Facts never so few, manipulations never so plenty

Raskrinkavanje.me and other similar projects and media around the world mark April 2 as the International Fact-Checking Day. International Fact-Checking Day was established in 2017 under the auspices of International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), with Raskrinkavanje.me, i.e. the Center for Democratic Transition (CDT) among its verified partner organizations. The choice of date itself is a symbolic one, given that it comes right after April 1 – a day celebrated with practical jokes and harmless lies, so as to be reminded that we would have to get back to facts as soon as the following day.

That is why today we are reminding you of all the important activities carried out by fact-checking organizations, media and other initiatives that help citizens separate facts from fabrications and false interpretations and increase media literacy of the society. We are calling on citizens to mark tomorrow’s day and honor facts by correcting a false information or forwarding suspicious news so that we can perform a thorough check.

We are concerned by the fact that Montenegro ranked 32 among 35 European countries in media literacy index report recently published by the Open Society Institute in Sofia, and that all Balkan countries found themselves at the very bottom of the list. This is a completely realistic reflection of the situation because, unfortunately, Montenegro lacks strategic framework, institutional coordination and effective measures to combat disinformation.

For this reason, we welcome the decision of the Ministry of Public Administration, Digital Society and Media to take on board the CDT’s recommendation and broaden the scope and competencies of its media directorate so as to include media literacy efforts. We hope that this is a sign that competent institutions will finally get involved and stand in defense of facts, accurate information, and public interest journalism. We also see this as an opportunity to work together and establish a fund that would help the media combat this phenomenon. It is high time the state got seriously and decisively involved in solving the problem of disinformation, in a way democratic societies do.

The previous year was marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, while the work of Raskrinkavanje and fact-checkers around the globe was marked by its faithful companion – the infodemic. We spent the year in full or partial lockdowns, under threat to our lives, health and the economy, but also surrounded by fake news and disinformation disguised as facts. During this period, Raskrinkavanje analyzed hundreds of texts and publications and published 203 analyses of pandemic-related disinformation and manipulations published in traditional and social media in Montenegro and the region.

In addition to the infodemic, users of media and social networks in Montenegro were not spared from the usual disinformation and propaganda campaigns in the areas of foreign, security and domestic policy. In the year of political turmoil and tensions in Montenegro and the region, we have identified copious disinformation aimed at undermining democratic values and institutions, electoral processes, causing regional instability and hampering social cohesion in Montenegro. Last year, Raskrinkavanje also published 159 analyses of fake news and disinformation on these topics.