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Patriarchate gives support to blocking ‘Russophobic’ foreign media

28 May 2021


Alexander Shchipkov, deputy chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Synodal Department for Society and Media

Alexander Shchipkov, deputy chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Synodal Department for Society and Media

A SPOKESMAN for the Russian Orthodox Church, backing moves by Russia to control foreign media, has called for “Russophobic content” online to be screened out by a firewall.

“The security of our people lies not just with tanks and missiles, but also in the information space, when the main goal of modern warfare is to destroy self-consciousness,” the deputy chairman of the Church’s Synodal Department for Society and Media, Alexander Shchipkov, said.

“Today’s main battleground is the internet, whose Russian segment is almost entirely dependent on foreign IT giants. There’s a huge stream of lies on social networks — about our state, history, and Church — as global elites censor our territory with an informational occupation.”

Interviewed by the Orthodox TV channel Spas, the official said that foreign media sought to destroy the “subjectivity, identity, and independence” of Russians, and should be countered with a filtration system such as China’s “Great Firewall”.

Mr Shchipkov, whose demands were republished on the Moscow Patriarchate’s website, said: “I understand what they will say: how is this possible, and where is freedom of speech?

“However, hiding behind free-speech arguments in conditions of war means fighting on the enemy’s side — like distributing German leaflets in occupied Smolensk or besieged Leningrad. What kind of free speech is this when they’re trying to cripple the Russian mentality?”

Western media have faced growing pressure in Russia under a 2012 law that obliges foreign-funded news outlets to classify themselves as “foreign agents” and disclose their funding sources.

On Monday of last week, the European Union’s foreign-affairs office urged the repeal of the measure, which has been used to target Western-owned media outlets such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the popular online VTimes and Meduza, whose staff have faced harassment and property seizures.

In his interview, Mr Shchipkov said that Russia’s own internet servers, such as Yandex and Vkontakte, had provided “something to start from”, but were “completely insufficient”. Western-owned outlets, he said, should get used to “working on Russian terms. . . The main goal of this media effort is to make Russians hate themselves, stirring up constant discontent with their country and Church. . . It’s a technique for raising traitors.

“If we do not formulate a national ideology, and define the meanings and goals of Russia’s existence in conditions of aggressive globalism, then we will lose informational territory, then political territory and everything else.”

The call came as the Church’s foreign-relations director, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, in an interview with the news agency Novosti, rebutted allegations that Russian Orthodox leaders were seeking “primacy in the Orthodox world”, and dismissed criticisms of their close links with President Putin’s government as “outdated Cold War rhetoric”.

Speaking before attending a State Duma plenary last week, Patriarch Kirill said that last week’s mass killing at a school in Kazan reflected the “moral climate and system of values” in which young Russians were being raised.

“If a young person hasn’t received a religious education, then he should at least be familiarised with his people’s history and culture, with a limit on negative outside influences,” the Patriarch told educators in a video message.

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