BRUSSELS – Last year, Europe’s MediaLab launched “Stars4Media – FACTCHECKING” – a research project, funded by EMIF, with consortium members and partners from I-Europa (Slovakia), Europejskie Media (Poland), Free Media Bulgaria (Belgium), Comenius University in Bratislava (Slovakia), Liga media (Ukraine), MediaIQ (Belarus), Kraina project (Belarus) Belarusian Investigative Centre (Belarus), and Europe’s MediaLab (Belgium).
The main goal of this programme is to create a sustainable strategy for fact-checking activities for media in Eastern Europe. The project partners met at the EURACTIV Brussels office on Wednesday 19th April 2023, to exchange good practices and plan their way forward.
The debates focused on challenges caused by fake news and disinformation, especially in light of the war against Ukraine. Yulia Bankova, Editor-in-Chief at Ukraine’s LIGA, confirms: “In recent years, Ukraine has been successfully fighting Russian propaganda, debunking myths and fakes. This project will allow LIGA.net to share our own successful experiences and improve our work by making it systematic with new instruments and approaches.”
Andrej Findor, Professor at Comenius University of Bratislava, expresses research interest in the business impact of fact-checking: “Despite the evidence suggesting that fact-checking can insulate citizenry against misinformation and disinformation, little is known how it can be made into sustainable and replicable journalistic standards and practices, especially across the shifting media landscapes of Central and Eastern Europe.”
The geographical scope of the project makes it essential to involve the media in exile; Belarus, for example, is one of the most repressive media environments in Europe, with dozens of journalists being arrested and multiple media outlets shut down or continuing operations from abroad.
In such a difficult context, several Belarusian fact-checking organisations need help to be fully resilient.
Natalia Belikova, representing MediaIQ, exiled from Minsk in Warsaw, said: “This project helps us, a Belarusian fact-checking organisation, to self-identify where we fit in the CEE region in terms of effectiveness of fact-checking as a tool to combat disinformation and manipulative narratives spread in Belarus.”
As an International Factchecking Network (IFCN) member, the Belarusian Investigative Center (BIC) aims at fighting propaganda and raising the level of media literacy in the country. Alexander Vostrov, BIC Deputy Director, says: “We are very excited to participate in this project and hope that it will pave the road for improving the situation with fakes spreading in the CEE region.”
Turning fact-checking into a sustainable business activity is what makes Stars4Media-FACTCHECKING necessary, especially for newly-launched media projects. Pavel Grabchikov, representing Kraina, confirms: “At Kraina, we are interested in a deep understanding of the state of the Belarusian society. Besides, as a new media we are interested in diversifying our income flow so that we can become more financially stable”.
Same issues, different country: Bulgaria is where the virus of disinformation spreads most easily in Europe. Georgi Gotev, Editor-in-Chief of EURACTIV Bulgaria, explains: “For EURACTIV Bulgaria it’s an honour and a responsibility to be part of a project aimed at overcoming this situation. We believe that good examples too can be contagious”.
Fact-checking stands as an effective remedy for this complicated framework and according to Karolina Zbytniewska – Editor-in-Chief at EURACTIV Poland – the project offers a win-win solution: “a) a more reliable info-space and b) the sustainability for the media”.
Radovan Geist, publisher at EURACTIV Slovakia, also coordinating the research network, explains the focus of the project in the following weeks: “We need practical solutions based on innovative technologies and adapted business models.”
Christophe Leclercq, Chair of Europe’s MediaLab, which initiated this project, concluded: “This market research combines several skill sets – fact-checking, media management and surveying – from Western, Central and Eastern Europe. At our second workshop, in Brussels, I was impressed by the latter, notably the important delegation from Belarus exile media. They are technically sub-contractors, thanks to the flexibility of EMIF to increase its geographic footprint since Russia’s aggression. But, in our minds, they have great media standards. They deserve to transform fact checking into sustainability”.
Find more information on
Stars4Media – FACTCHECKING here:
This research project focuses on the financial, organisational and trust sustainability of integrating fact-checking activities into media. Media professionals, researchers and experts in fact-checking from 6 countries will collect data, develop concepts and design models to test them in the sandbox environment.
on EMIF’s website:
As application-oriented research, the project aims at turning fact-checking into a sustainable activity for media in Eastern Europe, also in terms of business model, extending from short-term journalism work.