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Report: Balkan Countries Most Vulnerable to 'Fake' News, post-truth phenomenon

According to the 2018 index, Nordic countries are best equipped to resist fake news, mainly because of their high educational and media freedom scores.

According to the 2018 Media Literacy index of the Open Society Institute in Sofia, Balkan countries are the most vulnerable in Europe to the "fake" news and post-truth phenomenon. The report blamed media that are highly controlled by the state or business interests, educational deficiencies and low overall trust levels in society.

For the second year in a row, OSI, in Sofia has assessed the potential to resilience of 35 European societies to disinformation by employing media freedom, education and interpersonal trust indicators, said OSI–Sofia’s European Policies program director, Marin Lessenski.

He noted that media freedom is an important factor in tackling the fake news phenomenon – but is often overlooked.

Also, he pointed out that education levels are also crucial when it comes to general education levels and specific media literacy training.

“We don’t know for certain what the direction of the relationship is, but we are certain there is one. We supposed that when education or media freedom increases, the other will follow,” Lessenski was reported as telling sources.

Lessenski also said the index measured resilience to post-truth, fake news and their social consequences; not measure media literacy itself, but the factors that predict it – level of education, state of the media, trust in society and the usage of electronic tools of participation in decision-making by the public.

According to the 2018 index, Nordic countries are best equipped to resist fake news, mainly because of their high educational and media freedom scores.

The index puts all Balkan states in the bottom half of the media literacy scale, with Greece and Romania being the “top” performers in 27th and 28th places, followed by Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Bosnia, Albania, Turkey and Macedonia.

The latter two have the worst scores. According to the report, these are due to very low level of media freedom in Turkey, and the lowest education score in the case of Macedonia.

The index points out there is a slow improvement in the majority of Balkan states since 2017; however, Bulgaria and Romania are stagnating and Serbia, Montenegro and Romania are falling behind.

Moreover, the report warned that “Fake news erodes trust and is associated with the growing polarization in society,” adding that the phenomenon undermines and erodes the quality of political debates. 

While the report underscored various regulation and self-regulation proposals to tackle fake news, it assured that supporting media freedom is the best way forward.