Empower democracy with cooperation: Comprehensive Strategy against Disinformation

In an era marked by the rapid spread of misinformation, “The Balkan Forum” in partnership with three significant organizations from Central Europe, has initiated an impactful project titled “Countering False Information in Kosovo: Experience-Sharing between V4 and Pristina.” This initiative brings together the “Association For International Affairs – AMO” from the Czech Republic, “The Institute of Central Europe” from Poland, and “The Balkan Views” from Slovakia and “The Balkan Forum” from Kosovo. The aim is to forge a robust partnership that tackles the challenges posed by disinformation, which is increasingly prevalent in digital platforms.

Moreover, the presence of distinguished guests, such as Czech Ambassador Bohumil Mazanek and Slovak Deputy Head of Mission Michal Plsko, and civil society personas, NGOs, and successful journalists made the event even more
remarkable by accentuating the support and unity in responding to the global challenge of misinformation. This way, the media interest in the project was great, and the initiative was featured in some of Kosovo’s media such as TV Dukagjini and RadioKosova, illustrating the importance and relevance of this initiative for the community.

Launch Event: Where Minds and Ideas Intersect

From March 26 to 29, 2024, representatives from all sectors gathered in Prishtina under the project’s headline: “Strengthening Democracy in the Western Balkans through Vigilance Against Disinformation.” It gathered professionals, media, NGOs, and academic students, including representatives from the area of
journalism and political science.

It started with discussion on the current state of disinformation in V4 countries and Kosovo, with special attention paid to the critical role of various actors in the diffusion and control of untruthful information. In a multi-perspective approach involving keynote speeches, plenary, and interactive discussions of the participants,
the focus was on situational awareness and the role of non-state and state actors in these developments and effects, effective countermeasures, and regulatory frameworks.

Civil Society and Education Efforts

One of the key recurrent themes throughout this conference is the role of civil society in conjunction with governmental efforts to counter the scourge of misinformation. Speaker after speaker has stressed strategies that run fromenhancing public education to the deployment of technology, like artificial intelligence, in the better detection and response to fake news.
The discussion among experts, journalists, and students took on special importance, since they raised the relevance of progressive educational initiatives in schools and universities to act preventively against disinformation. Therefore, the discussion rested on the incorporation of critical thinking and media literacy into the curriculum from a very early age to prepare the next generation to detect and fight against misinformation properly.

Making Young Minds Active

Then in April 2024, the activity followed with the targeted lecture at the University of Prishtina, which was part of the series of deepening the understanding of tactics of disinformation and countermeasures at the students. The event was attended by many students, who were quite active during the lecture and displayed a great
interest in the fight against disinformation.
This comprised the technical details of how disinformation is being fought, the role of regulations, tools, and modern technologies including artificial intelligence, among others.

The project, serving as a demonstrator of such an approach with the support of the International Visegrad Fund, addressed urgent education needs but was aimed at building the solid basis for further cooperation within the complex of activities aimed at increasing societal resilience. This initiative is rooted in the belief that only by working with others at an international level can the integrity of information and democratic processes truly
be assured in the digital era. As “The Balkan Forum” and partners build from this basis, their work can bring about the development of additional strategies and interventions that promise to protect societies from the negative impacts of misinformation and secure an informed public able to protect democratic values.