Zabrčanec: Russia Lost the Propaganda War against Ukraine, RNM is Constantly Exposed to Disinformation
Conclusions that Russia has lost the propaganda war against Ukraine are becoming more common. North Macedonia as a country in democratic development and the newest member of NATO was and still is strongly exposed to manipulative narratives aimed at deliberately misleading the population that Western and democratic policies and systems are not appropriate for this region and thus harm the safety and security of citizens
This, among other things, was said by Marjan Zabrčanec, National Coordinator of the Government of North Macedonia for Open Balkans and Regional Initiatives in an interview with Portalb.mk. He is a specialist in public relations, communication strategies and strategic planning, with a diverse 20-year professional experience in civil, private and public sector
Interviewer: Suad Bajrami
How much disinformation is present in the media in North Macedonia and are they creators or only transmitters of disinformation from the regional or world media?
Disinformation is a global phenomenon that in most cases aims to harm and destabilize the world’s democracies. North Macedonia as a country in democratic development and the newest member of NATO was and still is strongly exposed to manipulative narratives aimed at deliberately misleading the population that Western and democratic policies and systems are not appropriate for this region and thus harm the safety and security of citizens. The media can be both transmitters and creators of disinformation. Those who are creators of false news are usually portals that do reveal the full ownership and editorial and we should qualify them as para-media or fake media and publicly show them as such because they destroy the meaning of their existence and responsibility to the public interest.
What topics are most often used for disinforming in Macedonia, and how harmful are they?
Disinformers attack progressive topics and ideas and are especially present with narratives of major social trends and the direction in which the country is heading.
For example, we have been disinformed that with the Prespa Agreement we would become North Macedonians or that ASNOM was deleted from the Constitution. None of this has happened or will happen, but the intention was to prevent an agreement with Greece and our country’s membership in NATO through manipulation of the population. The attempt failed.
Today, disinformers try to lie to us that Russia was not an aggressor against Ukraine, but that it was forced to defend itself against the onslaught of Nazism on their neighbor. In this case, the disinformers seem to have forgotten that for months the whole world has been watching photos and videos of the dead Ukrainian civilian population from the attacks of the Russian armies on independent and sovereign Ukraine.
The harm from such deliberate misconceptions is enormous. Sometimes it can cost a life, especially if we remember that citizens all over the world died from COVID-19 because of refusing to be vaccinated thinking that it would endanger their health. The delusion led to the deadly consequences of a dangerous pandemic disease.
How much is North Macedonia exposed to disinformation against European integration and NATO?
We are constantly exposed to disinformation on these topics because European integration and NATO membership are especially relevant in recent years. Macedonian-Bulgarian relations are also poisoned by disinformation coming from outside, but also from inside. These are decadent, nationalist, dangerous and hidden centers of power and propaganda that are against the openness of societies, against tolerance among people, against the falling of barriers between the Balkan states, and against peace, and stability. These are the centers that are pro aggression, that is advocating for the supremacy of one nation over another, for discrimination, for trampling on the dignity of the people.
How do you perceive Russian propaganda and influence in North Macedonia, especially on the creation of our domestic policy and public opinion?
Whether we call such propaganda Russian or not, it is essential to know that they are all anti-democratic and destabilizing and that they come from Russia and other countries around the world, including ours. In our case, it is especially positive that we have a fully democratic government that corrects itself with various mechanisms against such phenomena and that works to create mechanisms by which society will be more resistant to manipulation.
What is the Government of North Macedonia doing in the fight against disinformation, especially the Russian ones?
Our Government was the first in the region to create and activate a comprehensive action plan for dealing with disinformation a few years ago, which gave appropriate results both at the level of alerting and raising public awareness and at the level of systemic solutions such as the high level of active transparency and openness of central state institutions or the introduction of media literacy in education.
North Macedonia is in constant coordination with its NATO allies, and the crisis in Ukraine has shown that NATO is, among other things, a thoughtfully coordinated communication platform for the promotion of democratic values and protection against anti-Western manipulations and disinformation. Conclusions that Russia has lost the propaganda war in the case of Ukraine are becoming more common.