A strong civil society network is one of the key weapons to fight disinformation on the ground, together with political awareness, a solid legislative framework and independent media.

On 12 June, the EESC launched the first of a series of events meant to raise awareness about disinformation ahead of the 2024 European elections. The event took place in Sofia, following the finding that 55% of Bulgarians think they are often exposed to disinformation and fake news.

What emerged from discussions is that civil society organisations, government and independent media must work together to set up a firewall against information manipulation, which is gaining more and more ground as a weapon of foreign interference.

The rise of disinformation is a particularly worrying trend in view of the forthcoming European elections. EESC President Oliver Röpke underlined that: "Disinformation, now also complemented by war propaganda, is used to blur reality and seed discord, making an objective debate impossible. Next year, the biggest democratic moment in Europe will take place. European citizens have the right to make their choice based on factual information, and I think we must all contribute to a campaign where there is no place for disinformation and foreign interference."

Kiril Valchev, director general at the Bulgarian News Agency (BTA) argued that the best weapon to fight disinformation is information, not censorship. "We should let information circulate freely and make it accessible to the public".

Alice Stollmeyer founder and executive Director at "Defend Democracy" said: "Civil societies on their own can't defeat disinformation. What they can do is organise and take action together by pushing big tech companies who own social media platforms for more accountability".

The discussion also demonstrated the critical role of independent media in debunking disinformation. Independent Russian journalist, Tikhon Dzyadko, editor-in-chief of TV Rain, said that independent media were working hard to provide evidence and fact-based information to Russians in the fight against Russian propaganda. "The Russian government does not want people to know the truth". (at)