Panagiotou: Disinformation is the main problem for Southern Europe and the Western Balkans
“Disinformation is the main problem for Southern Europe and the Western Balkans, especially after the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” said university professor and director of DCN Global Nikos Panagiotou in a brief interview with The Geopost.
“This was done by drawing analogies between Ukraine and Kosovo, even though they are completely different”, he emphasizes and adds that: “In addition, they tried to use religion, religion in this sense was used as the main weapon for exploiting feelings of people through the Orthodox Church”.
He emphasizes that the church must oppose such efforts.
“I think there is a very constant attempt to exploit people’s religious feelings, but what we need more than before is for the official church to firmly oppose such attempts, because politics has nothing to do with religion “.
Panagiotou says that after monitoring disinformation around the world, they saw that China’s efforts differed from what they saw from Russia.
“Chinese disinformation mainly goes through economic levers, actually trying to use the weaknesses of states to achieve their agenda,” he points out.
He believes that the European Union has done a great job in solving these issues, but aware of the challenges that await us, he adds that “we must become even more proactive by investing in media education initiatives”.
The Geopost: How do you see situation in Ukraine one year after Russian aggression?
Thank you very much for hosting me again, and having the opportunity to speak about a major issue, an issue that has global consequences but also very specific ones in our area. For the western Balkans, for the southern Europe, disinformation is a major issue because this disinformation aimed to exploit differences or actually to construct other ones. And to be more specific, after Russian invasion in Ukraine, we have seen very specific and targeted efforts in order to persuade public opinion in the west and in Europe in general that it would justify Russian invasion.
How they did that? By drawing similarities about the intervention in Kosovo and trying actually to exploit any sentiments against the West by saying why the West would justify the intervening in Kosovo and not us in Ukraine.
Things that do not have any similarities and the things that are totally different. With this kind of propaganda and especially through disinformation about the West trying to exploit, trying to support Ukraine and leaving the other ones behind, that was a major issue in our area. In addition to that, they have tried to use religion, religion in that sense, it has been used as a major tool in order to exploit the sentiments of the people through exploitation of the orthodox church. As we have seen the orthodox patriarch in Constantinople in Istanbul actually was totally against the invasion and very supportive of the Ukrainian case.
The Geopost: How do you see the Russian influence in Serbian orthodox church?
I see that it is something that I consider very important, because people have special relationship with church and special with religion. If you try to exploit these sentiments in order to promote your political purposes, it is something that undermines people’s beliefs.
I thing that there is a very consistent effort to exploit religious sentiment of the people, but what we need more than before, it is the official church to stand firm against these type of efforts, because politics are not related with religion, we have to be very careful in exploiting the religion in order to promote or undermine people’s confidence and undermine peace among people.
The Geopost: How do you (DCN Global) sees Chinese influence in Balkans?
For us DCN Global, it is a global organization that we work very closely and we have specialization in addressing disinformation. We have been following the disinformation across the world and we have seen that Chinese efforts are to a larger extent different in comparison with the ones that we have seen from Russia. Chinese disinformation mostly goes through economic leverage, tries actually to exploit weaknesses of the states in order to pursue their own agenda.
What we have witnessed is that there are a lot of “memes” that try to undermine the role of the US supporting Ukraine in order to promote again narrative against the west, they don’t speak so much about China but mostly they emphasize and they speak a lot against US.
The Geopost: Is EU doing enough to push back this disinformation?
I think that the European Union has done a great work in addressing these issues, but as you know and especially now with CHAT GPT we need to work even harder, we need to do so because the challenges that arise now are in a different level by every mean and every way.
Back to EU, EU has done a lot in terms of addressing disinformation in Eastern neighborhood countries, but also they have done lot of work especially with the young people in the Balkans in order to make them aware about disinformation.
I think that what we need is to go even more proactive by investing in media literacy initiatives that it will actually create and promote a more active stance from the people. /Geopost/