An International Conference Dedicated to Combatting Disinformation and Propaganda Was Held in Yerevan
- May 12, 2023
- Category: News
The Public Journalism Club (PJC) commemorated the World Press Freedom Day by organizing an international conference focused on countering disinformation and propaganda.
The conference entitled “Combatting Disinformation and Propaganda: A Dialogue on Resilience Strategies in Armenia and Beyond”, brought together representatives from state structures, embassies, civil society, media outlets, international organizations, as well as Armenian and international experts on May 4. It was organized as part of the “Media and Information Literacy Accelerator” project implemented by the PJC and funded through a Department of State Public Diplomacy Section grant.
Over 120 participants at the conference had the opportunity to be engaged in discussions regarding the challenges of disinformation, modern propaganda methods, and the impact of new technologies on manipulation and the dissemination of propaganda. These discussions encompassed both Armenian and international contexts.
In her opening speech at the conference, Seda Muradyan, President of the Public Journalism Club, highlighted that the event was taking place in conjunction with World Press Freedom Day. She emphasized that the conference aimed to address the challenges confronting the media and societies, particularly the issues of misinformation and propaganda.
According to Seda Muradyan, the mechanisms of disinformation and propaganda are evolving rapidly and being employed as tools to manipulate public opinion and undermine democratic values.
In the fight against disinformation in Armenia, several challenges have emerged. These include an intensified propaganda war following the 44-day war of 2020, a lack of sufficient media literacy among the public, and the rapid advancement of digital technologies. Moreover, disinformation and propaganda are utilized globally and in Armenia as tools of soft power, with various actors fighting to shape narratives and sway public opinion in their favor.
“Regarding the development of media literacy capacity, notable initiatives are underway in Armenia, supported by both the state and civil society with assistance from international organizations. The effectiveness of these initiatives can be enhanced through collaboration, coordinated efforts, and timely implementation of strategic actions,” the PJC President emphasized.
Ladislav Beranek, the US Embassy’s Press attaché in Armenia, highlighted that the Embassy has the capacity to support the organization of similar events that facilitate the gathering of journalists, government officials, and experts from diverse fields. These events aim to foster the exchange of best practices and promote cooperation, equipping society with knowledge and tools to combat misinformation and propaganda effectively.
This event was organized in cooperation with the “Public Relations and Information Center” of the Office of the RA Prime Minister and Media Initiatives Center.
Gor Tsarukyan, the Director of “Public Relations and Information Center” of the Office of the Prime Minister of the RA emphasized that disinformation is one of the major challenges of our time and poses a significant threat to democracy. He stated that success in combating disinformation can be achieved through collaborative efforts involving the media, civil society, and the government.
“The main pillars of the Government’s vision are three: strengthening and improving the Government’s communication capabilities, intensifying cooperation with civil society and international partners in the fight against disinformation, and increasing the media literacy of the society. Our structure and the entire staff of the Prime Minister attach importance to the cooperation with the private sector and the civil society in this field,” emphasized Gor Tsarukyan.
During the panel discussions at the conference, participants addressed the lessons learned from the events of 2020, including topics such as computational propaganda and the sophisticated tools used in digital disinformation. The conference served as a platform to exchange experiences between the American and Armenian expert communities in combating fake news and disinformation, while also fostering stronger connections between these communities.
International experts, Professor Martin Innes from Cardiff University and Bret Schafer representing the German “Marshall” Foundation, discussed the fight against disinformation within the framework of global developments. They highlighted that disinformation evolves in tandem with the advancement of technology. The experts specifically mentioned the widespread use of the open artificial intelligence platform ChatGPT and discussed the dissemination of misinformation in the context of COVID-19.
During the conference, Armenian experts emphasized the importance of fostering competition among media outlets in disseminating accurate information. They highlighted the need for improved direct communication between official circles and the public to prevent the spread of fake news. The experts also stressed the necessity of enhancing the effectiveness of fact-checking mechanisms. Furthermore, they agreed that denials tend to have less impact than the fake news itself.
Within the framework of the conference, the results of research conducted by the Media Initiatives Center on the spread of disinformation in the Armenian-language domain of TikTok, as well as highlighting the needs of media workers in verifying information and working with disinformation, were also presented.
During the event, the newly established Open Source Platform (www.osp.am) was introduced. The platform’s objective is to support the production of high-quality and factual media content by granting journalists access to key information databases and open-source platforms. It aims to facilitate their work, particularly in the area of fact-checking.
As part of the project, the process of translating the international InVID fact-checking platform into Armenian was also showcased during the event.