On the International Fact-Checking Day, the executive director of Internews Kosova and founder of KALLXO.com, Faik Ispahiu, in this editorial brings his thoughts on the challenges, dilemmas and success of the organization in fighting disinformation and fake news.
It is not easy to speak about KALLXO’s and Internews Kosova’s achievements in the field of fact-checking, not because we do not have what to say—on the contrary— we got used to work, and let our work speak for itself. More than 1,100 fact-checking articles, thousands of investigative articles and TV programs with the highest credibility speak for themselves.
We do not have much time left to talk about the achievements, because the volume of work we have set for ourselves is extremely high.
In the spirit of this conference, it is important to share two things with you. First, the lessons learned from twenty-five years of media development, investigative journalism and more recently fact-checking, and second, the dilemmas of how and where to go in the future, seeing the current trends in the Kosovar society and culture, but also in that of the region and the world.
Experience has taught us that credibility is one of the main factors in the work of informing, reporting and generating constructive public debate, insisting on accountability and transparency.
In an environment where the abuse of the right to free speech not only is uncommon—but is often encouraged by various interest groups, such as political, economic, religious and ethnic ones—it is not easy to remain loyal to the criteria and rules we have set upon ourselves as a commitment to the public and that are in full compliance with the highest and most rigorous international criteria of professional journalism.
We have been labeled even as spies, as servants of Serbia, Russia and China, we have been called traitors and destroyers of national interests, but the fact that we have succeeded to remain faithful to everything what we promised to the public, by the rules and criteria according to which we do our work, we achieved today Internews Kosova and KALLXO, together with [unfortunately] a small number of partners to build and preserve a forum of truth based on facts.
It is not easy to oppose a whole army of political slaves who, whether they like it or not, are forced to echo the virtual truth that tyrants and micro-tyrants launch, be it for political or economic reasons, be it from the position or from the opposition.
The suppression and penalization of the right to express critical opinions has enabled construction of narratives and virtual truths in a virtual world that in the real world result in fights, conflicts and war.
The only way to prevent this is to present the facts.
Nowadays, presenting the facts is not only a matter of the media. The verification of facts actually represents a matter of national security, regional security and even global security.
The second dilemma is how to move forward?
It is very easy to give in to the pressure and become a vassal of one or the other virtual truth, to turn a blind eye to the truth in the real world.
It is very easy to join the chorus of zombies, slaves and political trolls who blindly promote agendas like: Albanians are terrorists, Serbs are murderers, Muslims are primitive, Christians are blood leeches, that Orthodox are soulless, Ukrainians are fascists, Russians are brainwashed, and so on.
Therefore, I want to share with you that we have solved this dilemma in such a way that it was based on the values of the civilization to which we belong and have always belonged to, by challenging and constructively scrutinizing everything, every postulate, each decision, each truth that is served to the public in the name of public interests.
I repeat, constructive challenge in the interest of the public – not challenge for the sake of challenge.
So, we aim to build a society that is fully informed and fully engaged in the democratic processes of governance and decision-making. A society in which there is no discrimination of any kind and where the law applies equally to everyone.
Therefore, we have set the rules and criteria on which we base our work.
That is why we are so dedicated to choosing and joining like-minded networks and organizations such as the International Fact-Checking Network, IFCN, and the European Fact-Checking Standards Network, EFCSN.
That’s why we decided to join the META company’s project in flagging fake information on Facebook and Instagram. All this towards combating and identifying false information and lies.
I expect all of you to join us in these values and help us on this important path.
I expect you all to join us, abide by these values and help us towards this important goal.
Faik Ispahiu is the executive director of Internews Kosova and founder of KALLXO.com.