In its final in-country visit in 2023, the project Strengthening Societal Resilience and Countering Foreign Perpetrated Disinformation in the Western Balkans made its way to Tirana, Albania. On 15 December, the project organised an insightful discussion with Albanian society, as well as with local and European experts and practitioners.
Participants highlighted that although the challenge of foreign-perpetrated disinformation may seem muted in Albanian society, it is highly present as information is uncritically shared from foreign sources by different societal actors. Fact-checking is often a race against time, whereas media, as well as digital literacy, remain an ongoing priority.
Presentation of the findings by BIRN Albania showcased that foreign information manipulation is not as rare an occurrence as is commonly believed, and copy-pasting from foreign media outlets without fact-checking presents a big challenge for society. Representative of EEAS underlined the support of the EU to Albania and Western Balkan partners and the commitment of the EU’s diplomatic arm to strengthen the resilience against foreign information manipulation and interference. Participants also had the opportunity to hear first-hand accounts of good practices in EU Member States – how fact-checking works in the world-renowned media outlet Deutsche Welle, and how access to reliable information is incorporated in the national emergency supply of Finland. Exchange with international experts, learning from good practices, and support from the EU are prerequisites for further work in this area.
The project also held a closed-door discussion with representatives of the Albanian government and state agencies, which revealed the need to maintain and expand the whole-of-government dialogue on countering foreign-perpetrated disinformation and an opportunity for greater collaboration in the future.
While the in-country visit to Albania wrapped up the Western Balkans tour for 2023, in 2024, the project will continue on its mission and is already hard at work preparing its visits to Kosovo and Montenegro.
The Project Strengthening Societal Resilience and Countering Disinformation in the Western Balkans is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia through development cooperation funds.