On November 10, the international conference “War in Ukraine: The New Frontlines” was held in Sofia, organized by the Association of European Journalists – Bulgaria and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.
A large number of journalists, photojournalists, and videographers, as well as experts from Ukraine, Russia, the USA, Bulgaria, and North Macedonia, discussed topics related to the war in Ukraine – Russian aggressive actions, propaganda, and disinformation spread by Russian centers of influence in the online space and in some media, as well as the practice of countering such disinformation and half-truths.
Representatives of the Foundation for Internet and Society “Metamorphosis” participated in the agenda and in the discussions, as the only participants from North Macedonia.
Speaking from direct experience of Russian military actions and crimes against the civilian population, of which deprivation of primary living conditions is the most benign form of terror suffered by Ukrainians, as well as efforts to debunk propaganda and identify disinformation produced by Russian disinformation actors under the “conductor’s baton” of official Moscow and the channels through which they generally spread throughout the Balkans and Europe, the participants in the several panel discussions in front of a large number of conference participants formed a plastic picture of the Kremlin’s pro-Russian narratives and propaganda, which spreads to North Macedonia through a long series of profiles and pages on social networks and “upstart” websites.
Ukrainian and Russian journalists working abroad gave special recognition to their sources in Ukraine, but also in Russia, who, risking their lives or risking detection and imprisonment, contribute information and evidence in the form of photographs and videos that help to the establishment of the truth in the flood of all kinds of information – from true, to half-true and disinformation.
Bringing the content of the Russian field and online attacks into a Balkan framework, but also the media scene in general, Goran Rizaov, the editor-in-chief of Meta.mk and part of the participating team from the Metamorphosis Foundation, then the Bulgarian photojournalist and cameraman Georgi Kozhuharov and the Bulgarian freelance journalist Dimitar Kenarov, shared their experiences from Ukraine, as well as the situation in North Macedonia, in front of the audience at the international conference, which was journalistically covered by some of the most influential Bulgarian media.
Goran Rizaov, at the end of today’s international conference, presented the main elements of the coverage of the war in Ukraine by the Macedonian media.
“There is no direct coverage because except for one example from about 6 months ago, when one or two media outlets had a journalist in Poland, also spent a few days in Ukraine. And that’s it. Everything comes down to transmission from international sources,” Rizaov said.
In Macedonia, he said, the picture is particularly devastating with a lack of young people interested in studying journalism, and the financial situation of the media is generally very bad, which opens up space for the penetration of half-truths and disinformation.
He also referred to the most striking examples related to the spread of disinformation and propaganda from the Kremlin in North Macedonia, noting that “Truthmeter”, as a project of “Metamorphosis”, has been leading the fight against disinformation for more than 10 years, and the importance of such efforts is especially seen now, in the flood of disinformation and propaganda related to the Ukrainian tragedy.
“Here in North Macedonia, almost all disinformation related to Ukraine comes from abroad,” he said.