We have seen that disinformation, misinformation and manipulations in the media can exert heavy influence on people’s lives. The COVID-19 infodemic lead to conspiracy theories that are creating mistrust toward institutions. Th disinformation, misinformation and the manipulations can undermine even the most important aspects of our pluralistic societies. What can be done against this without limiting the right to expression and how our societies can be more resilient to such resistance, asked the Ambassador of the European Union in North Macedonia, David Geer at the opening of the conference, “Critical Thinking for Mediawise Citizens”.
In his opening statement, EU Ambassador Geer said that in recent years we have become more aware of the misinformation/disinformation phenomenon and the negative influence it has on the democratic values and the human rights, more specifically on the freedom of speech and the access to information.
He said that the conference represents the finish of the project “Critical Thinking for Mediawise Citizens – Crithink” which was funded by the EU. Ambassador Geer mentioned there are major challenges and only if we are continuously promoting media literacy and critical thinking among the public we shall be able to overcome these challenges.
“This is a task for all of us. The challenges that North Macedonia is facing are the same that the EU is facing, including the countries in the region,” said EU Ambassador Geer.
The Minister of Education and Science, Mila Carovska in her opening statement said that media literacy and critical thinking are very significant for every country. She presented the opinion of the Ministry of Education and Science that if we create generations that have a stronger use of tools for fighting false news, greater prevention of false news will follow.
Carovska mentioned that media literacy and critical thinking education were accepted as the founding pillar in the new Concept of elementary education which will be implemented during the new school year in September.
Marjan Zabrchanec, the National Coordinator for strategic communications at the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia, in his addressing at the conference said that in 2019 the Government has implemented a draft platform for fighting misinformation. It is constantly a draft since there is no one or unified way to fight misinformation, explained Zabrchanec.
Bardil Jashari, the Metamorphosis Foundation’s Executive Director, in his addressing, said that the Foundation’s initial activities in the fight against misinformation were focused on good governance, transparency and civil participation. We saw then that it is very hard for the citizens to participate if they lack correct information or have no access to information, said Executive Director Jashari.
He said that 10 years ago, in 2011, the Truthmeter began working as a tool for political fact-checking, by analyzing the promises made by politicians i.e. to what extent they would adhere to their promises and whether they will meet them. Over the years, the Truthmeter’s methodology was upgraded to serve all future projects.
“Fact-checking is very important for us and to us, it is an essential part of the fight against misinformation,” said Metamorphosis’ Executive Director Bardil Jashari.
Over the years, said Jashari, it became evident that fact-checking isn’t the only tool for fighting misinformation and we arrived at conclusions that media literacy is needed, but digital technologies should also be part of it, especially the Internet.
He mentioned two key conclusions: all users have a need of skills and knowledge to securely use the Internet and skills for critical thinking are also necessary, as a process of neutral and unbiased thinking free of all dogmas, so that anybody’s information can be checked.
“It is important that the educational system to be able to produce citizens that have these skills in order to safely surf the Internet and not to fall victims of misinformation. This is why we started the Crithink project,” said Bardil Jashari.
The “Critical Thinking for Mediawise Citizens – Crithink” is financially supported by the European Union, and the closing conference was also supported by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.