On March 30, 2023, Balkan Investigative Reporting Network – BIRN Kosovo organized an event financed by the EU in Kosovo to commemorate International Fact-Checking Day at the National Library in Kosovo.
Jeta Xharra, Executive Director of BIRN Kosovo, delivered the opening speech. In her address, Xharra emphasized the critical role of journalism in promoting truth and countering disinformation. She also acknowledged the impressive contribution of Kallxo.com to journalism. Xharra highlighted some notable cases when Kallxo’s reporting has resulted in rectification of injustices, formal investigations and the prosecution of public officials and individuals affiliated with organized crime in Kosovo.
Kreshnik Gashi, managing editor of KALLXO.com, presented initial findings from BIRN’s research on fake news sources in Kosovo, revealing that fake news producers can deceive even computers.
“From October 2022 to March 2023, a total of 315 fake information articles were detected, with 33 of them related to Kosovo’s interethnic relations and national security and 30 related to the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia,” Gashi said.
The full report is set to be available by the end of May.
The event included keynote speeches from Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, EU Ambassador in Kosovo Tomáš Szunyog and a video address from Lutz Guellner, Head of Strategic Communication, Task Forces and Information Analysis Division.
The Prime Minister spoke about the need for a sociology of television and media anthropology to produce a “vaccine” against the virus of fake news. At the same time, the Head of the EU in Kosovo pledged continued support for Kosovo’s collective fight against disinformation and promote professional journalism.
Guellner addressed the issue of disinformation and manipulation of information as a challenge for societies and emphasized the importance of fact-checkers and journalists in resisting this challenge.
A panel discussion on disinformation in Kosovo and the impact of the war in Ukraine, moderated by Jeta Xharra and featuring a range of media experts from Kosovo, included Xhemajl Rexha from the Association of Journalists of Kosovo, Jeton Mehmeti from Independent Media Commission, Brikenda Rexhepi from Koha Group, Faik Ispahiu from Internews Kosova and Budimir Nicic from Medija Centar Cagllavica.
Over 80 participants attended the event in person, with others joining via Zoom. The conference was also attended by a notable roster of public officials and international diplomats, including Arberie Nagavci, Minister of Education, Antonello De Riu, the Italian Ambassador in Kosovo, Danijela Barišić, the Croatian Ambassador in Kosovo, Ronald Goldberg, the Deputy Head of Mission in the Dutch Embassy, Jonas Westerlund, the Ambassador of Sweden, Zeinah Salahi, Head of USAID, SRSG Caroline Ziadeh, Head of UNMIK, etc.
The event underscored the challenges facing the pursuit of truth in a global, complex, and ever-evolving information environment, as highlighted by the recent publication of the European External Action Service’s (EEAS) Stratcom division’s first study on Foreign Information Manipulation and Interference (FIMI).
The study revealed that Russia’s FIMI operations target Ukraine, seeking to undermine its sovereignty and territorial integrity. At the same time, China uses its global media footprint and economic leverage to influence media coverage and developments worldwide.
BIRN has been a member of the International Fact-Checking Network since 2017 and is recognized for its efforts in exposing disinformation and gaining the public’s trust. The organization’s ongoing disinformation study in Kosovo is part of a broader effort to understand and counter various malign influences in the region.