President Stevo Pendarovski addressed today the final Conference of the project titled “Information against Disinformation: Building Resistance to Disinformation Practices in the Post-Covid Environment in North Macedonia”, organized by the Euro-Atlantic Council of North Macedonia, supported by the Public Diplomacy Department of NATO.
In his address, President Pendarovski said that as consumers of a huge amount of information that quickly appears in our daily lives, we have neither the time nor the ability to assess whether the content we read is verified and accurate or perhaps disinformation that consciously or unconsciously misinforms the public, and thus, as he said, undermines some of the foundations of democracy as a system.
From all previous research on the topic, according to President Pendarovski, it is confirmed that disinformation is usually not naive and accidental, but is the product of a planned and organized approach to a particular topic.
The intentions, according to President Pendarovski, are usually long-term and systematic to manipulate the public by placing false information, half-truths, twisted facts, or completely fabricated news, with the ultimate goal, to serve the interests and goals of certain state and non-state entities have their own, specific agendas.
“The topic of disinformation, the need to raise awareness of its existence and effects, deserves our full attention both as a society and as a state. The pandemic specifically showed us what problems disinformation can cause. At the global level, not only in our country, the so-called infodemia has intensified the public debate on this issue, reduced the effectiveness of pandemic control measures, increased people’s hesitation regarding vaccination and finally set the stage for the emergence of the most incredible conspiracy theories, for biological wars that should reduce the world population, for alleged chipping and control through vaccines by world centers of power and many others”, President Pendarovski said.
As a country that has recently become a member of NATO and expects to start negotiations for membership in the European Union, President Pendarovski said, during the pandemic we also dealt with an organized disinformation campaign aimed at turning public opinion against Euro-Atlantic organizations with intensive use on quasi-arguments that those organizations allegedly did not help North Macedonia during the pandemic.
“The purpose of this hybrid strategy was clear – by undermining trust in NATO and the EU, citizens should start thinking about some other alternatives, which would supposedly be much more willing to help us at any time”, President Pendarovski said.
According to President Pendarovski, strengthening the resistance to disinformation is a complex task, because, as he assessed, we need to build systemic and personal resistance to them. According to the President, we can achieve this only through close cooperation between state institutions, education, civil society organizations and the media.
“State institutions are doing their part to prevent or reduce the damage from disinformation and hybrid activities on the political system, especially now using the mechanisms available to us as a NATO member, but as a society we need a higher level of media literacy and education about disinformation in our primary and secondary schools”, President Pendarovski said.
President Pendarovski pointed out the need for better conditions for professional and independent work of the media, which means implementation of best European practices in the field. Also, according to President Pendarovski, support is needed for self-regulatory mechanisms in the media sphere, and in particular, for fact-checking platforms.
“The more we suppress disinformation, the more we contribute to an objective debate on all issues, and thus, strengthen democracy as a political system that is in the best interest of our citizens”, President Pendarovski said in his address.