(25.4.2023) Defending Freedom and Democracy

Liberals' Global Fight Against Disinformation
Disinformation Event

About the event

Recent years have shown the great danger that disinformation and foreign interference can pose to elections and democracies around the world. What happens, if public discourse becomes one-sided, access to independent information difficult and spaces for civil society are shrinking? This is a reality many countries have been dealing with over the past years. Especially populist and autocratic regimes often present a breeding ground for (state-sponsored) disinformation campaigns. The results are far from harmless, as free and independent media and civil society activists find themselves increasingly marginalised and voiceless in the face of growing public polarisation and exploitation of crises by authorities to undermine civil and human rights. FNF is committed to promoting healthy democracies, independent journalism and human rights activists in its global work. In our upcoming event, we will showcase some of our work and partners in the global fight against disinformation, while shedding light on the current state of disinformation in the Philippines, Mexico and the EU.

In the Philippines, widespread disinformation campaigns and online propaganda significantly contributed to former President Rodrigo Duterte’s electoral success and autocratic regime over the years. To no surprise, last year’s presidential election also saw disinformation playing an important role, as over 300 Twitter accounts were suspended for promoting then-presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos for alleged spread of disinformation. A claim, which has been substantiated by news outlets like Rappler. Similarly, Mexico has a long history of disinformation linked to electoral campaigns, promoted by anonymous news portals and state actors. Journalists work under challenging and dangerous conditions in many Latin American countries, with Mexico ranking as most dangerous country in the world for journalists in 2022. More than 12 journalists were killed during the year, accounting for almost 20% of the global death toll. Freedom of expression is exercised under siege and in a context of constant aggression, including judicial harassment proceedings, death threats, smear campaigns and digital attacks.

In Europe, the political discourse around disinformation has by now found its way into many political fields. The past economic, health and security crises have highlighted the intersectionality and importance of the issue, as Member States and institutions navigate growing foreign interference and manipulation of national narratives, for example with regards to the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine. Last year’s elections have shown that populists in countries like Hungary and Italy benefit from the polarisation created by disinformation. The case of Hungary especially shows the impact of state capture of media, lack of access to independent information and state sponsored disinformation, as Prime Minister Viktor Orbán celebrated his fourth re-election on anti-EU propaganda and populist promises. At the same time, the European Parliament is investigating the Pegasus spyware scandal, targeting European journalists, human rights defenders and NGO workers.

In a changing geopolitical world, political actors have realized the power that disinformation campaigns can bring. At the same time, democratic values are being threatened and undermined. Therefore, in light of the upcoming European Parliament elections and the Mexican general elections in 2024, it is essential to discuss the emerging presence and influence of global disinformation campaigns. Join us in a discussion on how (liberal) actors can tackle the spread of fake news and support each other internationally with our distinguished speakers!

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17.45 Registration

18.00 Welcome Remarks by Jana Sproul, Human Rights and EU Funding, FNF Europe

18.05 Panel Discussion

Martha Tudón, Digital Rights Coordinator, ARTICLE 19, Mexico

John Nery, Columnist and Editorial Consultant, Rappler, the Philippines

Brady Hills, Senior Analyst and Head of Office, International Republican Institute, Brussels

Moderator: Jana Sproul, Human Rights and EU Funding, FNF Europe

19.00 Networking Reception

About the Speakers

Martha Tudón, Digital Rights Coordinator, ARTICLE 19, Mexico

Martha Tudón is Human rights defender with expertise in constructing participatory public policies and advocacy processes towards the truth, memory and justice of human rights violations. Her work experience includes political risk consulting and research on general security, the Criminal Justice System and human rights abuses. She serves as a Digital Rights Coordinator at ARTICLE 19, Office for Mexico and Central America, where she implements investigations and political and media advocacy processes to defend freedom of expression and information in the digital environment.

John Nery, Columnist and Editoral Consultant, Rappler, the Philippines

John Nery is Columnist and Editorial Consultant at Rappler, a Filipino online news website. He hosts the weekly public affairs program “In the Public Square”, serves as a lecturer on media and politics at the Ateneo de Manila University, and also co-convenes the Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation. He has been writing his Newsstand column, first for the Philippine Daily Inquirer and now for Rappler, since 2007. John organized the first national conference on democracy and disinformation in the Philippines in 2018, which led to the formation of the Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation, a nationwide network of anti-disinformation advocates who monitor disinformation, convene conferences and facilitates workshops, and conduct research.

Brady Hills, Senior Analyst and Head of Office, International Republican Institute, Brussels

Brady Hills is a Senior Analyst & Head of Office for the International Republican Institute in Brussels. He oversees all aspects of disinformation research produced in cooperation with local partners throughout Central and Eastern Europe. He is an expert in media monitoring best practices and has facilitated IRI workshops on media monitoring in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. With experience in data management and analysis, he is the technical lead on innovative data-driven research approaches for monitoring malign narratives and has developed multiple interactive data dashboards to support detailed analysis in multiple European media environments.

Jana Sproul, Human Rights and EU Funding, FNF Europe

Jana Sproul joined the FNF Europe Team in 2019. In her work, she currently oversees our human rights activities and coordinates the EU funding applications from our offices around the world. Jana publishes political analyses and facilitates dialogue among experts and stakeholders, with a special focus on press freedom, disinformation, rule of law, LGBT+ issues, female empowerment and voting rights.