Fact-checking is Crucial in Combating Fake News, Panel Says

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, in partnership with Internews Kosova and FindBug, held a conference in Pristina on Monday to mark the International Day for the Verification of Facts.

The increase in the level of misinformation through false news influenced by foreign narratives led to the organization of a conference in Kosovo which brought together media experts from around the world.

In hybrid form, online and physically, with three panels lasting more than four hours, different ideas and experiences were unveiled and the dangers of external influences especially from China and Russia.

                How to fight harmful external influences?

 Lessons from the world

The first panel, “How to combat harmful external influences – lessons from the world?”, discussed the importance of and difficulties for fact-checkers in combating disinformation and fake news from the Russia-Ukraine war.

The panelists praised the work of journalists that report from the war in Ukraine, discussing the importance of fact-checking and media education as well.

Media experts from around the world argued for the importance of fact-checking, especially at a time when Russia is waging a fierce war.

Opportunities for the spread of Russian and Chinese narratives are massive. The main problem that arose is the large volume of fake news and the challenge to discover the sources.

Svitlana Slipchenko, Acting Director of VoxCheck, VOX Ukraine (IFCN Member in Ukraine) said the challenge most often encountered in the fight against fake news is the large volume of fake news, spread either through Telegram or the pro-Russian media.

“We are trying to defeat these narratives with our counter-narratives. The challenge is to find this news that Russia is doing and show the world that it is not true,” she said.

Enock Nyariki, Community Engagement and Impact Manager, at IFCN, said that through their verification network, during the war in Ukraine they had verified over a thousand false allegations. According to him, these news tried to spread Russian narratives.

“The fact-checkers came together and created the hashtag UkraineFacts with all the detected information,” he said.

Rainer Schüller, of Der Standard, Austria, said that they were having difficulty verifying the facts in an environment where there is such a large amount of misinformation.

“If we explain the sources of disinformation, then we as the media can fight for the truth and media literacy is key to that,” said Schueller.

“As a journalist, you have to constantly check facts and have part of your team be invested in social media,” he added.

According to him, the only way to win the fight against misinformation is to have experienced staff at the level of editors.

Jasna Jelisić, head of the Western Balkans Task Force in the EEAS Division for Strategic Communication and Information Analysis, said that to stop the spread of fake news, governments should prohibit their dissemination.

“I feel that in the region we have learned very little. We all need to unite, be it national governments, or be it at the EU level,” she said.

Answering a question about how the propaganda was used to negatively impact  Balkan people in the past, Jelisic remained skeptical of the lessons learned in the region. 

“Those who manipulate [news] know the human brain. For this reason they offer content that they can trust. But not everything logical is true,” she said.

Ed Vulliamy from The Guardian / Observer during the panel said that the situation of verifying the news is made even more difficult by the fact that the media uses unverified information for clicks even knowing that the information is not true.

Lessons from the Western Balkans

In the second panel, “How to fight harmful external influences – lessons from the Western Balkans”, panelists mentioned the reasons for the dissemination of misinformation and propaganda by political, economic and social factors.

They stressed the importance of media education and critical thinking as a form of combating fake news.

Ivan Angelovski, BIRN Regional Research Editor and CBC Canada Associate Producer, said misinformation must be combated at every level.

“Misinformation must be fought at every level and in the most accurate and professional way by listing the facts,” he stressed.

Filip Stojanovski, director of Metamorphosis and a certified fact-checker in Northern Macedonia, said that it has been proven that fact-checking is part of professional journalism.

“The Internet has been created, and created on an academic level, to spread knowledge, and is now used for elements that are against freedom of expression; we have hate speech,” he said.

Kreshnik Gashi, from the platform – Krypometri, said that the purpose of fake news is to change the historical past; external influences, especially from sources mainly financed by Russia, aimed at creating panic, and internal influences were supported by political parties and businesses.

Lessons from Kosovo 

Fighting inside against outside influences is one of the challenges of the media in Kosovo.

The director of the newspaper Koha Ditore, Flaka Surroi, said that in terms of news from abroad they try to make a selection of media from which they receive information, using professional international media.

Meanwhile, Aferdita Saraçini, director of Radio Television 21, mentioned the development of technology as an indicator of the great impact on people of fake news.

“Social networks and technology have enabled globalization, so people are more affected than ever, largely by fake news,” she said.

The acting director of Radio Television of Kosovo, Shkumbin Ahmetxhekaj, said that among the first measures taken by RTK were changes to the media website.

“We are concentrating on having news produced by RTK itself, and less on receiving news from other agencies and media. We no longer have bombardment of various news on the portal,” he said.

The director of the portal Telegrafi, Gentian Lluka, said that they have increased their staff in the portal and are trying to bring innovation.

Kossev’s director and editor-in-chief, Tatjana Lazerevic, said she was concerned about information censorship and misinformation.

“What frustrates me is the censorship of information and misinformation of the public globally. I am very radical in the sense that there should be no censorship in informing the public,” she said.

BIRN Kosovo and its partners are engaged in a series of activities to mark the International Day for the Verification of Facts, which was first celebrated on April 2, 2017.

The day, under the leadership of Poynter’s International Fact-Finding Network IFCN, is marked by various media organizations around the world as the day when truth is celebrated.

and 12/04/2022 - 18:51

12 April 2022 - 18:51

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.