It's said that the first casualty of war is truth.
With the Russian war against Ukraine, the problem with Russia's media and its influence on the world has come to the forefront. Russian media is government controlled and is commonly used to manipulate the Russian populace, and the government is also well known to influence the media of countries.
With crippling sanctions imposed on Russia, the country has threatened to create its own, country-specific and government-controlled internet, tightening the grip on their state media by preventing their citizens from accessing information outside of government sources.
Media control, especially control of information sources like the internet, is nothing new for anti-democratic countries. North Korea has long controlled internet access and media access of their citizens, making it illegal to own a cellphone and to access any media not officially controlled by the government.
China also controls access to the internet, censoring and removing search items from search engines, and preferring their own social media networks over anything created by the West.
Russia is joining this group with tight control over their own internet, actively jailing anyone who does not follow the government's official line. Early in their war against Ukraine, they made media reporting not approved by the government illegal, calling it "fake news," and forcing international reporters to leave Russia over fear of being arrested by reporting the activity of Russian troops.
Deliberate misinformation makes it difficult to properly report the details of war. For example, there is evidence of Russian war crimes in Ukraine, but none of the details will be published in Russia due to state control and the threat of prison time for anyone reporting it.
This problem could be made even worse, with China supporting Russia economically and diplomatically possibly leading to re-reporting Russian misinformation as truth. This makes is much easier for Russia and China to hide its crimes against humanity.
Access to factual information is important to any democratic state, given Russia's and China's spreading of misinformation into places like Europe and North America, both to influence our media and our elections.
Media literacy is a vital tool, now more than ever, to recognize misinformation. Our government and many others over the world have taken the first steps by banning Russian controlled media from broadcasting in our countries. Social media, however, is still open to manipulation and continues to be a prime way to influence the West.
Steve Marlow is the program co-ordinator at CFBX, an independent radio station in Kamloops. Tune in at 92.5 FM on the dial or go online to thex.ca.