Gerguri: Serbia is involved in spreading propaganda, other countries in the region should work on fighting disinformation
The university professor of journalism, Dren Gerguri, in an interview for The Geopost, stated that Serbia itself is involved in the distribution of propaganda.
According to Gerguri, unlike Serbia, other countries in the region should work to fight the spread of propaganda.
“Serbia itself is involved in the distribution of propaganda, but for these other countries [of the region], I believe it is very important to work in order to fight this form of disinformation distribution, to fight the various waves of disinformation “, emphasizes Gerguri.
He shows that in Kosovo there is difficulty in distinguishing the untruth from the real news.
“I believe that this is worrying due to the fact that we are talking about societies that, not only in Kosovo, but also in the region, are approximately the same when we talk about media education, about the level of media education that is low”, he says.
Gerguri, who is the author of the book “Fake News – Information Disturbances in the Digital Age”, says that this material is aimed at a wide audience.
“Regardless of what profession you are in and what you do, you are faced with, let’s say, the disease of information, with the infodemic, you are faced with the manipulation of information and on the other hand we know that it is always important that we are well informed to be active citizens in social processes in the country where we live”, says Gerguri.
In this interview, he also talked about the side problem of propaganda and disinformation.
The Geopost: You have published the book “Fake News – Information Disturbances in the Digital Age”, to whom is this book dedicated?
The way the book is written, it targets a wide audience, because the problem that is addressed is a problem for everyone nowadays, and it is not that the book is aimed at, say, journalists or those who work with the media, but in fact, the book is useful for anyone who is interested in getting more knowledge about the problem, about the phenomenon of disinformation, misinformation, because today, regardless of what profession you are in, regardless of what you work for, you are faced with, let’s say, information disease, with infodemic, you face the manipulations of information, and on the other hand we know that it is always important that we are well informed to be active citizens in the social processes in the country where we live.
That’s why I have decided to publish some of the articles published earlier, with the new articles that deal with the issue of disinformation, and at the same time, the language used is not a scientific or academic language, so to speak, but it is a language that is more comprehensible even for people who are not in the field of communication.
If there is a use of theories, it is explained on the spot so that anyone who reads it, let’s say in whatever profession it is, in whatever field it is, has as easy as possible to understand the content of the book.
The Geopost: How well do citizens and students know the field of “Fake news” as a new phenomenon of journalism?
We see that in Kosovo there is difficulty in distinguishing untruth, misinformation from real news, and I support this in another study worked together with my colleague from the journalism department, Professor Gëzim Qerimi, a paper already published in Vilnius, in the journal of the “Vilnius” University in Lithuania, and one of the main findings of the paper is the fact that the respondents, the citizens of Kosovo, have a hard time identifying which is true and which is false. What we have done is that we have placed in the survey four titles of disinformation which was distributed during Covid-19 and four titles that were true, and the result that was that some believed the disinformation, but it was even more interesting on the other hand, because the real news was not believed, and this shows the crisis in the citizens of Kosovo to distinguish what is true and what is not true, and this also shows the possibility that the citizens of Kosovo fall prey to manipulations of information, by reading and believing something that is not true.
In the survey, there are around 800 respondents from all major regions of Kosovo in order to have a comprehensive coverage of our state, and of course these results show the necessity of including the subject of media education in society in schools, but also to find the possibility of non-formal education for age groups, for people who are no longer in school.
You also mentioned the students, among the students I always distinguish the students who study in our department, study media, study journalism, because from the first day and until the end we deal with the problem of disinformation, but I had the opportunity to hold trainings with students from other faculties, and there you understand that those students who study in the field of economics, law, political science, sociology, have a hard time breaking down the information disorder in the first place , then it is difficult for them to distinguish what is the truth and what is not, what are the steps that should be followed as a receiver of information to verify whether it is true or not, because nowadays it is not enough that we always wait that every information be verified by the journalist.
When the journalist does it, then it is the professional who performs his work and in principle the chances are that it is true, meanwhile what I believe is that today we should have a kind of mini-sense of verifying the journalist for each of us because we are not getting a lot of information from the media on portals, but we are getting it from social media, we are also using Facebook and Instagram to get information. They are not news because the news is written by a professional in the field, they are information that someone shares. If we don’t have the way to control how to verify them, it turns out that the possibility, the probability of being deceived by someone, depends on the intention of the other.
The Geopost: How do you comment on the Russian and Serbian propaganda in the countries of the region, how aggressive is it and how dangerous is it for the production of “fake news” and disinformation?
I believe that this is worrying due to the fact that we are talking about societies that, not only in Kosovo, but also in the region, are approximately the same when we talk about media education, about the level of media education that is low. If we also take the index of media education, we see that Kosovo, Macedonia are at the bottom of the ranking, which shows that society lacks the ability to critically judge media content, which is the main thing in this aspect, because if we are talking about propaganda or misinformation and on the other hand we have a society that does not analyze them, but believes them a priori, trusts them easily, is easily deceived and on the other hand we come to the conclusion that those propaganda can have an impact on society.
Researchers say that propaganda loses its effectiveness the moment it is broken down that it is propaganda, but the point is that a part of society, they do not understand that it is propaganda, that it is disinformation, they take it as truth and believe it as truth and act based on it. And looking at this overview, I believe that all countries, including Kosovo, including countries such as Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro, Serbia, well Serbia is in a different situation because Serbia itself is involved in the distribution of propaganda, but for these other countries I believe that it is very important to work in order to fight this form of disinformation distribution, to fight the various waves of disinformation.
If we look at our case in Kosovo, we notice that we have different waves of propaganda, disinformation, depending on the developments we have in Kosovo, the issue of the north, which is always sensitive, but also other topics that are used to spread different propaganda, different misinformation, even the case in Peja that was with the elderly woman was misused by the propagandists and it went all the way to Spain with the propaganda that a young Albanian woman is mistreating an elderly woman from the Serbian community, which was not true at all, however, this is the form that how different topics can be used by others to spread misinformation and propaganda to create different beliefs of citizens from other countries about Kosovo. Not by chance, I think it was in Spain, in a country that does not recognizes us and in a country where the belief about Kosovo is not positive and when the citizens there see such disinformation believing it to be true, then their belief about Kosovo only becomes more negative.
The Geopost: How to protect journalists, citizens and society from Serbian and Serbian-Russian disinformation?
I believe that today it is important for journalists to go beyond their text, of course the journalist verifies the information he receives, the facts he has inside the story, the sources he uses to prepare the story, but today it is necessary, that for the same topic, the journalist should also look at what is circulating in the information environment because if there is propaganda circulating on the same topic, I believe that it is very important for the journalist to deny this in the same article, in the same text and show that part that is harmful to society.
Meanwhile, for the citizens, I also have the part in the book where I propose a model with three questions that I believe it is necessary to ask ourselves today as citizens of Kosovo or any country because this is a global part, but our focus is on Kosovo.
Citizens in Kosovo under one, always have to ask who is the source of the news, so where are we getting the information from, and if we understand who the source is, then we look for the same information in another media. Because of relevance it is difficult for you to have a really important news story in only one source, because it will be distributed, that’s how journalism works. And if you only have it on a Facebook page but you are not finding it in the media, you are not finding it in other places, then be suspicious, question the information you are receiving, and the third relies on official sources, it is also important to see what the text is based on and what sources they have used, are they official sources that are there and to verify these three, I believe that each citizen minimizes the possibility of being manipulated.
Today we cannot talk about avoiding the problem of propaganda and disinformation, but we must see ways to minimize the distribution, how to minimize the possibility that our society will be manipulated by such propaganda and disinformation. /The Geopost/