The Representation of the European Commission in Croatia considers the Croatian model of establishing a system for fact-checking information in the public sphere and the network of fact-checkers relevant for every EU member state, emphasizing that it is the only such project funded by the Next Generation EU instrument.
As part of the project for establishing fact-checking, public calls were completed in early May, inviting associations and scientific-educational institutions interested in fact-checking, as well as evaluators of applications for the part of the project that received nearly four million euros in non-refundable funds.
Deputy Head of the EC Representation and Head of the Media Department, Andrea Čović Vidović, highlighted in an interview for Hina that the European Commission welcomes this initiative of the Ministry of Culture and Media and the Agency for Electronic Media (AEM).
"To the best of our knowledge, it is the only such project in the European Union funded by the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, i.e., the Next Generation EU instrument. The project's goals align with what the European Commission insists on when it comes to media and social media and are certainly relevant for every member state," Čović Vidović said.
She also emphasized that the European Commission appreciates the project's focus on combating disinformation, misinformation, and fake news in the public sphere, ensuring safety in consuming media content, as well as strengthening credible media reporting and media literacy.
Unverified information on social media a problem
Furthermore, as stated in the project invitation, the idea is to strengthen the capacities and competencies of existing information verifiers, establish new independent fact-checkers, and enhance the fact-checking system and procedures in media newsrooms to make the media more resilient to disinformation.
"The communication aspect and the dimension related to encouraging and creating media content on the fight against disinformation are also important and commendable. Our unique opportunity for this lies in social media, which offers the best reach. Through communication on social networks, we often encounter user comments that contain unverified misinformation and frequently spread fake news. In such cases, our task is debunking - to demystify false information and provide accurate and truthful information to those users, as well as to everyone who sees user comments," she added.
In this regard, she announced a workshop on June 15 at the House of Europe in Zagreb, which will discuss the importance of digital literacy in the fight against fake news and misinformation. The target group is media representatives working on social media in media newsrooms, and the goal is to initiate a conversation about social responsibility when it comes to this topic, especially regarding the protection of young audiences from information manipulation, she emphasized.
Čović Vidović also referred to the recent statement by Vice-President of the EC, Věra Jourová, expressing doubt that numerous lawsuits against the media and journalists in Croatia can be classified as strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP suits).
"No member state is immune to strategic lawsuits against public participation. A detailed report on the state of the media in member states for 2023 will be presented as part of the Commission's regular Rule of Law Report, which is published in mid-year. The report will provide information on the current estimated state of SLAPP suits in all member states, including Croatia," Čović Vidović said.