In the last decade, the Kremlin has intensified both its disinformation and political interference campaigns across Europe, with a particular focus on Southeastern Europe (SEE). The Kremlin exploits and reinforces existing government vulnerabilities in these countries using instruments of state capture, including specifically focusing on media capture, in order to erode both their governments’ Euro-Atlantic positions and public trust in democratic institutions. The CEE countries are particularly vulnerable to this threat, as some of them, incl. Bulgaria, demonstrate alarmingly high levels of cognitive capture among the general population, political elites, and the media, swaying public opinion towards Russia and its authoritarian model. Efforts to counter pro-Kremlin disinformation must extend beyond information operations and strategic communication to expose state and media capture across the region and how their mechanisms are used to enable and strengthen the spread of foreign disinformation.
On 29 March 2023 CSD in cooperation with SELDI network, organised a training workshop, which addresses the knowledge gaps in understanding and investigating media capture in SEE as related to foreign information manipulation and interference. Based on the state-of-art theoretical concepts, the proposed approach analyses media capture as consisting of four components - ownership, financial, regulatory and cognitive capture. The methodology aims at supporting the efforts of policy makers, media sector practitioners, civil society and regulatory authorities to understand and hence – to counter more effectively, media capture as enabling and amplifying the creation and spread of disinformation in SEE.