Dr Darko Laketic, member of the National Assembly’s standing delegation to the South East Europe Cooperation Process Parliamentary Assembly (SEECP PA), took part in the meeting of the SEECP PA General Committee on Justice, Home Affairs and Security Cooperation on 10-11 May 2019 in Skopje. The topic of the meeting of the General Committee was "Countering disinformation in South East Europe".
The meeting was chaired by Xhevat Ademi, member of the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia and Chair of the General Committee, and attended by members of the parliamentary delegations of Turkey, Greece, Serbia, Albania, Croatia and North Macedonia, as well as representatives of Pristina.
The meeting was opened by Goran Misovski, Vice-President of the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia, who said he was pleased that the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia has the honour to chair the SEECP Parliamentary Assembly General Committee on Justice, Home Affairs and Security Cooperation, stressing that the Parliamentary Assembly gives a new quality to regional cooperation. The attending were also addressed by Robert Popovski, Minister in charge of Communications, Accountability, and Transparency in the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia, who said that the ensuring the security of journalists in their job of keeping the public informed and protecting the citizens from fake news and the creation of uncritical public opinion, as well as ridding the public sphere of disinformation call for serious measures. As member of the Regional Cooperation Council, Robert Popovski also presented the statistics on state-level exposure of the people to disinformation in the EU member states and the countries in the region.
Dr Darko Laketic said that the problem of disinformation and spreading fake news is not a new one and is present both in the European Union and the Western Balkan region. The spread of fake news on social networks has become a cause of great concern, Laketic said. Eurobarometer 2018 revealed the EU citizens’ growing concerns about the matter, 85% of which believe disinformation to be a big problem for democracy. The development of modern communication technologies, especially social networks, has allowed for an unprecedented flow of information, among them those whose veracity, source or objectives cannot be adequately checked. The spread of disinformation also affects policy creation by manipulating public opinion, and erodes trust in the institutions, as well as in science and empirical evidence. It is important to tell the people that they have the right to reliable information as well as the right to demand to know the facts. He emphasized the importance of media literacy, which needs to become part of formal education, and of tackling the production and dissemination of problematic content.
He then spoke of the measures the Republic of Serbia employs to protect the sphere of public information. According to the Law on Public Information and Media everybody has the right to accurate, full and timely information on issues of public importance and the media is obliged to respect this right. All the relevant media-related legislation is constantly being adjusted to changes in European regulations as envisaged by the Draft Media Strategy. The public debate on the Draft Media Strategy was completed on 1 March and the Prime Minister’s Office in charge of it will now analyse all the proposals and criticisms voiced during the debate and prepare a report. The strategy is expected to be passed by mid-2019. Also, in accordance with the European initiatives to work on countering disinformation and developing media literacy, the Ministry of Culture and Media is systematically working on improving the sphere. However, a comprehensive solution can only be reached with the help of the media with its fact-based reporting and systematic support for public media literacy through training programmes for the younger generations, Laketic concluded. Educating the people how to recognize fake news and restore their trust in politicians, society and democratic systems is the key to overcoming this trend and creating a society resistant to disinformation.
At the end of the meeting the participants formulated resolution and report proposals to be adopted at the SEECP Parliamentary Assembly plenary session in June in Sarajevo. All the amendments lodged by the National Assembly delegation were accepted by general consensus.