Parties vaguely mentioned the fight against disinformation in their manifestos

The European Commission has already stressed the issue of harmful foreign influence that penetrates and erodes democratic processes, yet not all political parties in our country recognize this problem in their election manifestos. All those that did recognize disinformation and harmful foreign influence, lacked specific measures and steps for dealing with disinformation, while one political party advocated the criminalization of fact-checkers


The European Commission has already stressed the issue of harmful foreign influence that penetrates and erodes democratic processes, yet not all political parties in our country recognize this problem in their election manifestos. All those that did recognize disinformation and harmful foreign influence, lacked specific measures and steps for dealing with disinformation, while one political party advocated the criminalization of fact-checkers, writes Truthmeter.mk.

Under the content-sharing agreement between Truthmeter.mk and Meta.mk, we republish the text in full below:

On the 8th of May, while the citizens of North Macedonia were casting their Parliamentary Election votes, the European Commission (EC) published an important announcement on its website to inform the citizens of the European Union that it was enhancing its awareness-raising campaign related to disinformation and foreign manipulations during the upcoming elections. 

For that purpose, the European Commission promoted practical advice on how to recognize and deal with disinformation. The campaign video will be presented in all member states until the beginning of June and it will be available in 24 languages. The protection-related messages are clear – be critical about what you read online, be aware that audio and video can be altered, check several sources and trust reliable ones, and don’t share information you are not sure about. 

The European Commission recognizes the risks of massive disinformation campaigns and has developed numerous initiatives for dealing with disinformation. One such initiative is EDMO, an independent observatory pooling fact-checkers and academic scientists together with expertise in the field of online disinformation, social media, journalists, and media. 

According to the EC, comprehensive disinformation campaigns are a great challenge and risk for Europe that demand coordinated responses from EU member states, EU institutions, online platforms, media, and citizens. The reason is simple – disinformation can have harmful consequences, including threatened democracy, polarized debates, and putting EU citizen’s health and security at risk. 

To that end, we examined the positions of three political parties in North Macedonia to see if they addressed the fight against disinformation in their manifestos when seeking the citizens’ vote during the election process. The fight against disinformation is important for both the trust of the journalists and the media. In the latest report “Reporters without Borders” it was noted that disinformation was the reason for the decrease in society’s confidence in the media. 

VMRO-DPMNE sees disinformation as a security threat 

In its Manifesto titled “Platform 1198”, VMRO-DPMNE mentions disinformation in the context of security, noting the following: 

The nature of security threats is constantly changing, a result of which hybrid threats, combined with cyber-attacks, disinformation campaigns, and social unrest have increased (pages 161 of its Manifesto). 

The Manifesto says that the party will strongly advocate for investments in the modernization of the communication systems and the basic equipment to put in place a system that can efficiently deal with contemporary threats: 

Therefore, we will develop mechanisms for quality sharing information and cooperation between various security agencies that will enable a coordinated response to threats. 

Except for the security viewpoint, the party – without offering specific measures – recognized disinformation within the media context, specifically in the chapter dealing with free media (pages 123 of the Manifesto). One of the goals of the chapter “Free Media” is an efficient fight against disinformation and fake news in the media and online area. 

A more detailed description of the measures for fighting disinformation, however, is not offered. 

It is necessary to support the security and sustainability of independent and professional public media services to further develop transparent and equal market conditions for all private and public actors. We will advocate the strengthening of media ownership transparency and preventing the negative implications from media concentration, specifies VMRO-DPMNE in its Manifesto. 

SDSM advocates a Regional center for the fight against disinformation for NATO needs 

SDSM, in its Manifesto titled “European Future Programme”, mentions disinformation in the chapter dealing with free media and open institutions for citizens, but also in the chapter “Secure Macedonia”. According to the party, the fight against organized crime, terrorism, disinformation, fake news, and hate speech is the main foundation for citizen’s security. 

We are facing complex security challenges and threats – global terrorism, hybrid and cyber threats, military and refugee crises, organized crime and human and migrant trafficking, energy crises, climate change, food shortage, fake news and disinformation, pandemics of contagious diseases, etc. on daily basis, and all that has enormous influence on geopolitics, on regional, but also on national external and internal security. To cope with these modern challenges and strengthen national resilience, a strong, attractive, and sustainable external and security-defensive policy is necessary, as well as developed capacity and empowered civil capacities for appropriate prevention, early detection, and prompt response, specified on page 113 of the Manifesto. 

In its Manifesto, SDSM notes that the Defence Ministry of the RNM increased its active institutional transparency as the basic tool for dealing with disinformation and fake news. The Manifesto also contains a specific measure planned by the party. 

We have experience and knowledge that can be offered and built onto: The Regional Public Relations Centre (RPRC) within the framework of the Ministry of Defence, as an accredited NATO Centre for Training and Education, will be developed into a Regional Centre for Fight against Disinformation and Fake News for the needs of NATO’s South Wing, in close cooperation with the Centre of Excellence for Strategic Communication in Riga. In compliance with NATO needs and guidelines, in the long-term, the Centre will develop into a Centre for Public Relations Excellence, specifies SDSM’s Manifesto (page 118). 

The Defence Ministry is not the only institution in SDSM’s Manifesto identified as an active participant in the fight against disinformation. The party has also pointed to the Ministry of Internal Affairs (page 122). 

In the next four years, we will continue to ensure citizens’ security and build confidence in the MIA. That will be done through building good-quality relations with the media and media workers to provide true information to the citizens and their protection from poor-quality, unchecked, unconfirmed, or fake news. We will proceed – like now – to deal with hybrid threats, activities, and attacks through social networks to prevent the spreading of untrue information, disinformation, hate-speech, and false bomb alerts as a type of threat, lays down the Manifesto of the SDSM. 

The Manifesto, however, does not specify the detailed measures of the Proposed Plan of Resolute Action against Spreading Disinformation and against Attacks on Democracy from 2019. 

Levica advocates for the criminalization of fact-checking 

In its Manifesto titled “Incorruptible in Parliament”, the political party “Levica” in the chapter dealing with social media advocates for criminalization and prohibition of – as they put it – the so-called “fact-checkization” of social media. Their Manifesto mentions Truthmeter on Facebook (page 22 of the Manifesto) as an example. 

Prohibition and criminalization of the so-called “fact-checkization” on social media, for example, Truthmeters on Facebook and any other restrictions on publishing news, comments, and opinions on networks – due to the so-called fake news or “hate speech”. If the news is a lie, insult, or slander, one will have to take it to court for sanctioning, because only through a court decision can the news be censured or retracted, specifies the party in its Manifesto. 

This commitment is problematic on many grounds and deserves special analysis. Here, however, we will only mention that the fact-checkers have nothing to do with any kind of “restriction of publishing news”. It is not clear on the basis what and how the right of social network media owners, including international corporations will be made to restrict their editorial policies including the act of sharing content on their social platforms, not to mention the fact that fact-checkers are not connected with determining whether something is “hate speech” or “insult or slander”, because that is beyond their mandate of fact-checking. 

Albanian parties do not deal with the issue of disinformation in their Manifestos 

In its Manifesto titled ”Europe 2030” the party DUI has a chapter with the headline “No for Russia, yes for Europe” (page 2), but does not even mention the European commitment to fight disinformation nor does it define any specific measures. Media are mentioned only once in a subtitle without any explanation at all on page 11 saying that the party will advocate their freedom. The case is the same with the coalition “Vlen”. It does not deal with the fight against disinformation in its Manifesto. In addition, the Movement “ZNAM”, which won 6 Members of Parliament, in its Manifesto titled “Proclamation for a Dignified Macedonia” (available on the following link) ignores the fight against disinformation altogether and the subject is completely outside of its radar. 

Despite the fact that harmful foreign influence that penetrates and distorts democratic processes is a problem and a priority for the European Union and its member states, not all political parties have noted this in their election Manifestos. Those who recognize disinformation and harmful foreign influence lack specific measures and steps for dealing with disinformation, while Levica even advocates for the criminalization of fact-checkers. 


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