Ministers Machevski and Popovski Addressed the Conference Titled: "Fake News on the Prespa Agreement“- The Most Effective Weapon Against Fake News is the Truth!

Athens, March 29th, 2019

Today, the Minister of Information Society and Administration, Damjan Manchevski and the Minister without portfolio in charge of communications, accountability and transparency, Robert Popovski, addressed the conference titled: "Fake News on the Prespa Agreement", held in Athens, Hellenic Republic.

As Minister Manchevski and Minister of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Media of the Hellenic Republic, Nikos Pappas stressed during their opening remarks, the joint conference is a confirmation of the friendship between North Macedonia and Greece, resulting from the Prespa Agreement.

As Minister Manchevski said, the road to overcoming the decade-long dispute between the two state was not easy, and fake news were a powerful tool for enemies of the Prespa Agreement.

"Fake news and digital propaganda always aim to manipulate citizens' hidden fears and basic insticts. They always distribute a message of nationalism, division, fight, conflict, strong emotion, hate, ethnic issues...That was also the case with fake news related to deliberate failure to inform about the key fact that the original text of the Agreement was published on the Government's designated website shortly after signing thereof. The fake news were mostly based on selectivelly chosen segments from articles of the Agreement, whereby new meanings were added thereto by means of speculation presented as fact", stressed Minister Manchevski.

As he said, a total of 35,261 articles in Macedonian language and 13,995 articles in Albanian language were published in the period April 1st 2018 - March 15th 2019. Analysis indicate that an average of 10% of these articles could be defined as information published not to inform the public, but to rather present inaccurate data and information as facts. These 10% of the total number are a truly concerning share!

"The largest share of articles is published in September and October of 2018, and in January of 2019. From the analyzed 750 articles that did not aim to inform the public, the largest share thereof was published in September and October of 2018; however, the outreach on social media was highest in December of 2018 and in January of 2019. This fact indicates that fake news increased in presence during the referendum campaign and during the period of adoption of Constitutional Amendments in the Parliament, as well as during ratification of the Agreement in the Hellenic Parliament", informed Minister Manchevski.

Minister Robert Popovski focused on efforts of the Government to fight against fake news.

"As a Government, we encouraged constructive atmosphere and open debate with citizens to build their own views on each open issue without fear, intimidation and pressure. From the onset of the process onward, we stand behind our view that the process should have a transparent and vocal nature, and we are proud to participate in creation of that ambience. The vocal nature of the process allows professional and independent media to express citizens' views and the public interest in a democratic state. We provided space for debate. The current Government of the Republic of North Macedonia and its policies demonstrated that there is strong political will and professional preparedness to implement media reforms and improve conditions for work in media, in cooperation with media professionals. As central executive institution, we made commitments that we will be an open Government in our operation, particularly in the field of communication. An open governments that consistently provides accurate information to the public. We fought lies with the truth!", stressed Minister Popovski and contiuned by expressing his belief that the truth will further improve the sincere friendship and will intensity cooperation and joint support of citizens of Greece and North Macedonia.

The Minister of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Media, Nikos Pappas, discussed the past cooperation between governments of the Hellenic Republic and of the Republic of North Macedonia.

"We have promoted many project, not only bilateral, but regional as well. Nobody has an excuse anymore to oppose the cooperation and partnership between these two states. The only ones against are those that made too many investments in division, and I would call them investmentless now. However, the road to cooperation and friendship is open. This is a success of two governments, the Government led by Tsipras, and the Government led by Zaev, that put their own political success aside in order to overcome issues. We might want to consider awarding a Nobel Prize for fake news. There are many candidates and it would be difficult for us to choose a winner. Our goal is to build a bridge of cooperation with unbiased and accurate information. We are going to achieve that together. We must restore trust, particularly following the major success we have attained. Our joint tool is the truth", said Minister Pappas.

The conference also included a speech from journalists Katerina Sinadinovska, Slobodanka Jovanovska and Sashka Cvetkovska, who focused on the responsibility of media and journalism in important political processes, and tools they have available to fight against fake news.

Filip Stojanovski from Foundation Metamorphosis and Rosana Aleksoska from MOST also held a speech, presenting project they currently work on related to handling fake news.

The conference was jointly organized by MISA and the Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Media of the Hellenic Republic.

Ministry of Information Society and Administration