This article was written by Olivia Hauser, senior in The Media School.
The lecture & visit by Elena Volochine was a result of RSW’s collaboration with the Media School, the Center for Documentary Research & Practice, and the IU Cinema.
Propaganda creates a hostile environment using fear as its most important emotion, a Moscow-based journalist said on Tuesday.
Elena Volochine is the Moscow bureau chief for France 24 and speaks Russian, French and English. In addition, she is co-director of a French-produced documentary, Oleg’s Choice.
Volochine’s speech at the IU Media School focused on propaganda and the trials of being a reporter in Russia, a country where the media is heavily restricted and there’s no independent journalism.
“Propaganda can lead to war,” Volochine said.
To demonstrate what propaganda is, Volochine showed the audience a video featuring violent scenes, all taken in different places at different times of day. Volochine said that this type of video is an example of propaganda and shared the different forms it comes in.
“There are several techniques, it’s actually showing images, putting music, scary music, with voice-over, which don’t necessarily make any sense. We don’t really understand what it’s about. But it’s just arising fear and terror inside you, and also, it’s spreading fake news,” Volochine said.
Volochine said that these propaganda videos are coming from the government and are twisted in a way to make Russian citizens believe something that isn’t true.
In an e-mail from the director of communications and media relations, Anne Kibbler, said that it’s important for students to hear from Volochine because they get more insight on what it’s like working as a journalist in the field.
“I hope they’ll gain some insight into what it’s like to be a journalist on the front lines. It’s not glamorous. It’s hard work, but it’s also very important work. I hope also they’ll understand better the far-reaching impact of propaganda,” Kibbler said.
One example of the far-reaching impact of propaganda that Kibbler is referring to, is Russia’s portrayal of the Western world. During her speech, Volochine said the Western world is seen in Russia as a great evil.
“It has lost its values and it’s soon going to be the end of the civilization,” Volochine said. “Russia propaganda has even deadlocked the term ‘gayrope’ instead of ‘Europe.’”
However, Volochine said that she believes President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, and President Donald Trump, America’s president, are very similar.
“My president produces fake news and your president accuses the journalists of making fake news,” Volochine said.
Cecilia Vitela, a student at Indiana University, said that she was surprised to see the videos of propaganda coming from the Russian government, especially being from a country where citizens’ rights to free press are protected by the constitution.
“I think seeing the videos and then hearing her unpack it and seeing how they see everything that happens, and how off it is, is really interesting because I’ve never seen news outlets from different countries,” Vitela said.
Elaine Monaghan, a professor of journalism and public relations at Indiana University introduced Volochine at the speaker series. Monaghan said that Volochine is a very accomplished journalist and documentary maker and she recommends everyone watch Oleg’s Choice.
“She has produced recently an incredibly powerful documentary call Oleg’s Choice,” Monaghan said. “Which is of particular relevance in the news given what has been happening in Crimea over the last couple of days and it focuses on some Russian fighters involved in the conflicts in Ukraine.”
Sharon Hsu, a public relations major in the media school said that Volochine’s speech was intriguing to hear in a time when she is trying to figure out her own ethics code. Throughout the speech, she compared how Volochine describes journalism to how she views her own profession.
“As a PR person, your job is not just telling the whole truth,” Hsu said. “Like what she said, a communicator, where you like defend what is going on. So, I guess it does kind of go against what a journalist does.”
Volochine said that journalists often find themselves in situations where politicians want to use them, so they have to constantly fight against that pressure. She said it is very important for Western journalists to protect their journalism independence under the democracy.
“You must defend your status. You must fight for freedom of press and for truth,” Volochine said.