As the Moscow bureau chief for France24, reporter and documentarian Elena Volochine understands the vitality of truth and the dangers of propaganda.
“What is very important when you want to be a journalist is to differentiate information and communication,” she said. “Information is when you get rid of any interests just to try to understand what’s happening, and when you are doing communication you are covering someone’s interests.”
Volochine will share her experiences with students and community members at a talk at 6 p.m. Nov. 27 in the Franklin Hall commons as the final fall semester event of The Media School Speaker Series. She has been France24’s Russia correspondent since 2015, and since 2012 has covered Russia for a slew of TV and radio stations. Her coverage has included reporting on the annexation of Crimea and armed conflicts in East Ukraine.
Volochine also co-directed the 2016 documentary Oleg’s Choice, which follows two Russian military combatants as they realize they’ve been deceived by their own government into fighting on the wrong side of a violent conflict. The film will screen at IU Cinema at 7 p.m. Nov. 26.
Throughout her career as a reporter, Volochine has covered political turmoil and violent conflict, and she’s experienced the serious ramifications of state-supported lies firsthand. In Crimea, she saw Russian soldiers taking Ukrainian military bases. On television, she watched the Russian government spread false truths blaming Ukrainian fascists for the attacks.
“I want to tell the story of what’s happening on the Russian side, because I think people are not really aware of how propaganda, media wars and ideology can influence the course of history,” she said. “I think it’s also important for students and people who work in the media world now to be aware of these problems because they will have to cope with this new information world we are living in.”
Volochine added that it’s important to foster media literacy both for the general public who consumes messages perpetuated by the media and for budding journalists looking for careers. She recalled an instance where journalism students at a lecture she gave in Paris told her they aspired to work for Russian news outlets. The outlets, she said, were distributors of state propaganda.
“I think this new generation is going to have to deal with a very tricky situation, because traditionally you have always had media from the left and the right — conservatives, Democrats — where people know what they deal with,” she said. “But now you have this new phenomenon of media which pretend they are information outlets but again, they are working for some state interests.”