On 9 December, Exit News, in collaboration with the Science and Innovation for Development Centre (SCiDEV), hosted a workshop on combatting fake news. It’s organised within the framework of the Week of Integrity in Albania, 2020. Ten students from various disciplines joined the online workshop. 

The panel consisted of Alice Taylor, Co-Editor at Exit.al and Board Member of the Ethical Media Alliance, Blerjana Bino, Co-Founder of SCiDEV and Safe Journalists Network Researcher, Rezearta Caushaj, Investigative Journalist at Exit.al, Bledar Qalliu, Senior Editor at Exit.al and Blerina Fani, Legal Expert.

The workshop discussed the impact of fake news on the media and the public. Alice Taylor started with the quote of G.B. Shaw: ‘Be aware of false knowledge because it is more dangerous than ignorance”.  She discussed the prevalence of fake news in Albania, noting that the majority came from within the country and not from abroad. She added that Albania has one of the highest rates of fake news in the region and that during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become more evident than ever before the challenges that are faced. Alice explained the motive for fake news in Albania was often for “clicks” and the generation of revenue from visiting a site and for political gain. Politicians regularly use fake news and use unethical media portals to spread propaganda, false or misleading information, or discredit critics and opponents. She concluded her speech by calling for journalists ethical and putting integrity at the core of their work to avoid polarising society and contributing to doubt and discord.

Blerjana Bino briefly emphasised the role of media and digital literacy in empowering youth and developing their ability to interact with media and technology, understand their function, and impact our lives and relations with others, including study, work, and all aspects of life. She also pointed out that the debate program that SCiDEV is running again contributes to developing critical thinking, analytical skills, public speaking, and ethical behaviors for students and young people in Albania. SCiDEV seeks to enhance further its work in collaboration with EXIT and other media and digital literacy partners for young people. Another significant issue is data literacy, which is relatively unexplored in Albania and needs further attention. 

Rezearta Caushaj provides concrete media articles as examples, and students worked on identifying fake news, unverified news, and verified news. Providing cases from a range of local online portals, Rezarta guided the students on developing a simple checklist to verify news and understand facts from opinions, disinformation, misinformation, propaganda, and fake news. 

Bledar Qalliu focused on the critical elements of writing with integrity, taking the students through a short journey of preparing a media article by adhering to ethical standards. 

Blerina Fani focused more on media freedom’s legal aspects and its implications for fake news, disinformation, and misinformation and how the jurisprudence addresses these issues. The focus was on the correlation between freedom of expression as a universally recognized and granted right and responsible journalism, in light of jurisprudence and case-law from the European Court of Human Rights. Slight reflections on responsible journalism in the context of former and current Albanian legislation in force, were also explored.

Polls were conducted with participants and social media viewers regarding their views on who is responsible for most of the fake news online in Albania and how can we stop the prevalence of fake news. Also, they were asked about the frequency of coming across fake news. The participants and online social media followers perceived mainly media portals as responsible for most of Albania’s fake news. Most of them confirmed that they come across fake news daily. Most participants and online social media followers believe that journalistic training and self-regulation are suitable options to stop the prevalence of fake news. 

Full video available here.