June 21, 2024
News/Events The Secretariat VerityCon 2023 - Navigating the Disinformation Era

Panel 1 | Navigating the Disinformation Era

VerityCon 2023, the largest conference on freedom of expression in the Western Balkans, commenced tonight in Tirana.

Following the opening ceremony, the first panel was moderated by Ognen Janevski, a human rights activist, and Dafina Beqiri, Senior Program Manager at the Western Balkans Fund. The panel featured Jovana Marovic, former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Montenegro; Robert Huqi, Strategic Communication Officer at the European External Action Service; and Besar Likmeta from BIRN.

Mr. Huqi initiated the conversation by highlighting the distinction between manipulation and disinformation. He stated, “Manipulation and interference are more than just disinformation. It is a coordinated pattern of behavior intended to cause disruption and distort the conversation in society.” He added, “As the EEAS, the diplomatic arm of the EU, we have been mandated by member states. It is thanks to their insistence that we address this common, global threat because it has not only undermined the role of the EU but also its global standing.”

“Manipulation and interference are more than just disinformation. It is a coordinated pattern of behavior intended to cause disruption and distort the conversation in society

Robert Huqi, EEAS

Mr. Likmeta emphasized, “Information manipulation has been around for a long time. Regarding media literacy, it is crucial to note that the conditions for free media must exist before discussing media literacy. The freer the society, the more resilient it is against harmful attempts, with high ethical and professional standards.”

Likmeta questioned, “How much media literacy and digital skills are being taught? We need to do more to ensure people understand the sources that the media cites, what balanced reporting is, and this requires a considerable effort. Certain freedoms are enshrined not only in the Albanian Constitution but also in the European Convention of Human Rights. We must protect and ensure that these rights cannot be contradicted or overcome. This makes us weaker not only against spin but certainly against threats to democracy and well-being by countries that might have a more malign impact against democracy.”

How much media literacy and digital skills are being taught? We need to do more to ensure people understand the sources that the media cites, what balanced reporting is, and this requires a considerable effort

Besar Likmeta, BIRN

Jovana Marovic asserted, “The first step in efforts to fight disinformation is to build democracy. Malign influences persist because we are not a fully democratic society, hindering our ability to fight decisively. To combat this, we must build democracy, and the second thing is to fight anti-Western narratives.”

She also underscored, “Finally, it is crucial to build strategies in the Western Balkans. In the last ten years, our efforts have focused on harmonizing laws, but we have overlooked cybersecurity and disinformation. Even in the EU, only a few countries have proper strategies. Civil society is doing a commendable job, and the third step is to invest more in civil society.”

“The first step in efforts to fight disinformation is to build democracy. Malign influences persist because we are not a fully democratic society, hindering our ability to fight decisively

Jovana Marovic, former Deputy Prime Minister of Montenegro