The Media as an Instrument of Information Warfare

The Framing of the Russo-Georgian War in Russian and European Media

Bachelor Thesis, 2016

33 Pages, Grade: 7




2.1 Literature Review
2.2 The “new” wars in the Information Age
2.2.1 The old vs. new wars debate
2.2.2 Media and Propaganda Warfare
2.2.3 The relation between media and government

3.1 Sampling and case selection
3.2 Propaganda techniques in Media
3.3 Data collection
3.4 Data analysis
3.5 Model of Measurement

4.1 The Moscow Times
4.2 Russia Beyond the Headlines
4.3 The Daily Telegraph
4.4 Süddeutsche Zeitung
4.5 Extent of Information Warfare in the framing of the Russo-Georgian War




“When the country goes to war, so do the major news organisations.”

Bagdikian, 2004, xii

This quote by the American Journalist Ben Bagdikian grasps the entanglement of war and mass media in contemporary conflicts. While in Ancient times war primarily was conducted with weapons on the ground, with the era of Total War media has emerged as “a new battlefield” on which war is waged (Morris, 1995, p. 33). The reason why mass media plays such a significant part in war is its power as agenda-setter and framer of the events, steering public opinion in a deliberate way. Public opinion in turn plays a great role in politics in terms of decision-making and legitimacy. With reference to the fusion of media, military and politics, Schechter goes as far as to describe the current form of government as a “media-ocracy” instead of a traditional democracy (Schechter, 2004, p. 29).

The puzzle this paper aims to solve is twofold: firstly, this study investigates how Russian and European media were used as an instrument of information warfare. Secondly and in more depth, it is examined to what degree the framings of the Russo-Georgian War in Russian and European media constitute information warfare. Here, the first question serves as to provide the necessary foundation on which the answering ofthe second one can build on.

To answer the first part of the question, this paper looks at the theory of “new” wars in the Information Age while putting special emphasis on the role of communication technologies in warfare. Further, the term “Information Warfare” as part of the new wars is outlined, here the focus lies on the concept of media and propaganda warfare. The relationship between media and the government is also taken into account.

The second part of the question is investigated by concentrating on information warfare in terms of the use of propaganda, in particular how many techniques of propaganda were employed. The method to analyse propaganda rests on the seven techniques of propaganda as identified by the Institute of Propaganda Analysis (Jowett& O’Donnell, 2012, p. 237).

The media under investigation are four broadsheets which are constituted by the Moscow Times, Russia Beyond the Headlines, The Daily Telegraph andthe SüddeutscheZeitung. The time frame ranges from August 8, 2008 until October 8, 2008.

The relevance of this paper is to contribute to the discussion on media bias on the Russian but also on the European side. While European media such as The Economist, The Guardian and the BBC claim that Russia is waging an “Information War” against the West ("Aux armes, journalists”,2015; Ennis,2015;Galeotti, 2015), in EU countries such as Germany, there is a growing dissatisfaction of a considerable amount of people with the media coverage on Russia(Krone-Schmalz, 2015, Preface). By examining Russian and European media on the use of propaganda, this paper aims toaddress theseconcerns.

The organisation of this paper is as follows: firstly, this paper gives an overview of the start of art, including a literature review and an outline of the “new” wars in the Information Age. Here, light is shed on the debate on old vs. new wars, the concept of media and propaganda warfare and the relationship between government and media. In the second part, the methodology is presented, starting with the sampling and case selection. Further, the seven techniques of propaganda are presented and an explanation is given on how data was collected, analysed, coded and measured. Fourthly follows a section in which the findings are discussed. Finally, a conclusion forms the end of this paper.


2.1 Literature Review

The main literature in the field of media framing concerning conflicts in which Russia was involvedconsists of scholarswhoexamined media coverage in different Russian-related topics and mediawhile alsoapplying different approaches.

There are relatively few academics which analysed media framing in the case of the Russo-Georgian War (Spörer-Wagner, 2013, Basilaia 2009). While Spörer-Wagneranalysed news framing under conditions of unsettled conflict by the example of the Russo-Georgian War, Basilaiafocused on different media framings of the conflict. Research in related topics was done by Nazarenko, Moscovici and Westberg. Nazarenko (2009) laid focus on the media portrayal of the breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia during the conflicts in Georgia in 2004, 2006 and 2008. Moscovici (2008) in turn analysed the media portrayal of Russia in Western media in 2007 and Westberg(2009) investigated the media portrayal ofthe Russian-Chechen Conflict.

In their analysis, the scholars looked at different media. However, none of the sources directly compared Russian with European media. A comparative study on two different media outlets was done by Spörer-Wagner who did a comparative analysis of Georgian online and print news and Westbergwho analysed two CNN and two Swedish articles. Three media outlets were analysed by Moscovici and Basilaia. Moscovici concentrated on “Western media”, namely the Associated Press, BBC and the Deutsche Welle while Basilaia focused on Resonance, a Georgian media outlet, Izvestia, a Russian one and The New York Times, an American newspaper. Nazarenko had aparticular comprehensive approach, analysing The New York Times, the SüddeutscheZeitung, The Guardian and Novaya Gazeta.

Concerning the approach, different frames were used as to analyse the media such as the framing of language (Moscovici; Nazarenko), the framing of political violence and identity (Westberg)and the framing of memories (Spörer-Wagner). An interesting approach was used by Basilaia who applied five different set of frames with special analysis on the military frame.

As these studies, this paper is a comparative study, comparing the media coverage of several newspapers on a Russian-related topic and, as Spörer-Wagner and Basilaia, its focus lays on the media portrayal of the Russo-Georgian War.However, this paper directly compares Russian and European mass media and moreover, it adds a new approach as the seven propaganda techniques are applied to analyse the media framing. In this manner, it is possible to analyse articles in their use ofpropaganda. In relation with the spread of propaganda, this paper further takes into account the concept of “Information War” to analyse the media portrayal of the Russo-Georgian War.Overall, this paperaims to contribute to the discussion on media bias of Russian and European mediawhich effect the formation of public opinion on either side. In this respect, the influence of public opinion on policy-formation and decision-making is kept in mind.

2.2 The “new” wars in the Information Age

2.2.1 The old vs. new wars debate

War has been a central feature throughout human history. As society is developing, so is warfare,hence it is a fluid concept(Sheehan, 2014, p. 215). In relation to changes in society and warfare, Toffler (1984) outlines three great waves of change:firstly, the Agricultural Revolution; secondly, the Industrial Revolution and thirdly, the Information Revolution.

As main theorist of classic“old” wars, Clausewitz is considered. His work “On war” was first published in 1832 and forms the basis for modern military thought(Bassford, 1994, p. 3). According to the classic view on war, the form of war can change but its nature cannot. Here, war is seen as “a mere continuation of policy by other means” (Clausewitz, 1873, p. 12). Further, the actors in classical war are stateswhich pursue the goal of achieving a rational political purpose. The methods by which classic war is conducted are large-scale military confrontations which entailthe conduct of symmetricwarfare. Classic war is financed by states through taxation or outside patrons(Kaldor, 2014, p. 3).

With societal change, the notions of the classical view on warfare were challenged as not being applicable anymore.Kaldorleads academia in defining “new” wars in contrast to “old” wars, stating that new wars are “post-Clausewitzean” (p. 1). As proof, she gives four characteristics which are intrinsic to new wars: firstly, actors are not limited to armed forces by states but are fought by “varying combinations of networks of state and non-state actors” (p. 2). Secondly, while old wars were fought out of political interests and ideologies, new wars are about identity politics. The underlying reasons are the effects of globalization such as new communications technologies, migration and the erosion of political ideologies. As a third pointKaldoraddressesthe change of methods in warfare. She states that whereas old wars were conducted symmetrically by military means, today warfare isasymmetrical asterritory is captured by political means. Hereby, a decisive factor is the control of the population which is also done by violence. As last argument, Kaldor claims that the forms of finance have changed as she calls warfare a “mutual enterprise” (p. 1). Instead of intending to win territory, war is conducted forpolitical and economic gains. Overall, old wars had the effect of state building while new wars tend to dismantle states (p. 3). Critics of Kaldor’s theory question the validity of the distinction of old and new wars (Utas, 2012, p. 14). De Waal states that Kaldor’s description of “new” wars applies to conflicts in less governed countries but does not describe a new form of war (De Waal, 2009, p. 101).

Figure 1: Comparison of “Old” and “New” Wars

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Based on Kaldor (2013, pp. 2-3)

Taking into account Kaldor’sdefinition of “new” wars in analysing the Russo-Georgian War, one comes to the following findings: concerning the actors, the distinction between state and non-state actors broke down as both Georgian and Russian military but also separatist fighters were involved in the conflict (Basilaia, 2009, p. 32). With regard to goals, the conflict was waged in the name of identity and self-determination as separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia used their Russian identity as justificationto become independent from Georgian authority. For this purpose, media was actively engaged in the war as Georgia was on the news agenda in August 2008, providing a framework of understanding for the viewers of the conflict(Nazarenko, 2009, p. 6).Considering the methods, one can say that territory was captured by political means through the control of the population. Hereby, violence was directed against civilians. Concerning the forms of finance, it is claimed that separatists were backed up by Russia with Russia even paying the separatists to hand out Russian passports to Georgians (“WikiLeaks cables”, 2010). It is assumedthat the war in Georgia in fact served as a domestic power play for Russia as to secure the near abroad and perceive national interest as the Russian government feared NATO encirclement (Friedman, 2008, n. p.), hence one can tentatively apply the concept of a mutual enterprise as finance of the war.Taking into account these factors, Kaldor’s concept of “new” wars applies to the Russo-Georgian war.

2.2.2 Media and Propaganda Warfare

In her defence of “new” wars, Kaldorpoints out new forms of communication as underpinning the goal of identity politics (p. 4). Other scholars have gone further and use “Information Warfare” as umbrella term for the new element of communication technologies (Der Derian, 2003; Huhtinen, 2008).

As information warfare, Huhtinen defines “the use of information or information technology during a time of crisis of conflict to achieve or promote specific objectives over a specific adversary or adversaries” (2008, p. 291). Hereby, Huhtinen distinguishes between two types of information warfare. As the first one, he names the “soft part” of information warfare including psychological warfare like media war and perception management. As second type he identifies“net” warfare which entails computer or electronic warfare. Further, the action of information warfare is defined as information operation which can be defensive and offensive. Under offensive information operations fall among others computer network attacks, command and control warfare and media warfare. As defensive information operations count physical security, computer network defence and counter propaganda (p. 292).

Most of these terms are quite technical while the term propaganda needs further clarification. In fact, there exist many definitions of propaganda. In relation with communications studies, the definition of Jowett and O’Donnell takes into account the context, sender, intent, message, channel, audience, and response, thus it seems to encompass all important aspects of propaganda. The definition reads: “Propaganda is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions,manipulate cognitions, and direct behaviour to achieve a response that furthersthe desired intent of the propagandist” (p. 7).

With reference to the difference between media warfare and counter-propaganda, media warfare is seen as “offensive” information operation, while counter-propaganda is seen as “defensive” operation. However, the lines between offensive and defensive warfare are not always clear as it is not known which side started and which one responded. What both operations have in common is their use of propaganda.

This paper concentrates on the use of propaganda, namely media and propaganda warfare which are a subcategory of psychological warfare, the “soft part” of information warfare. To simplify, the term media warfare is used as entailing offensive and defensive propaganda. To measure the degree of media warfare, this paper looks at the number of propaganda techniques being employed.

2.2.3 The relation between media and government

To understand the power of mass media, including propaganda in media, the framing theory is essential. Here, reality is seen as constructed by media which is thereby influenced by thedeterminants of foreign policy coverage (Lippmann, 1922, p. 31). Frames can be seen as process of selection and salience, in which certain aspects are first selected and then made more salient. They can be constructed by the presence or absence of information, certain keywords, judgements, stock phrases and causality attribution (Entman, 1993).The framing of news in the media steer public opinion and deliberation in a certain way (Zhang &Fahmy, 2009, p. 519).

In respect to the construction of frames, the determinants of foreign policy coverage need to be taken into account. This is where the relation between media framing and state foreign policy comes in. Gans(1979) puts forward that journalists depend in their selections of topics on availability and suitability. In reporting on foreign policy, journalists rely majorly on governmental sources. Hence, media framing is influenced to a great extent by the government’s framing of an issue and the foreign policy of the respective country. Further, geopolitical considerations have an impact on framing, meaning that the interests and concerns of a country are mirrored in the media. Hence, mass media cannot be seen as a “neutral” subsystem of society but it is closely linked to the political and economic systems of the state (Fuchs, 2005, p. 206).

Taking into account the old vs. new wars debate, media and propaganda warfare and the relationship between media and government, it is possible to tentatively answer the first question of how media was used as an instrument of information warfare in the Russo-Georgian War. First, by applying Kaldor’s criteria, it was shown that the Russo-Georgian War identifies as a “new” war. Second, it was outlined that the concepts of media and propaganda warfare can be used to analyse the Russo-Georgian War. Here the concept of media warfare is applied. Third, the influence of the government on media was shown with the help of the framing theory. Thesefindings suggest that Russian and European media were influenced by the respective government’s stanceon the Russo-Georgian War. It is possible that media wasused as an instrument to spread propaganda to legitimize governmental reactions. This tentative answer should provide the necessary background to be able to answer the second question of this paper, namely to what extent the framing of the Russo-Georgian War in Russian and European media constitutesinformation warfare.


3.1 Sampling and case selection

The media under investigation is constituted by four media outlets: two Russian media outlets and two “European” ones which are seen as shaping public opinion of a great part of the residents in the European Union (EU). Media sources were selected in consideration of three main criteria: firstly, it was assessed whether the media outlets have a wide circulation implying that they have a great impact on shaping public opinion. Secondly, broadsheet newspapers were chosen to examine the media coverage as this format is associated with an intellectual approach and an upscale readership (Rogers, 2015, n. p.). Thirdly, newspapers from different ideological orientations were taken as to minimise political bias. Practical limitations were constituted by free accessible online archives and the knowledge of the language.

Taking these considerations into account, representing Russian media are The Moscow Times (MT) and Russia Beyond the Headlines (RBTH). MT is Russia’s first and leading English-language newspaper. In 2008 it was published as a broadsheet and hada daily circulation of 35,000 copies (“Moscow Times”, 2016). Its target group arein particular foreign citizens living in Moscow but increasingly also English-speaking Russians. Until 2005, the MT was owned by a Moscow-registered publishing house, and then sold to Sanoma, a Dutch-Finnish publishing group (Zhang &Fahmy, 2009, p. 523). Officially, it does not follow an ideological direction and is independent (“About Us”, 2016a).

RBTH describes itself as “an international multimedia project about Russia […] which offers an innovative approach in covering and analysing news” (“About Us”, 2016b). Its online website is updated daily with articles and it has print supplement that get distributed in the form of a broadsheet in 20 influential newspapers in 16 different languages in 24 countries of the world (“Russia Beyond”, 2016). That is why it is difficult to assess the exact readership. However, what is important for the analysis is the readership in Russia. RBTH is financed by RossiyskayaGazeta which is owned by the Russian government (“The Media”, 2014). RossiyskayaGazeta in turn had a daily readership of 638,000 in 2007 in Russia (“The Press”, 2008). Hence, it is assumed that the content of RBTH is similar to the content of RossiyskayaGazeta and thus gives a good view on the content of the articles published in RossiyskayaGazeta which influence Russian public opinion. As the newspaper is indirectly owned by the government its ideological direction it is assumed to be conservative and in line with the government.

An alternative would have been RT, formerly Russia Today, which is a television network funded by the Russian government, directed to audiences outside the Russian Federation. It operates in three languages and its YouTube channel is the most watched news network on YouTube (“About Us”, 2016c). Its websites also contains articles. However, it was not possible to access the archives on its Website and in terms of comparability the analysis of the channel was not deemed as accurate.For these reasons, it was not possible to choose RT in this paper.

Standing for European media are The Daily Telegraph (DT) andthe SüddeutscheZeitung (SZ). The reason why one German and one British broadsheet were chosen to represent “European” newspapers is because of the significance of both countries in the EU due to their size, population and political power. Further, both countries were somewhat involved in the conflict and differ in their relationship to Russia. The UK, on the one hand, is a leading player in European politics and the government quickly reacted to the events by pronouncing Russia as the guilty party. Germany, on the other hand, was allegedly one of the countries that spoke out against Georgia in becoming a NATO member in April 2008 as Germany traditionally has a “special relationship” with Russia (Nazarenko, 2009, pp. 15-16).

The DT which is a daily morning English-language broadsheet newspaper which is published in the UK but also in the international sphere. It counts as one of Britain’s three quality newspapers (“The Daily Telegraph”, 2016). According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the DT had an average daily circulation of 845,167 from July to December in 2008 (“ABCs”, 2009). It is said to have its political alignment in the centre-right and conservative (“The UK’s ‘other paper of record’”, 2004).

The SZ is Germany’s largest daily subscription newspaper(“Source Information”, 2016). According to the German Audit Bureau of Circulation, the SZ had a daily circulation of 461,409 from July to September 2008 (“Germany: New circulation”, 2008). Its political stance is centre-left (Koopmanns&Pfetsch, 2007, p. 70).

Apart from the practical limitations, it needs to be taken into account that the Western concept of journalism might not apply to Russian Media because the political system is different which affects the relationship between government and media (Morrison, 1997). Further, the selection of four newspapers cannot be seen as representative of the media landscape of Russia and the EU as newspapers as there exists over 400 daily newspapers in Russia and many more in the whole European Union with diverse political stances (“The Press in Russia”, 2008). Moreover, print media such as newspapers are not the only media which can spread propaganda as electronic media such as television, radio broadcasts and film can also serve as a channel of propaganda.


Excerpt out of 33 pages


The Media as an Instrument of Information Warfare
The Framing of the Russo-Georgian War in Russian and European Media
Maastricht University
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Information Warfare, Propaganda, Russian media, Media Bias, Russo-Georgian War, Georgia, Mass media
Quote paper
Inga von der Stein (Author), 2016, The Media as an Instrument of Information Warfare, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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