BIRN Introduces Project to Fight Disinformation in Central Europe Region

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Mapping Digital Rights Violations and Fighting Disinformation in Central Europe is an ambitious initiative to fight disinformation and propaganda by creating a unique regional Digital Monitoring database

Photo: Rodion Kutsaev / Unsplash

Launched on July 1, 2022, Mapping Digital Rights Violations and Fighting Disinformation in Central Europe Region is a two-year programme led by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, with the support of the United Nations Democracy Fund, UNDEF.

The project will determine the main patterns related to disinformation and propaganda through the creation of a unique regional Digital Monitoring database and the establishment of two new databases that will map and track digital rights violations.

In already fragile and in some cases illiberal democracies, growing limitations on human rights are also visible in the digital environment, in the form of threats. Lack of awareness of these issues within society further undermines democracy, not only in times of crisis. Elections in the Western Balkan region show that pressures on the media are not decreasing.

Online independent media platforms in the region are often subjected to online smear campaigns, hacker and DDOS attacks. At the same time, other online media are frequently the source of fake, unverified or malicious content. There is no systematic mapping of the use of technology in the monitored states.

BIRN was the only organization that has kept track of, and extensively reported about, digital rights violations and the use of technology during the COVID-19 pandemic.

BIRN’s experienced monitors will keep track of digital rights violations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Kosovo, that will be compiled in a comprehensive digital rights report. BIRN will meanwhile give 10 journalists from the region the opportunity to apply for training in editorial and financial reporting, and mentoring, to produce in-depth digital rights stories.

BIRN will use the capacities of a newly established SEE Digital Rights Network to ensure the engagement of the Network’s member organizations from the region (national and regional meetings) and to streamline advocacy efforts to increase the impact of the action. At the end of the programme, stakeholder meetings and a final conference will be held.

The aim of the project is to improve the understanding of existing online threats among general populations and governments in the region and initiate necessary policy changes. Only citizens able to critically think can make informed choices and fulfill their watchdog role.

The project is made possible through support from the United Nations Democracy Fund, UNDEF.