Five years later: Raskrinkavanje growing stronger amid an atmosphere that has not improved

Five years ago, in October 2018, the Center for Democratic Transition (CDT) launched a media fact-checking platform

We launched Raskrinkavanje after lengthy and thorough preparation of the methodology together with colleagues from the region, which came as a result of our need to do something to try and stand up against the toxic public discourse in which hatred and disinformation played an increasingly important role in undermining the democratic and human values of society.

Five years later, the environment in which Raskrinkavanje operates is unfortunately no better than it used to be. Disinformation pose an ever-growing threat as they are backed by more powerful patrons, while our public institutions remain just as weak, with no laws or plans for confronting this negative phenomenon.

Still, Raskrinkavanje has grown so much stronger than it was at the beginning. The editorial team kept growing, developing and raising the bar when it comes to standards. We have become members of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) and the European Fact-Checking Standards Network (EFCSN), and we founded the regional fact-checking network — SEECheck. Also, Raskrinkavanje became Meta’s (Facebook) third-party fact-checking partner for Montenegro. We have even come so far that Sarajevo will be hosting the world’s largest and most prominent fact-checking summit — Global Fact next summer, with the support of the SEECheck network.

Being part of international networks gives us the motivation to strive for excellence and promote methodological and ethical standards of transparency. We have developed a work process that ensures our research is conducted in a transparent and professional manner and committed to reaching the highest level of factual accuracy. Our editorial staff are bound by high ethical standards that ensure impartiality. We maintain transparency around all of our funding in order to foster trust and ensure editorial independence.

Even though the media landscape and political environment in which we are operating is more polarized today, and the Internet has become a terrifying domain, Raskrinkavanje has amassed experience and gets the recognition for it, which makes our work easier today, because trust and credibility make way for wider alliances and joint actions.

This is how we managed to gather the majority of Montenegro’s relevant media around the Initiative for the Protection of Professional Journalism from the Negative Impact of Disinformation. This enables the CDT to further advocate the introduction of mechanisms that will help the media engage more actively and with more resources in the fight against disinformation.

The mission of Raskrinkavanje has never been about passing judgment about the truth or picking up on minor lapses in reporting and engaging in virtue signaling. We instead gave priority to disinformation that aim to undermine security, social cohesion, democratic values and human rights, as well as media reports that go against wider public interest, such as those that represented a direct attack on public health during the pandemic.

In the first five years, we had a streak of important elections, and the Raskrinkavanje team was striving to provide credible information to voters, and protect their right to make an informed choice. The global health crisis caused by the Covid pandemic forced us to substantially develop our capacities and respond to hundreds of disinformation we were bombarded with amid the phenomenon that became known as the infodemic. Thanks to this experience, we were better prepared and working more closely with colleagues from the region when it came to addressing reports about the aggression against Ukraine, and managed to contribute to the fight against war propaganda and lies through fact-checking. In parallel, we were covering all the relevant social issues on a daily basis, and helping thousands of people distinguish and spot fake information. We have thus built a community of media-literate citizens that contribute to this fight every day by pointing out suspicious posts that need looking into.

The Raskrinkavanje team is also growing and learning through cooperation with partner organizations and experts from different fields. We are awaiting our fifth anniversary by fact-checking disinformation and propaganda narratives around the upcoming population census. The next big step is to venture into the topic of climate change, where we will offer credible information and analyses aimed to prevent the dumbing down of society with pseudoscience and the promotion of ignorance.

CDT tapped into the substantial documentation database amassed by Raskrinkavanje in the drafting of proposals for improving public policies, which will have to be put on hold until a more responsible government takes office, one that will prioritize anti-disinformation efforts in order to preserve democracy, social cohesion and progressive critical thinking.