On 20th August, one year after the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence started its work, more than three hundred guests from different countries, gathered at a conference to celebrate the inauguration of its new premises, and hear about the work the Centre has been doing.

Senior officials from the seven sponsoring nations of the Centre of Excellence, including Latvian President, Raimonds Vejonis and Lithuanian President, Dalia Gribauskaite, inaugurated the new premises at 11b Kalnciema Street, Riga. The auditorium at the NATO StratCom COE is named in honour of Mr. Mark Laity, Chief StratCom, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, for his pioneering work in NATO Strategic Communications and his support for the Centre of Excellence.

During the conference, “Riga StratCom Dialogue: Perception Matters” the President of Latvia together with the Estonian Foreign Minister, Marina Kaljarund and Lithuanian Defence Minister, Juozas Olekas, engaged in a discussion about the different methods that can be used to resist propaganda, and how NATO countries can strengthen their strategic communication strategies in the context of the emerging security challenges, and the need to facilitate critical thinking and the ability to recognise information attacks. In her speech the Prime Minister of Latvia, Laimdota Straujuma also emphasised that strategic communication is the way a nation state can protect its values and people from being influenced by malicious attacks on its information environment. US Senators, John McCain and Sheldon Whitehouse were also present at the conference, and emphasised the importance of the historic experience of the Baltic countries towards the enhancement of NATO’s strategic communications capability. The Baltic countries which were subjected to Soviet propaganda, managed to explain to their allies their history, and convince them of the need to support their strive for independence. The presence of the senators at the conference and the inauguration ceremony demonstrated the commitment of the US to support the further work of the Centre.

NATO’s ability to develop a strategic communication defence was discussed in the context of the need to protect national information space, whilst at the same time respecting our core value - the freedom of speech. During the panel discussion on social media, the conference was given a presentation of the Centre’s research on the different types of internet trolls. The techniques of the so-called “hybrid trolls,” whose aim is to manipulate public opinion about the interpretation of political events were analysed. Members of the panel agreed that society’s ability to resist the “weaponisation” of social media directly, depends on the level of media literacy.

Photos from the Inauguration Ceremony and Sessions are available here: http://bit.ly/1J7vJWd

Video from the Inauguration Ceremony is available here: http://bit.ly/1NxLDMS  

Short videos from the Inauguration Ceremony and Panel sessions can be downloaded here: http://bit.ly/1E75RuC