Hesitations or ignorance of rumors do not necessarily mean censorship. A media editorial team can consciously choose not to publish certain things if they fuel artificial panic in society. At the same time, even fake news can serve as a starting point for a well-researched news story, such as one about debunking a falsehood spread by a politician. There is no template for news. Each suspicious piece of information must be treated individually. These are some of the theses shared by television journalist Ruslan Grabari, the facilitator of sessions 13 and 14 of the training program on critical thinking, media literacy, analysis, resistance to disinformation, and unbiased coverage of public interest information, held on Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in an online format.
Speaking about the role of journalists in combating disinformation, the television journalist mentioned that during the 30 years of Moldova's independence, disinformation and fake news have probably developed better than the country's independence. According to the journalist, even during the Soviet period, there were fake news, half-truths, manipulation, etc. One example from that time is the Chernobyl disaster when people were told on television that there were only a few injuries, a few dozen hospitalized, that no one died, that nothing happened, and that everyone had to work and that the authorities knew what to do, only to later find out that it was the most severe nuclear catastrophe the world had ever seen.
"That is just one example of when the state did not tell the truth, and perhaps thousands of lives could have been saved if timely communication and necessary measures were taken. For several weeks, nothing was acknowledged, and even today, we are amazed at the scale of that catastrophe. It is just an example of what happens when the truth is hidden."
The journalist also said that the early 1990s were a period of transition for fake news, when disinformation left and the model of democratic, European, civilized journalism emerged, the first fragments of journalism as it should be, news that answered all questions and left no room for doubt, news from two sources, which was not the case before the 1990s. False information had not yet appeared or did not have such a significant impact.
"We started to do quality journalism. We learned as we went, we were still behind, but it was good. The internet emerged, more and more news portals started to compete with television. Then came what we have today, Telegram, TikTok, and many other tools. All this development not only created competition for television but also polluted the informational space. People are confused; they don't know what to believe. Therefore, it seems like a new mission of the journalist appears when they should be a guardian not only of society, not just the fourth power in the sense that they should only keep an eye on the authorities, but they should also confront the authorities when they steal, when they do not respect human rights, etc."
Ruslan Grabari believes that journalists must also guard the accuracy of the news flow. This is the present. Artificial intelligence is advancing rapidly. If we already have robots that write fakes, distribute automated fake news, we wonder what will happen when we ask ChatGPT what is false and what is true. It will be confused and won't know what to do. "We also need to invent filtering tools to separate the wheat from the chaff, to understand very well what is true and what is false."
Furthermore, the facilitator mentioned that the media, in general, is lagging behind. Fakes are ahead, and the abundance of fake news, gives birth to propaganda, the effects of which are disastrous. Propaganda gave birth to World War II, the Holocaust, and the most recent example of propaganda is the war between the Russian Federation and Ukraine.
„Those who write news every day must be responsible and aware that every word in the news matters. If we are responsible, if we do not draw conclusions, if we do not make value judgments, if we provide multiple opinions, why not a third one, people will consider what they hear. We are the ones who convey information so that the person, the viewer, can be informed because only an informed viewer can draw the right conclusions, have critical thinking, and make the right decisions”.
„Today, on television, we see a psychological war, when something is imposed on us, it is brainwashing the population, with a certain purpose. That is why I participate in these training sessions, to know how to protect myself from disinformation, propaganda because today is a certain state of affairs, tomorrow it can be even worse, and we won't know how to help ourselves, but we have students whom we prepare for life, we raise generations of people who are exposed to danger, and we are more responsible", said Lilia Toderica, a teacher and program participant.
"Since February 24, 2022, more and more people have been asking: how is it possible to have a war in the heart of Europe in the 21st century? Subsequently, another more painful question arose: how is it possible for such a large number of people to support such a shameful war? The answer lies in the propaganda techniques, disinformation, professionally used by the agents of an aggressor state. In this context, empowering citizens is already a necessity", believes Irina Bejan, also a participant in the program
The project "Supporting Critical Thinking and Resistance to Disinformation in Moldova," implemented by the IDIS "Viitorul" from January 2023 to October 2024, is financially supported by the Embassy of Finland in Bucharest.
IDIS "Viitorul" is an independent think tank established in 1993 that combines social, political and economic research with strong advocacy components. The institution conducts applied monitoring research on several areas: economics, social policy, EU policies, regional development, but also security and foreign policy risk
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