The Government’s announcement for opening a front against fake news and disinformation spreading through social networks and traditional media has caused an avalanche of reactions among the general public. The opposition recognized a censorship intent towards the media and the government’s initiative was confronted with criticism and calls for carefulness from representatives of media organizations.
Immediately after Prime Minister Zoran Zaev’s press conference (dated 24.07.2019) during which he revealed the Draft Plan for decisive action against disinformation, there was a reaction issued by VMRO-DPMNE. The Opposition is fearing that under the veil of fighting against disinformation censorship will be introduced against the media who are critical of the prime minister
“It is clear that Zoran Zaev’s plan has an agenda through accusations of fake news to cover all of the scandals, affairs and crimes that appear each day. Zaev is panicking and is trying to scare and censor the media” said VMRO-DPMNE.
In the aftermath, there was an accusation issued on part of the ruling SDSM where through a press release the party stated that the opposition party is panicking “because the society, the citizens and the institutions are organizing against the fight against disinformation”.
As evidence that it is not an effort to install censorship, they stressed the fact that North Macedonia has risen up 14 places on the Index of media freedom by Reporters without Borders for 2019.
The Association of Journalists of Macedonia also reacted stressing that it was worried of part of the proactive measures especially those that implicate paid campaigns at private media, the announcement of co-regulation, the introduction of criteria for accreditation of media that have the right to follow government events in accordance with the standards of journalist profession as well as the forming of an action group for fighting disinformation with a problematic personnel and role#.
AJM think that the draft measures aren’t fully clear and they leave the opportunity to be interpreted as an effort for limiting the freedom of speech.
The criticism against the announced fight against disinformation has spilled on social networks. Their disapproval with the government’s efforts was expressed by professor Ljubomir Cuculovski, who asked on his FB account for whom is the fake news more dangerous – for the citizens or for the certain political structures?”
Otherwise, the goal of the preparation of the government’s action plan, as was announced by the prime minister, is to strengthen the national security and safety. The aforementioned plan, for whom the government announced consultations with the civil sector and the media, consists of two components: security and pro-active measures.
The security measures refer to the government’s and prime minister’s communications and the pro-active measures plan an inner campaign for the employees at the institutions, a new transparency strategy, action group for fighting disinformation and a national strategy for media literacy.
The draft measures state that clear criteria will be set for the media that are accredited for monitoring the government’s work, a model for supporting the production of media content and educational programs including a cooperation with the organizations that will be dealing with the checking of facts and a registry of sources that spread disinformation.
According to one of the proposed measures, the government at its webpage would be publishing replies to questions posted by journalists and citizens in order to prevent twisting of facts and opinions.