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Information warfare is an excuse for Western governments to restrict freedom of speech, think four in ten Czechs and Hungarians, a third of Slovakians and a quarter of Poles

Information war

From 6 to 9 June 2024, European Parliament elections will take place in twenty-seven European countries. The Central European Digital Media Observatory (CEDMO) conducted representative research in the V4 countries in the context of the European elections. The data collection was carried out by IPSOS in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary and by Instytut Badań Pollster in Poland. The results of the survey can be found in a special thematic report, the Special Brief, which includes information on the disinformation narratives spread in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland in connection with the European Parliament elections. This is the second report on the topic of the European elections. 

In relation to the impact of the war in Ukraine on the individual V4 countries, four out of ten respondents in the Czech Republic (41%) and Hungary (41%) agreed that the information war is only an excuse for Western governments to restrict freedom of speech. At the same time, about the same proportion of the population in the Czech Republic (39%) believes that their country is an arena for the Russian Federation’s information war against Western countries. In the case of Hungary, the proportion is lower (32%). In Slovakia, by contrast, more people than in the Czech Republic (42%) believe that Russia is waging an information war against Western countries. In Poland, more than half of the population (55%) believes that Russia is waging an information war against Western countries. 

Chart 1: Impact of the information war in connection to the Russian aggression against Ukraine

In one of the sociological survey questions, the respondents determined the degree to which they found it easy or difficult to determine the (un)truthfulness of news on specific topics. The Poles showed the greatest confidence in their ability to identify the truthfulness of information across all topics surveyed (except COVID-19). The Hungarians found it most difficult to determine the truthfulness of the messages, especially for messages related to COVID-19 (difficult for 59%) and developments on the domestic political scene (58%). Almost half of the Czech population finds it most difficult to distinguish between true and false news in the area of the European Commission’s policy on the future of the automotive industry – for example, the ban on internal combustion engines (difficult for 49% of the Czech population), followed by information on the war in Ukraine (48%) and thirdly news on the energy crisis, including changes in energy prices (47%). The same topics as those of the Czech population are also difficult for Slovaks, but their confidence in their own ability to recognize the truthfulness of specific information is higher than in the Czech population (the three most difficult topics mentioned above were identified as difficult by approximately two-fifths of Slovak respondents).

Chart 2: Difficulty in determining the truthfulness of information before the European Parliament elections

“If we look at the topic of the European Commission’s policy on the future of the automotive industry, which was on average rated as the most difficult to determine the truthfulness, we see some similarities but also differences in the answers of respondents across the V4 countries. In all countries, this topic is more difficult for women to assess – with respect to the country in question. It is difficult for 35-50% of men to assess (least difficult in Poland, most difficult in Hungary). But women are always between 5-9 percentage points higher. Differences also appear in age categories. For example, for the younger age group under 35. In the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary, 40 – 52% of young respondents report difficulty in assessing narratives about the automotive industry, while in Poland, this is only the case for 25% of respondents. In all countries, confidence in determining the authenticity of information increases with increasing education, but also with the frequency of internet use,” comments Lukáš Kutil, data analyst at CEDMO Hub, on the results of the survey in the V4 countries

Around a third of respondents in all four countries agreed that German politician Ursula von der Leyen should continue in her position as the President of the European Commission for the next five years. In the Czech Republic and Poland, 33% of the population agreed with this statement, and in Slovakia and Hungary, 38% agreed. 

Chart 3: Ursula von der Leyen’s continuation as President of the European Commission

According to reports by fact-checkers at the CEDMO hub, in the first five months of 2024, topics related to domestic politics began to increase among false narratives in the Central European online information space. The frequency of articles focusing on this topic is gradually increasing as the European elections approach, and in the Slovak case, the shooting of Prime Minister Robert Fico also had an impact on the increase. The second most frequent topic of false narratives disseminated was the war in Ukraine, which still dominated the disinformation narratives at the end of 2023. 

According to Petr Gongala of the platform, a member of the CEDMO consortium, among the news stories captured in the Czech Republic in the period from January to May 2024, false news related to the European Union were mainly related to the Migration Pact or to the measures introduced under the Green Deal for Europe. In the pre-election debates, false statements were made by candidates for the European Parliament questioning the impact of CO2 on global warming. In Poland, the false narratives captured included messages on the migration pact, the Green Deal or misinformation on the European Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). In Slovakia, false news about the involvement of French foreign legions in the fighting in Ukraine was spread. The war in Ukraine, especially the mobilization, was also a topic of discussion among the candidates for the European Parliament. 

On a pan-European scale, the proportion of disinformation related to EU issues has reached its peak ahead of the upcoming European elections, and in April, this topic was the most represented among the captured disinformation, according to a report by the EDMO network of which CEDMO is a member.

Chart 4: Share of disinformation by topic in the total number of recorded false news 

Source: (Fact-checking Brief no. 35 published on 21 May 2024)

The data presented in the press release contains the results of a survey conducted for CEDMO by the agencies 

  • IPSOS on a representative sample of 1006 respondents in the Czech Republic, 1006 respondents in Slovakia and 1002 respondents in Hungary 
  • and Instytut Badań Pollster (on a representative sample of 1087 respondents in Poland1).  

Data collection in all V4 countries took place between 28 March and 3 April 2024 among respondents aged 18-65 years. 

The aforementioned disinformation narratives related to the European Parliament elections were captured by fact-checking organisations of the CEDMO consortium (AFP,, and in the first five months of 2024. 



1 The data collection in Poland was carried out in the framework of an international project co-funded by the European Union (Action No 2020-EU-IA-0267) and the Polish Ministry of Education and Science under the Ministry of Science and Higher Education’s programme “PMW” 2021-2024 (Contract No 5213/CEF/2021/2). However, the views and opinions expressed are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority is responsible for them.

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