The disinformation is directed against our Euro-Atlantic orientation; in particular, since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, North Macedonia is target of disinformation whose aim is to incite anti-Western sentiments among the citizens of North Macedonia and to promulgate hazy alternatives for the EU and NATO. Due to its potential to undermine the strategic orientation, the disinformation can contribute to destabilization of our country, said the President of the Republic of North Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski in his address at the opening of the “Dealing with Disinformation in the Republic of North Macedonia” conference organized by Metamorphosis Foundation, which was held on Tuesday in Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia.
He said that the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the economic and energy crisis have shown not only the power of the disinformation to spread easily, but also how difficult is the struggle to identify and then counteract it.
“The filtering of the personal and the contradictory opinions is contributing to the entrenchment of certain prejudices and values, which in turn increases the mistrust and deepens the divisions in the society,”Pendarovski said.
The president also said that the disinformation’s goal is to cause fear, and the biggest problem that it is causing is the rise of doubt in the opinions of science and expert knowledge, which harms the objective truth globally.
“The people are tired of waiting. The results of the Metamorphosis’ research show that most of the citizens agree that our country should be part of the European Union, but not at the cost of compromises with neighboring countries. Secondly, because of the halted EU integration process, instead of essential European reforms, we are dealing with ourselves. This reflects negatively on the institutions’ functionality and the rule of law, and is creating fertile soil for spreading disinformation,” the president of North Macedonia said.
The president stressed that the research conducted in the last several years shows that the majority of young people in Macedonia are inclined toward autocratic leaders, which is a direct consequence of the support for authoritarian narratives that are spread through disinformation.
Prime Minister Dimitar Kovachevski, who addressed the conference with a video call, pledged that the government, and he himself will heed all of the recommendations from the conference as essential contribution in the creation of multi-sector approach in order to create an appropriate response to the threats and the consequences of disinformation.
“The government stands firmly in the fight against disinformation, in a constant partnership with NATO, Facebook, Google as well as the independent fact-checkers, domestic institutions, media organizations and the media itself, in this global fight,” stressed Kovachevski.
The Manager of the “The Information Access Fund” program of the DT Institute, Vukashin Petrovic, in his presentation addressed the Russian influences in the efforts to undermine the European democratic values.
“Regardless how the war in Ukraine will end, Russia has managed to undermine the democratic agenda that was supposed to happen in the next decades,” said Petrovic.
The Executive Manager of the Open Society Macedonia Foundation, Fani Karanfilova Panovska said that the disinformation is an endemic and all-present part of the politics in all of the Western Balkans’ countries, without exception. She stressed that the spread of disinformation is becoming a major security risk for the safety of the states and the institutions. As a result, it is a security risk to people and their wellbeing.
“Disinformation most viraly advances in areas that are already affected by inner conflicts and where the social and public trust are fighting to bridge political, regional, ethnic, religious or other divisions,” said Karanfilova Panovska.
She expressed her concern about all the analyses that state that Russia’s geostrategic policy and, to a lesser degree, China’s as well – will continue to be focused on the Western Balkans as a critical point for blocking the EU and NATO’s enlargement efforts. The disinformation was and will most likely remain a key tool in these efforts.
“The transatlantic gap that was opened by Donald Trump’s administration has created opportunities, that still aren’t overcome, for Moscow, Beijing, and Ankara including domestic actors, to use disinformation to undermine the European and the Euro-Atlantic influence,” said Karanfilova Panovska.
Metamorphosis Foundation’s Director, Bardil Jashari in his address said that in North Macedonia since 2010, when the media and all information sources were under strict control, there was evidence of tendencies for undermining the democratic rule.
“Our region and country have proven to be very fertile for spreading conspiracy theories. We saw that we have to work more, in order to create a critical mass of people that will have the knowledge of recognizing non-credible sources, propaganda and fake news, and to have skills for critical thinking in order to empower our society to become immune to foreign influences,” said Jashari.
He stressed that the fight against these “waves” that come everytime when an important political process is happening, should be regulated in cooperation with government institutions.
“State institutions should try to create a legal framework or a strategy that will allow to deal with this phenomenon more efficiently, but also the institutions should be more transparent and open in order not to leave any space for any kind of speculations and manipulations with information. The journalists and professional associations should try even more to strengthen and implement the principles that they strive for and are embedded in the Codex of professional journalism,” concluded Jashari.
The complete conference can be accessed in the following link: