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Bulgarian and Macedonian journalists join forces to fight fake news

The Bulgarian and the Macedonian journalists sent a strong condemnation of hate speech and mutual support in the fight against fake news, from the first ever “Weekend of Dialogue – Journalists Against Prejudice” held in Ohrid from September 20th to 22nd.

At the “Weekend of Dialogue” the participants concluded that the most important thing was to develop cooperation between journalists from the two countries through mutual support for information verification. To this end, the participants committed themselves to frequent communication and cooperation, which should result in a network of professional journalists working to reduce negative emotions and suppress the spreading of fake news. The first step for overcoming this problems was to establish a Rapid Communication Group through which journalists from both countries would be able to cross-check information published in both countries and to prevent misinformation and the spread of fake news.

The journalists that participated in this “Weekend of Dialogue” also defined key points on the basis of which a declaration will soon be issued, which will be handed over to the state authorities in both countries, with instructions on how to improve mutual trust and strengthen the process of building friendship between the Republic of North Macedonia and the Republic of Bulgaria.

Macedonian and Bulgarian journalists, participants of the event, concluded that while reporting on issues of Macedonian-Bulgarian relations fake news are present, especially on the online platforms, prejudices still existed, negative emotions in reporting are here as well, but the hate speech is not present as much it was in the past.

The two countries have a long history of miscommunication and a period of building stereotypes and prejudices in almost all spheres of society that inevitably bring about divided opinions. Mistrust has been building up for decades, especially in the time of former socialist / communist systems. Interpreting history, culture, and traditions through the prism of political interest, without explanations, facts, and analyzes from both sides, does not contribute to reducing prejudice against one another. Incorporating politics, especially daily politics into the texts and commenting with a dose of negative emotions, only fostered prejudice and worsened relations between journalists and citizens, were part of the participants’ statements.

The general conclusion of all participants was that the first “Weekend of Dialogue” should be the beginning and the basis for regular meetings, at least once or twice a year, with the involvement of other fellow journalists. Bulgarian journalists expressed readiness to host the next “Weekend of Dialogue” in Bulgaria.

In addition to the formal panel discussions, journalists from both countries had the opportunity for a very informal debate this weekend and to exchange experiences in a sincere relaxed friendly atmosphere.

The initiative was supported by state authorities from both countries. The official opening was hosted by the Minister of Communications, Accountability and Transparency in the Government, Robert Popovski and the Ambassador of the Republic of Macedonia. Bulgaria, Angel Angelov.

” Weekend of Dialogue – Journalists Against Prejudice” is organized by the Association for Promotion of Dialogue, Tolerance and Human Rights “MEDIUM” – Skopje, and is financially supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria, through the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria in Skopje..