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European delegates discuss fight against disinformation during CNA visit

11/29/2023 06:21 PM
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CNA photo Nov. 29, 2023
CNA photo Nov. 29, 2023

Taipei, Nov. 29 (CNA) A group of delegates from five European countries shared their countries' experiences and practice in fighting disinformation during a two-hour visit to the Central News Agency (CNA) in Taipei Wednesday as part of their ongoing trip in Taiwan.

The delegation was formed by the United States-based International Republican Institute (IRI), an American nonprofit organization funded by the U.S. federal government.

Its 18 participants from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia were asked how their countries combated disinformation following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

In response, Jakub Goda, a social media and disinformation specialist in the Office of the President of Slovak Republic, said following the Russian invasion, official Russian media were basically completely blocked in the European Union (EU).

However, blocking official Russian-funded channels that distribute Russian propaganda, does not mean such propaganda is not spread in Europe, Goda said.

"The bigger problem is that they [Russians] influence through their proxies in the European countries, and that is something that we are struggling with," he said.

Meanwhile, Dominik Presl, a research fellow at the Prague-based think-tank, the Association for International Affairs, and a leading Czech expert on disinformation, propaganda and strategic communication, said since the Russia-Ukraine war, the Czech Republic has banned almost all websites and/or media publishing pro-Russia content.

However, he said the Czech Republic's experiences showed that banning such pro-Russia media and/or content providers is "probably not the best approach."

These banned websites later appeared elsewhere under a new name and the decision to close down media and websites also faced backlash in Prague as many Czech citizens believe doing so was a breach of freedom of speech, he added.

There is no "single silver bullet" nor "magical solution" in the fight against disinformation, he said, adding that each country should focus more on building a stronger and more resilient, unified society.

During the visit on Wednesday afternoon, the delegates also asked about CNA's history and its operations as a government-funded news agency.

In welcoming the IRI delegation, CNA President Tseng Yen-ching (曾嬿卿) said the IRI, founded in 1983 to promote democracy around the world, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

She said the past four decades have been an important period for Taiwan's democratic development.

Tseng said the delegation's visit is perfect timing as Taiwan will hold presidential and legislative elections in January 2024.

CNA Vice President Jay Chen (陳正杰) and Editor-in-Chief Chris Wang (王思捷) also took part in the meeting with the IRI delegates.

Andrea Keerbs, IRI Resident Program Director for Central & Eastern Europe, who is leading the delegation, thanked CNA for hosting the delegates.

She said interest in Taiwan has grown around the globe over the past few years.

Keerbs, who is based in Hungary, said Taiwan in recent years has been discussed more often in the Central European country. Hungary is also the second largest recipient of Taiwan investment in the EU, she added.

According to the IRI, the delegation arrived in Taiwan on Monday and will stay until Friday during which time they will meet representatives of political parties and academia to gain a better understanding of Taiwan.

(By Joseph Yeh)

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