Is Populism a problem?

Council of Europe, Strasbourg, 8-10 November 2017

The Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights (MFHR) as an international NGO with consultative status at the Council of Europe, participated in the 2017 World Forum for Democracy under the theme: "Is Populism a problem?" (Strasbourg, 8-10 November 2017) which was organized by the Council of Europe in partnership with the European Parliament, French Authorities, the Grand Est Region and the City of Strasbourg. The objective of the WFD 2017 was to review novel initiatives and approaches which can enhance democratic practices and help parties, media and political actors to reconnect to citizens, re-built public trust and promote institutional balance.

LAB 3 - Fact checking: is it worth the effort?

The lab discussed if fact-checking makes a difference and explored possible solutions to expand the outreach once facts are checked. During the discussion it was highlighted that fact-finding is an important dimension of journalism which contributes to a healthy democracy of informed citizens. However, there can be many obstacles for the fact-checkers, such as lack of reliable data and sources of official information. The speakers discussed the significance of social media platforms and their role in the distribution of news and information. There was a consensus that better engagement with citizens is required.

CrossCheck (France/UK) presented its activities in the field of fact checking. It was launched in 2017 to create a claim verification service for the French presidential campaign. Cross-Check has developed a typology of 7 types of misinformation or disinformation (misleading content, satire, fabricated content, imposter content, false content and manipulated content).

Africa Check was established in 2012 and has fact-checked over 1500 claims.

Which are the possible ways to encourage the fact checking? Some of the participants expressed a desire to instill a greater appreciation of traditional journalism, while others suggested that intervention in schools is needed, in the form of financial support to misinformation education.

LAB 9 - Fake news: does fact checking work?

Fake news constitutes a fundamental threat to democracy and pluralism everywhere. This Lab investigated examples of fact checking methodologies and tried to pinpoint the most effective approaches in cracking down on fake stories.

The initiatives that were presented:

NGO, Union of Informed Citizens (Armenia): their solution to the problem of fake news is the promotion of fact-based information and its distribution amongst the population through images, videos, etc.

The Insider (investigative newspaper in Russia) seeks to provide its readers with information about the current political, economic and social situation in Russia. In parallel, they try to shed light on issues related to HR and civil society and promotes democratic value. Furthermore, the Insider implements the “Antifake” project, with the objective of systematically debunking fake news in Russian media.

The Insider received the 2017 Democracy Innovation Award. (The Council of Europe’s Democracy Innovation Award is given by the Secretary General each year to the World Forum for Democracy’s most popular initiative, which was presented in the labs, voted upon by the Forum participants).

EUCHECK (Journalism schools for fact-finding, Netherland): EUCHECK’s purpose is to train a new generation of journalists to ensure that public is well informed. Its goal is to established fact-finding platforms at the national level.

The World Forum for Democracy 2018 will take place in Strasbourg from 19 to 21 November 2018. The online registration will open in June 2018.