How would you describe the mission and expertise of your organisation in the field of media literacy/ critical thinking/ fact checking/ countering disinformation?
Formally, we do not have a media literacy classes at our University, even though this concept is visible on multiple levels. Of course, what preoccupies everyone is fact checking and countering disinformation. I tell my students fake news is nothing new, it has always existed, but in the past there were no social media which enabled the proliferation of it on such a large scale. Facts should be constantly checked, and only then should go public.
What are the main resources developed by your organisation you’d be willing to share?
For sure everything we do in respect of investigative journalism. I would also like to recommend the work of Faktograf from Zagreb, an organisation that is active in a network of all fact-checking institutions: https://faktograf.hr/.
Which are, in your opinion, the three biggest current challenges related to countering disinformation in your country?
I would say as much as we are a democratic country, and have all the characteristics of a modern democracy, we still have a problem with the lack of engagement on the side of the society. We also have journalists who struggle to survive, whose role is to write about the truth, or come close to the truth, but unfortunately they are blackmailed by life itself: they need to think about their children, their families, they cannot just easily say “I’m quitting my job”. Croatia is a small country and if they leave their job in Zagreb, it is questionable they will find a new job in Split. So it is very complicated and I think the biggest challenges are: undeveloped democracy, passive society and journalists blackmailed by life. Civil society plays important role, it works, but it cannot solve all problems.
Could you name three solutions that you implemented or else want to recommend as an advice how to counter disinformation, strengthen societies’ critical thinking skills and build civil resilience to disinformation?
This is a very difficult question. I can only say I admire people who say they will show you how to recognise fake news. I do not think there is a person who can teach you, you can only educate yourself, use all the grey matter of your brain to say this is folly, this is stupid, I do not want to be fooled by this and I do not want to read this article because it is a waste of my time. We need to teach people to use social media, not to get addicted to it, to stop acting upon curiosity which can be immense, not to fall victim to clickbait. I think we should practice ourself to spend less time on stupid things, which are infinite. I would first appeal to our habits, encourage better education, not just Google education, and of course help civil society to build a network against disinformation.
What are the top three events or dates you have witnessed this year that have caused an intensification of disinformation activities?
I think the pandemic was the first phenomena around which disinformation became enormous and where you could see the large amount of people who get hung up on that. So I think my answer is: Corona, Corona, and Corona.
Would you like to highlight any of the disinformation cases you have witnessed/discovered/debunked?
There was a lot of disinformation regarding the corona situation: claims that the virus does not exists, that Vitamin C helps to cure it, and many other absurd theories.
In your opinion, who are the best performing actors – in your country, as well as in the EU – playing crucial roles in the field of media literacy today and why?
I am not sure I could single out anyone. There is a lot of educated people and university lecturers in this field. I think media literacy should be taught in schools – from the youngest age to university level. But I cannot say anything special about Croatia.
Interview published in April, 2021.