The fact that Russian influence and Russian propaganda are strong there is explained by a number of historic and political factors, says Italian journalist Mauro Voerzio at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. One of the factors that is to the benefit of the Russian propaganda is that biggest Italian TV channels and printed media as a rule do not have own correspondents constantly based in Ukraine.
Instead “when a TV channel needs to speak about Ukraine they use their reporter from Moscow,” says Voerzio.
Speaking about historic prerequisites that help spread Russian disinformation in Italy Voerzio mentions the Italian-Russian communication and financial network formed on the basis of the former communist party of Italy.
“Italy was the country with the strongest communist party in Europe. All leaders of the communist party studied in Moscow,” explains Voerzio adding that the “big flow of money was coming to Italy from Moscow.”
In modern Italy ties with Russia are maintained at the level of regions through the so-called cultural associations named in the first part according to the region where they operate and bearing the name of Russia in the second. For example, “Lombardia – Russia”, “Piedmont – Russia”. “Each region has got such an association, in each such association there is one representative from Russia, for example, the director, and one politician from a far-right Italian party, for example, from ‘Lega Nord’ or ‘Forza Italia,” explains Voerzio.
“In my region – Piedmont, for example, the president of such association is Aleksandr Dugin,” adds Voerzio.
Speaking about Italy’s political life Voerzio says the Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and the Democratic Party he heads support the consolidated position of Europe regarding Ukraine. “However political opponents who express themselves against the idea of united Europe are using the theme of Russia in order to make politics against Europe,” notes the journalist. Among such parties are “Forza Italia” and “Movimento 5 Stelle” (Five Star Movement). In the journalist’s opinion it also has its consequences in the media sector as “80% of publications are in the hands of parties and politicians that are pro-Russian.” Mauro quotes a recent example when the Italian geopolitical online publication “Limes” mapped Crimea as part of the Russian territory. Responding to an appeal from the Ukrainian embassy in Italy the publication replied that the mapping reflects the actual state of play. The outlet is financed by the Italian oil and gas company ENI.
The journalist says there are two main ways to counter Russian propaganda in Italy. First one is by consolidating the efforts of European journalists who are writing about Ukraine. Same as Russian propagandist materials are getting top positions in the Internet thanks to the large number of clicks and shares by trolls, cooperation among the journalists will put truthful news about Ukraine on top positions in each of the European countries. According to Mauro Voerzio developing culture and tourism is the key aspect in the fight against the Russian propaganda. Europe has to know about the Ukrainian culture.“If you have culture, you have a country, the history. It is the best way to say: ‘we have our own culture, we are not Russians,” says Voerzio. At the same time thanks to tourism people will be able to see with their own eyes that “there are no Nazis who are killing people on the streets,” as the propaganda insists.
“Being back home and hearing propaganda on TV they will be laughing as the power of propaganda is in people’s ignorance,” emphasized Mauro Voerzio.
Journalist Mauro Voerzio was in Maidan from its start. He wrote the book “Angels of Maidan” “to explain Italians what happened on Kyiv’s main square, because the information that came [to Italy] was completely different.” When the war in the east started Mauro started making video reports and created own youtube channel. The journalist is now working on a documentary “Maidan: two years later” based on the interviews with Maidan participants during the events and now.