Writers obsess with the power of words, but do words change anything? Or does poetry, in WH Auden’s phrase, make nothing happen? Across the world we see unprecedented amounts of propaganda aimed at destroying people’s lives. Propagandists usually hide behind ‘freedom of speech’ and the legal idea that ‘speech has no victim’. But what happens when, for example, Russian propagandists become an integral part of a military machine committing war crimes and even genocide? Are they aiding and abetting crimes against humanity, and can that be proven in a court of law? The panel explores the question of legal accountability for Russian state and other propagandists – and what words really do.
Bruno Maçães is a Portuguese politician and columnist for The New Statesman. Philippe Sands is an international human rights lawyer and author. Emma Winberg co-founded the White Helmets volunteer organisation in Syria. Liuba Tsybulska is head of the Hybrid Warfare Analytical Group of Ukraine Crisis Media Center. Andrii Shapovalov is a professional journalist and media manager. Maksym Skubenko is the CEO of Vox Ukraine media. Chaired by Peter Pomerantsev, author of This Is Not Propaganda.