US Ambassador to Athens, Geoffrey Pyatt fell victim of disinformation after an interview he gave during the “Disinformation Week Conference” in Thessaloniki. Several mainstream media outlets spread the new that Pyatt had said he had evidence of Russia meddling in the upcoming Greek elections.
The source of twisting Pyatt’s words was apparently the same private broadcaster to which the US Ambassador gave the interview. Even though, on the interview video, he clearly states that he “has no evidence” that Russia is meddling in the elections. What he said was that Russia was trying to “undermine the role of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew” after he divided the Church of Ukraine.
In the transcript published by the US Consulate in Thessaloniki, Pyatt said:
Question: Ambassador Pyatt, are you worried we might have a disinformation campaign in Greece as the Euroelections, local elections, and political elections come close?
Answer: As I said, all of our open societies are vulnerable to these new tools. We learned this the hard way in the United States during our presidential election. We’ve seen evidence of this kind of manipulation of information in Greece. We’ve seen Russian efforts in the Church, the efforts to undermine the role of the Ecumenical Patriarch. I cannot tell you that I have seen evidence of efforts in order to meddle in Greece’s upcoming elections, but the purpose of this event tonight is to raise awareness so that Greece’s democratic institutions, Greece’s free press — which are all quite strong — can be alert and able to respond.
Aim of the Disinformation event was to raise awareness among Greek institutions and media about disinformation and fake news.
Last week, mainstream media falsely reported quoting an interview by Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos to CNBC that he said he thinks a win of New Democracy in the next elections was “likely.” In reality, Tsakalotos had said exactly the opposite.
So what’s wrong with Greek media? Have journalists forgot their English language skills? Or is it disinformation with political motives?
Wednesday noon, when Pyatt had raised his objections, the interviewer apologized telling him on Twitter: “Please accept my apologies. I missheard “not” for “now”. We ‘ll run the correct version.”
PS Getting it wrong on Disinformation Week? My cat would say “karma is a bitch”…