II. FAKE NEWS – A DANGEROUS VIRUS OF THE INTERNET ERA
Democracy also implies freedoms and rights and obligations and responsibilities. In that square, the government and journalism, the NGOs and the public need to constantly exist.
By Zoran Ivanov
This text as second of the three thematic projected sequels, like the previous one last Friday and as it was announced there, also quite subjectively, will touch on only some of the aspects of fake news crime and the government’s announced fight against fake news. But, as in last Friday’s article, some moments will be noted in this one, for now only as an announcement, justify the fears of the Macedonian public of the state’s over-involvement, its patronage over public space. The danger of jeopardizing freedom of expression and democracy in general.
The Internet and other new digital wonders, as well as any emerging technological revolution, have brought mankind many benefits and at the same time many headaches. With only one most private tool, the mobile phone and with the help of the Internet as a modern means of transportation available to everyone from the age of three to one hundred and three, in one moment humanity has transformed itself from a mere consumer of information, to their creator, an author of information.
Due to these technologies, due to the widespread availability of the multitude of news, on one hand people are more difficult to manipulate. On the other hand, these same consumers are able to create authentic news but also to distribute false and manipulative information. Thus, in the plural democratic environment, the traditional media have got fierce competition in both countless web portals and in each individual citizen as a potential news co-creator. In such nonsense of producing and pulsing news, in such an unfair competition with traditional media, in the pursuit of readers through attractiveness, but also in the subversion of lies with a sense of lucrative motifs, from the most banal caprice of their authors to the well-designed and well-organized and team-planned special wars, societies, even our own, are faced with a crimson surge called fake news.
Countries have long opened a front against the emergence of fake news. It is good that our government has finally strategically engaged in the endeavors to protect its citizens, institutions and the whole society from lies and their consequences. The announcement strategy promoted by the government is comprehensive and encompasses all segments of the country. To engage the civil sector through institutional activities by promoting educational programs to recognize fake news. The goal, as it announces, is to create a broad front against the virus that infects the modern world.
Certainly the greatest responsibility for the truth remains with the institutions and the editorial boards in the traditional media. The inertia of the official sources of information, their closeness, gives the room for manipulation. Journalists and journalism are powerless if access to authentic information is denied to them by state authorities. Or they spend too much effort, time and resources to get the news they are entitled to on behalf of the citizens, and the state is also obliged to immediately report it and explain it to them. Insufficient openness of the sources of information is the main promoter of speculation and even convenient ground for fake news. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the institutions to timely and accurately inform the public. But there is also the responsibility and responsibility of journalism, the media and their editorials conveying authenticity and truth.
The strategy against fake news can succeed if it is implemented permanently, continuously, long-term and if, as the government itself has announced, comprehensive, broader and transparent with the involvement of all stakeholders. Especially if it relies on the experiences of the most vital segment, the civil society sector. It should be the main educational training center that, judging by past experience and practice, has both motives and capacities and can carry the lion’s share of the burden in the fight against the modern evil – fake news. This especially in the area of media literacy as an elementary requirement for prevention, for the rapid recognition of purpose-built information and fake facts.
Now that it has been announced, it is important for the government not to put the proposed strategy into a drawer but to start operationalizing it quickly. In doing so, it is also very important to clarify its role in the implementation of this project and in particular to present the tools for its implementation. So far there are many unknowns about this. From what has been reported and sensed, fears are that a number of dilemmas are moving in the direction of reducing the government’s democratic capacity it proclaimed at the time when it was in opposition.
As for the government’s intent, it would have been fair even before writing and publishing the draft document, first to have presented it as an idea, as an elementary concept, and explain the directions and methods on which to implement its project. At that initial stage, to have raised a public debate on the intention and in particular on the contents of the strategy. To have included journalists’ associations, journalists, newsrooms, teachers of journalism departments, NGOs whose topics of activity are the media and media products. The assumption is that in this way, initially, mainly by a professional journalistic body that itself fights fake news on daily basis, but also openly to the public, it would have attracted supporters and helpers for success in the continued implementation of the strategy and would have set a broad and powerful front against media lies and in general against fake news and their authors.
Judging by initial reactions, the government has unnecessarily demonstrated conceitedness. Instead, it should have known in advance that without the media, without the professional editorial boards and without the motivation of the NGO sector in practice there would be nothing of the best wish, and even less of the set goals.
Democracy also implies freedoms and rights and obligations and responsibilities. In that square, the government and journalism, the NGOs and the public need to constantly exist. One cannot be without the other. One without the other is the source of manipulation, fake news and all other informative monkey things. If they acted out of that box, and in the government strategy, intentionally or without it, it is looming, then its over-exaggerated vigilance, its trembling for the truth, could easily incline into negation of the good government intentions.
Burnt by the recent regime’s past and the imposed totalitarian cabinet information centralism of the regime two, three years ago, the Macedonian democratic public is now very careful and justifiably disgusted by the thought of the state in any form lurking over the news production and other press information. Part of those fears will also be discussed next Friday in the third sequel of this mini-series about the government’s announcement to fight the virus of the modern world – fake news.
It is now very important for the government to take it into account and learn from the experience of everyday life. It points to the fact that very often the truth is exactly in the lie. And that, too often, the lie is exactly in the truth.
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