- Despite being less than a month away from the first round of the presidential election in France, the elections have received far less coverage in state-backed media outlets than the war in Ukraine and other topics. None of the top 10 key phrases or hashtags used by monitored state media outlets on Twitter were directly related to the election last week. By comparison, several of the top hashtags and key phrases used by French domestic media outlets were connected to the election.
- The Russian Embassy in Paris and French-language Russian state media continued to promote the Kremlin’s version of the ongoing war in Ukraine. However, content production has fallen dramatically since the EU’s ban on Russian state media in early March.
- The Chinese Embassy in Paris and French-language Chinese state media echoed their country’s global messaging on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, focusing on Western aggression and amplifying Russian rhetoric on the conflict.
- AJ+, Al Jazeera’s digital content arm, used its typical human-interest lens to criticize French authorities on a range of topics, some of which mirrored Russian talking points, including discrimination against Russian students in France and double standards in the response to Ukrainian versus Middle Eastern refugees. The outlet also criticized the French government for previously supplying the Russian army with military equipment.
- Turkish state media covered the Russian invasion like most other international outlets, but with a focus on the mistreatment of Muslims in other conflicts.
- Iranian officials and French-language state media covered the Russian invasion through a uniquely Iranian lens, which often focused on Israel’s role in the conflict.
With the notable exception of YouTube, which recently deplatformed Russian state media channels, the amount of French-language content posted by Russian diplomats and state media on monitored social media platforms stabilized last week after several weeks of decline following the EU’s ban of Russian state media in early March.
- On Twitter, the Russian Embassy accounted for all ten of the most retweeted tweets, as the EU ban continued to limit the reach of RT France and Sputnik France’s content on Twitter.
- On Facebook, Russian diplomatic and state media pages in France published 87 posts—a nearly 80 percent decline compared to the same week in February. Unlike on Twitter, however, RT France’s content continued to generate significant interaction on Facebook, with RT France’s top post last week generating more than 5,600 interactions and almost 3,000 comments. The best performing videos featured coverage of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s statements and diplomatic meetings—a departure from earlier in the year, when top performing Russian state media content focused on coronavirus restrictions and domestic issues in France.
The narratives promoted by French-language Russian content were similar to those promoted by Russian propagandists globally since the beginning of the war.
- Russian messaging continued to portray Ukrainians as Nazis. The Russian Embassy in France’s top tweet quoted a Ukrainian journalist who cited Adolf Eichmann in suggesting that Ukrainians may need to “massacre Russian families” to win the war.
- Another example of this narrative strand was an RT France article accusing Amazon of selling “items stamped in the colors of Ukrainian neo-Nazi fighters.”
- Another key narrative was to push back against accusations of war crimes. This was done thanks to selected witnesses praising the Russian army’s professionalism, or through alternative accounts about what is happening in the Donbass, including accusations of Ukrainian atrocities.
- Lastly, the Russian Embassy in Paris and French-language Russian state media pushed the idea of widespread “Russophobia,” with violence and “death threats” targeting innocent Russian citizens abroad, especially artists and athletes.
Consistent with Chinese diplomatic and state media outputs across the globe, the Chinese Embassy in France and French-language state media continued to carry Russia’s water in its Ukraine-related messaging.
- The Chinese Embassy in France continued promoting Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s claims about the presence of supposedly secret S.-funded biolabs in Ukraine. (Note: When Zhao was pressed about the inaccurate claim promoted by the MFA that the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv deleted mention of the biolabs on its website (the documents are still publicly available), Zhao reasserted that China’s position on the matter was “clear.”)
- French-language Chinese state media quoted Lavrov’s calls for the United States to be more transparent about their labs in Ukraine and suggested that Washington should send Ukraine “humanitarian aid rather than murderous weapons.”
- In Mandarin, the Chinese Embassy quoted Putin’s speech about a pro-Western “fifth column” seeking to destroy Russia, and, in French, relayed the Russophobia narrative by sharing an interview with a pro-Putin author in the French press.
- CGTN Français had a few factual and descriptive segments on the French presidential election, presenting various candidates’ political platforms.
- AJ+ had two prominent stories pertaining to the Russia-Ukraine conflict that generated significant interaction numbers on both Facebook and Twitter. One accused French banks of “discrimination” after a Russian student complained that she was unable to open a bank account over the past couple of weeks; the other relayed an investigation by the Disclose NGO that revealed that €152 million worth of French weapons were sold to Russia between 2015 and 2020.
- Other than those stories, the bulk of AJ+ Français’ content followed the outlet’s usual sympathetic coverage of migrant and minority issues by highlighting discrimination against women in hijabs, France’s objection to a UN-established anti-islamophobia day, and the French government’s alleged favoritism of French territories in Europe compared to those further afield.
- Turkish state media continued to cover the Russian invasion in much the same way as most Western media outlets. However, they also drew attention to the plight of Muslims, notably in Palestine, and called for as much Western attention there as in Ukraine. They also highlighted Russian officials’ singling out of Turkey’s balanced position on the conflict.
- TRT World’s coverage of French domestic politics last week was factual, but its editorial orientation was skewed, as evidenced by the video “The Macron presidency: 5 years, 5 major crises.”
- The Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shared a speech entitled “Today Ukraine, yesterday Afghanistan” in which he attacked the United States and Europe.
- Iranian state media mainly covered the war only in so far as it pertains to Iran, for instance by analyzing the impact it might have on the JCPOA talks. There were also predictable anti-Israeli pieces equating Russia’s invasion to “the regional resistance against Zionism,” and anti-American/Western coverage predicting the West’s demise at the hands of Russia and China.
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