Throughout the month of December pro-Kremlin media focused on two disinformation narratives against Estonia: Russian media is falsely accused, and Russophobia. News story that Latvian Security Services detained several Russian journalists with suspicions of international sanctions has caused the biggest wave of false and misleading information, since a similar event took place in Estonia in December last year. Kremlin-related digital media sources linked both events and used it to spread disinformation claiming a systematic persecution of Russian journalists in Baltics.
Other dominating narratives containing disinformation in December focused on various Covid-19 related topics as well. Throughout December 2020, Debunk EU identified 162 out of 1733 articles containing disinformation in Estonia. The main topic (44 articles) focused on the persecution of Russian journalists in Estonia and Baltic states.
The number of articles containing disinformation throughout December was 15.6% higher when compared to November and the main narrative and sub-narrative used to slander Estonia was Enemizing Russia – Russian media is falsely accused.
In December, an increase of ‘COVID-19’related narratives was observed. The increase in COVID-19 related problematic information coincided with the introduction of mandatory masks, stricter quarantine conditions and arrival of the vaccine in Estonia.
Nevertheless, the application of this 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.
Throughout the monitored period, problematic information related to Estonia most often manifested as the result of direct country mention. Estonia was often portrayed as:
Country where human rights are regularly violated,
Small, insignificant and irrationally acting country,
Russophobic country pursuing anti-Russian policy,
Having incompetent government,
As far as the monthly coverage is concerned, no significant deviations from the regularly observed trends were identified this month. Though increased in scope, disinformation and misinformation in Estonia amounted for less than a third of the general information flow.
After the analyses of the data, it became clear that three pro-Kremlin sources, baltnews.ee, sputniknews.ru and baltija.eu, were the top three media sources responsible for the spread of content containing disinformation. The disinformation detected in December potentially reached close to 60 million readers.