Opening statement by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at the Facts Against Disinformation Conference

Misha Katsurin lives in Kyiv.

A few days after Russia began invading Ukraine, he called his father – who lives in the Russian town of Nizhny Novgorod. He wanted to talk about the war in Russia, about his fears. But his father interrupted him and said:

“In reality, Russia saves you from the Nazi regime. Russian soldiers donate food and warm clothes to the Ukrainian people.

Misha said he hung up after five minutes. But he didn’t give up.

After that phone call, Misha created a website, called “Daddy, Believe.” This is a website to encourage others in Ukraine to get in touch with their loved ones in Russia and – to tell them the truth.
” Do not scream. Don’t fill yourself with hate. The truth is on our side” – this is Misha’s message.

In this war, it is the Ukrainian people who are attacked, their life, their cities, their villages.

But the truth is also under attack.

As Russian tanks destroy Ukrainian cities, the Kremlin’s propaganda machine censors news, restricts social media, spreads disinformation and punishes those who dare to speak the truth.

The goal is both clear and cynical: to demoralize the brave people of Ukraine while keeping the Russians in the dark.

It takes incredible courage to stand up to this propaganda.

We see it in the courageous citizens, journalists and activists who refuse to be silent and – as Misha so aptly points out – who refuse to get angry with those who have fallen for the lies of the Russian regime.

No society is immune to false narratives. None of us are immune to it.

Misinformation is dangerous. It undermines trust in public institutions. This undermines open discourse. It polarizes our societies. It threatens our democracies.

And: misinformation makes it much more difficult to fight the global challenges we face.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, radicals in Germany launched crude comparisons with the Holocaust and trivialized Nazi crimes. It is deeply concerning that the number of anti-Semitic attacks has also increased during the pandemic. We condemn these attacks in the strongest possible terms.

We are also witnessing disinformation campaigns on the major security challenge of our time: the climate crisis. We see people attacking the scientific consensus, denying the facts, trying to fuel social conflict.

I want to be very clear: fighting misinformation does not mean that we “claim the truth” for ourselves and are not ready to listen to other opinions.

On the contrary:

It is misinformation that prevents open debate. It discredits. It stifles those who have a different point of view. Disinformation is an attack on the very values ​​of our liberal democracies: our openness, our transparency, our ability to debate and argue fairly and freely.

This is why all of us who share these values ​​must work together to meet this major challenge.

We have made this a key commitment of our G7 Presidency to build democratic resilience. We want to strengthen the G7 Rapid Response Mechanism – a forum where international experts come together to identify disinformation threats in real time, share best practices and develop collective responses.

This is also why we are working with our Baltic partners to strengthen their ability to deal with Russian disinformation. This includes projects aimed at supporting and training journalists, increasing media literacy and providing factual information in the Russian language.

We are also consulting our partners, within the G7, the EU and NATO. We support independent research and fact-checking initiatives.

But it takes more than governments. A resilient democracy relies on individuals, institutions, and nonprofit organizations to counter the spread of disinformation.

Marina Weisband, Sacha Lobo,

you and the many other communicators and researchers present at this conference are strong advocates of open discourse. You are not afraid of difficult debates. Thank you for this commitment.

I am convinced: we can only win this battle if we adopt a clear position.

And if we don’t fall into the same anger and arrogance displayed by those who distort the truth.

Our instruments are the very values ​​they seek to destroy: openness, respect, adherence to rules, facts and reason.

” Do not scream. Don’t fill yourself with hate. – that’s how Misha said it. And: don’t give up.

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