teams worked in the zone of conflict (Tskhinvali).
Western news teams stayed in Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, and used information provided them by the Georgian government.

Those who shared the news with the world did not visit the actual battlefield!
Information manipulation and propaganda
Shows in its reportage of 08/08/08 the video of Tskhinvali being shelled by Georgians.
The reporter says that on the video one can see the Russian shelling of Ossetia's territory, which is the part of Georgia.
Russia Today accused CNN of presenting video footage of destruction in Tskhinvali in South Ossetia, shot by a Russia Today cameraman, as pictures of destruction in Gori in Georgia.
According to evidences in Italian press, European TV also played dirty. For example on Italian TV, an Ossetian old lady who originally shared her feelings about the house destroyed during the Georgian attack, with the help of the translator is miraculously transformed into a Georgian woman who had survived Russian Airforces bombardment.
RTVE showed an amateur video of the Georgian troops shooting in the residential houses' windows with the comment that those were Russian soldiers entering Tskhinvali.

However, later they officially confirmed that the mistake has been made.
The Fox News case is used as an example of information manipulation in many educational programs.

Ossetian girl Amanda Kokoeva and her aunt were giving an interview to Fox News and started to tell that Russian soldiers saved them from the bombing, and it is Saakashvili who should be blamed for starting the war.
The 3 minutes interview was interrupted for commercial on a 2nd minute. The moderator was pushing his opinion without listening to their words.

Actually, all these information manipulation activities remind me a lot about this episode from the "Wag the Dog" movie.
Do you agree with me? :)
South Ossetian OSinform agency and OSRadio websites were hacked. The content was replaced by a feed to Alania TV (Georgian government supported station)
The Parliament of Georgia and Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs websites were defaced with the image comparing Saakashvili to Hitler
Constant DDoS-attacks on Russian, Georgian and Azarbaijan sites
The information war was won by Georgia.
Even today, when there are a lot of evidences that Georgia has started the war, most people still believe that Russia was the agressor in that conflict....
by Tatiana Erofeeva
COMM 597 "Information Control"
Nicolai N. Petro, Professor of Politics at the University of Rhode Island:
Studies of the impact of media on public opinion ... suggest that the initial impressions conveyed by respected news outlets tend to linger on, even if the story later changes radically. It is therefore not surprising that American pundits and politicians continue to refer to the events of last August as “Russian aggression,” even though subsequent reporting has debunked this as a myth. "
"Western media coverage has definitely become more balanced since last November [2008], after it was revealed that the two senior Western military officers stationed in Georgia by the OSCE, former British Army captain Ryan Grist and former RAF wing commander Stephen Young, both confirmed that Russian version of events—that Georgian armed forces had conducted an indiscriminate and unprovoked attack on the South Ossetian capital of Tsinkhval.

"The mainstream Western media had no frame of reference within which to deal with the Ossetians or the Abkhazians, and was therefore unable to explain why they felt aggrieved by the Georgian government. As a result, this vital side of the story was simply folded into the “Russian” narrative, which the media had already instinctively labeled as the aggressors."
Source: War in South Ossetia, one year on - interview with professor Nicolai N. Petro. (2009, August 11). Retrieved from http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20090811/155780949.html
Even a movie!
Anna Neistat (Human Rights Watch): the film uses selective exaggerations of Russian and South Ossetian wrongdoings and at the same time totally ignores Georgian crimes against Ossetians. According to her, the film "portrays Russians and Ossetians as barbaric beasts and Georgians as peace angels."
Source: Pape, E. (2011, August 12). Seeking drama in a conflict that’s still raw. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/14/movies/5-days-of-war-renny-harlin-on-russian-georgian-conflict.html?_r=0
"I agree we lost the information war in the first few days, but we have nothing to hide here". —
Andrei Klyuchnikov, Russian Defence Ministry spokesman.
"At the start of the August conflict, western media reporting was relatively even-handed, but rapidly switched into full-blown cold war revival mode as Russia turned the tables on the US's Georgian client regime and Nato expansion in the region. Clear initial evidence of who started the war and Georgian troops' killing spree in Tskhinvali was buried or even denied in a highly effective PR operation from Tbilisi." -
Seumas Milne, "The Guardian"
"Indeed, if the Georgian Army had been as aggressive as its public relations campaign then the war for South Ossetia might have ended very differently." -
Tony Halpin and Roger Boyes, "The Times"
Thank you
your attention!
Reference List:
Image Credits:
arvind grover, http://www.flickr.com/photos/arvindgrover/
Ian Page-Echols, http://www.flickr.com/photos/v8media/
Different Creative Commons Images found on Wikipedia (authors: OSInform, 1st TV channel, Yana Amelina, Alex Beltyukov, Popularnaya Mekhanika, Mir v Kartinkah)
Music Credits:
hisboyelroy "Revolt" (creative common licence)
Full transcript