During the first panel of the second day of the VerityCon23 International Conference, an in-depth discussion unfolded about the disinformation landscape in the Western Balkans.
Moderated by Mila Carovska, a former Minister, founder, and President of the Macedonian Anti-Poverty Platform, the panel shed light on the challenging environment in which media operates in our region.
Speaking online from Tokyo, Mr. Hideaki Ishii, Director of Public Diplomacy Strategy Division at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, congratulated the Western Balkans Fund for the organization of this “meaningful conference” and underlined that “disinformation recognizes no geographical boundaries”. He also went on to suggest that in order to effectively combat disinformation, coordinated efforts are required by all stakeholders.
Disinformation recognizes no geographical boundariesIshii Hideaki
Discussing the origin of disinformation, Nikola Burazer emphasized that disinformation is often domestically driven. “Many times, when we think of disinformation, we consider third parties. However, very often, disinformation is domestically driven in two ways: by local actors and, many times, by the states. In this part of the world, states are not part of the solution but often part of the problem.”
“Many times, when we think of disinformation, we consider third parties. However, very often, disinformation is domestically driven in two ways: by local actors and, many times, by the statesNikola Burazer
According to Mr. Zulejhic of Zasto Ne, “Youth engagement and political literacy counter disinformation, but political literacy cannot combat disinformation alone.”
“Fact-checking is crucial. Increased political literacy is a direct result of increased fact-checking,” he added.
Education is crucial and serves as a vaccination against disinformationEmir Zulejhic
Mr. Zulejhic emphasized that “education, including political topics, can play a key role in building resilience. Education is crucial and serves as a vaccination against disinformation.”
Flutura Kusari focused on the negative examples set by politics in two of the contracting parties. She denounced politicians who “believe they should not be transparent on one side and believe they should act in secrecy, without organizing press conferences and, most importantly, regularly refusing to provide information when freedom of information requests are filed.”
Politicians still believe they should not be transparent and that they should act in secrecyFlutura Kusari
When asked about the situation in her home Contracting Party, Flutura underlined that “Kosovo* is a positive example. In Kosovo, media outlets did not end up in the hands of families, and there is media pluralism. It is very rare to find a public broadcaster in the region that is independent, but this is the case. I can criticize many things for hours, but if you look at prime-time news, you get a good understanding of what is happening. This is not the case in other parts of the region. Regarding media ownership, we know who owns the media, although more transparency is needed.”
According to Professor Zguri, a lecturer in the Department of Journalism at Tirana University, who simultaneously collaborated with the Fund as an expert in organizing the event, “In Albania, foreign attempts to disinform are very much present.”
Russia, China, Iran! (asked who is trying to spread false narratives)Rrapo Zguri
He then named three foreign powers bluntly: “Russia, China, Iran!” The participants in the panel concluded the session by addressing questions from the public.
*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ opinion on Kosovo declaration of independence.