The Entire State Leadership Together in the Fight Against Disinformation
The entire state leadership today attended the first constituent meeting of the Action Group for Coordination of State Institutions in Combating Disinformation and Attacks on Democracy
It is evident that the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia, as the initiator of these activities and author of the Action Plan for dealing with disinformation, wishes to present to the public a united front and show full commitment to dealing with disinformation.
The great interest of the Government and state institutions in the fight against disinformation was shown by the fact that on this constituent meeting, besides Prime Minister Zaev, attendants were also the key ministers in charge of security – Minister of Defense, Radmila Šekerinska, Minister of Interior Affairs, Oliver Spasovski, and Minister of Information Society and Administration, Damjan Mančevski. Directors of security institutions such as the National Security Agency, the Intelligence Agency and the Operational-Technical Agency were also present. Parliament Speaker Talat Xhaferi and President Stevo Pendarovski attended and addressed the meeting as well.
The meeting was chaired by the Minister of Transparency and Accountability, Robert Popovski. On several occasions he reiterated that the purpose of this Action Group is solely to coordinate the activities within the competence of the state institutions, adding that all security measures to be taken in the fight against disinformation also relate exclusively to state authorities. The aim was to clarify that the Government has no intention of interfering in the work of the media or implementing measures that may be interpreted as censorship attempts, which were criticized by the guild media institutions in June this year when the Action Plan for combating disinformation was presented.
Popovski also proposed initiating so-called proactive measures, but they should result from a broad and comprehensive debate involving “all stakeholders – the media and media and civic associations, but also journalists and individuals who are committed to the evil called fake news that endangers democracy.”
– In the following month the Government of RNM will organize meetings, workshops, debates, and forums as an opportunity for all to contribute – said Popovski, adding that “the Government will accept and actively participate in all similar initiatives organized by relevant organizations involved in the fight against spreading fake news and disinformation.”
Prime Minister Zoran Zaev as an example of a campaign of fake news and disinformation cited the one that happened during the negotiations and the signing of the Prespa Agreement, as well as during the referendum, for which he said had the aim to “disinform the citizens and via fake and distorted facts to discourage the voting and discredit the referendum. These occurrences were most intense during the referendum itself.”
-Most often they were based on selected segments of Agreement items to which new meanings were added through speculation. Then these were presented as facts in order to be misinterpreted in a flagrant manner. Some of the disinformation disseminated to the public were: “we are losing our identity”, and “everything that is Macedonian is being deleted”, “Greece wrote the non-paper with constitutional amendments to be implemented by the Government”, “international codes and abbreviations are being changed”, “it’s over – our language will be north-Macedonian” (…), “ASNOM is being removed from the Constitution” or “the treaty will not be accepted by Greece”, “we will change our name and then we will be stood up”, “Greece will not respect the Agreement in the future”… Lies, untruths, disinformation, Zaev concluded.
At the end of his speech, Prime Minister Zaev also welcomed the initiative of the Association of Journalists of Macedonia, the Chamber of Commerce and the Council for Media Ethics to establish a register of professional online media that will make public the portals that meet the criteria, such as those that adhere to the journalistic code in their work and have a transparent ownership and impressum.
Reporting by: Vladimir Petreski