Participants of the panel include Assistant Minister for Public Relations of the Ministry of Interior Toni Angelovski, University Professor Vesna Poposka from University “Vision” – Gostivar, and editor of the internet portal “Portlab”, Elida Zulbeari. The event is moderated by Xhabir Deralla.
As an organization for human rights and freedoms and as a media platform, CIVIL has been for years closely following the situation in the area of hybrid threats against democracy and information disorder.
Disinformation and conspiracy theories have been disintegrating societies for years, polarizing and destabilizing them. They give “wings’ to radical structures all around the world, hence in North Macedonia as well. Disinformation, malicious and fake news, fraud, conspiracy theories, pseudo-science, propaganda and many other phenomena that introduce distortion and mislead the public or lead it based on the interests of certain centers of power, and not in order to inform, belong in the so-called information disorders or, according to the terminology adopted in CIVIL, information chaos, says Deralla in the introduction of the discussion.
Disinformation and other forms of information chaos cause erosion of democracy and democratic institutions.
When you take a look at the structures that carry out propaganda and disinformation campaigns, you will notice that they have practically unlimited resources that they use in a non-transparent way and without accountability before the laws and the public. They are quick and penetrative, because they don’t dispose with facts, but with fabrications, lies and manipulations. At the same time, the centers for creating and placing propaganda, disinformation and conspiracy theories abuse the democratic benefits of a society, using the right to expression and media freedoms in favor of their infamous goals.
On the other side are those that adhere to professional and ethical standards, are accountable for their work before the law and the public, and their finances are transparent. Therefore, it’s much easier and faster to push through disinformation and to spread it all around, while the road to determining and checking facts for events, people and processes is subject to many principles and rules. Conspiracy theories are fabrications that can be upgraded and modified as it suits those who have created them. On the other hand, analyses and interpretation of events, situations and processes are subject to professional and scientific research.
Disinformation and conspiracy theories target people’s emotions, fear above all, and information serves reason. When you hear that an athlete collapsed in a sports arena as a result of having received a third dose of vaccine, that information directly affects people, and causes fear for them and the health and life of their loved ones.
Or that the AstraZeneca vaccine will transform people into chimpanzees (yes, there is such a theory), causing fear and mistrust, no matter how funny that “information” is.
Why is disinformation created? Who creates it and how is disinformation distributed in the public space? What are the consequences? What are the ways to deal with disinformation? How successful are our society and the institutions in dealing with disinformation?
We will try to give an answer to these questions at least in some general frameworks with our guests today in the panel “Information Disorder: Trends and Perspectives“, which is part of the series of online events of CIVIL with the common title “In Focus”.
Today we speak with the Assistant Minister for Public Relations of the Ministry of Interior, Toni Angelovski, University Professor Vesna Poposka from University “Vision” – Gostivar, and editor of the internet portal “Portlab”, Elida Zulbeari
The event is supported by the Civica Mobilitas Program, financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
Vesna Poposka, Dean of the University “Vision”, Gostivar
“I am glad that CIVIL is dedicated to these topics on a weekly level, there are several aspects that should be seen in the context of the questions you raised, I will try to structure them in a way so that it is more clear for the public, I believe that Toni and Elida will correct me or add something.
First of all, we must have in mind that disinformation, as the origin of the word, despite having Latin roots, has been taken practically from the Russian version, as a term that has been used since 1923 in the Bureau of Stalin. And then it develops as a special kind of warfare or as an instrument of soft power, and develops further on as society develops, both Western, pro-Western and pro-Russian.
These instruments of power are later basically taken over by the doctrine of Gerasimov, what we know from 2014 onwards, as part of the hybrid warfare that includes cyber warfare. And the doctrine of Gerasimov has been practically inherited from Primankov, his predecessor in the area of foreign policy. In the West, this is generally known as an attack on liberal values, and as an attack on what the West considers its civilizational benefit, as the extreme of freedom of speech, freedom of thought and media freedom. Those are the two sides of the coin, and that is why an appropriate manner must be found for every freedom and right to be guaranteed in a certain context, that is, to enable their use and disable their abuse”, points out professor Poposka.
Elida Zulbeari – Portlab
I will repeat what I have been saying for years, there are laws, but they need to be respected. There is a law on defamation and insult, and now the new text is being determined that should pass. And there was a small confusion around a word, someone made a mistake there and so they corrected that word… What journalists can do is for they themselves to adhere to the Code of Journalists, that’s the most important thing, because that’s what makes you a journalist, that’s how the public recognizes you and knows which media or which journalist publishes accurate information. For those online platforms, that’s what I call them because I don’t consider them media that want to have some kind of contribution or some benefit by spreading disinformation, there is “first cure” for them so to say, media literacy, and fact-checking by the organizations, and even by the very journalists. For they themselves to respect the journalists who work, and for the public to know where to listen and where to read. Other organizations that do fact-checking should do their job, and thirdly, there are laws, here are all these institutions, CEMM you mentioned, where citizens can turn to and demand correction and for CEMM to react, says Zulbeari.
Toni Angelovski – MoI
“I am glad we are discussing a burning topic for society, because, among other things, as you said, such problems are being created primarily due to the fact that we are exposed to massive disinformation. We are one of the countries with the lowest level of vaccination, because we are under the influence of disinformation, where, for example, “Stojanco from Staro Nagoricane” is convinced that he should not get vaccinated because when Bill Gates gets up in the morning he thinks he should chip him. This is our real problem and we must solve it together. With joint efforts with the institutions, but primarily the NGOs, and particularly journalist associations. As you mentioned, we have a problem with the “Lev Tahor” group, a protest is being announced now in Ohrid, because people of this group came to their village, which is really incomprehensible, even though so far we have no such event, no reason to say that anyone has even looked wrongly, or that someone has been attacked or threatened. But because much disinformation has been placed, such an atmosphere is being created in Ohrid, previously in Kumanovo, in Skopje… And all this is the result of spreading disinformation. And here I agree to some extent with Vesna, that the state cannot regulate the media, absolutely. Because anyone, if given the chance to meddle in that part, can abuse. The media should regulate themselves”, Angelovski says among else.
camera: Dehran Muratov
realization and editing: Arian Mehmeti
translation: N. Cvetkovska