The past few days, within the framework of the activities that are part of the project “Resisting foreign propaganda and disinformation by strengthening the capacities of the media and journalists,” a training was held with thirty journalists and media workers. The training was carried out between the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (ZNM), ESTIMA, and the US Embassy in Skopje. Maxim Samorukov, a European expert on Russian propaganda and a former Russian journalist, and Anna Krstinovska, an expert on the relations between China, the EU, and the Western Balkans, gave their presentations on the topic.
In recent years, Macedonia has found itself at the crossroads of competing geopolitical influences, especially from Russia and China. Russia, which historically has strong cultural and historical ties to the region, has tried to maintain its influence in North Macedonia through diplomatic channels and economic engagements. While China’s presence is primarily economic, it has the potential to influence the geopolitical landscape, securing increased power in the region. As the country navigates this complex web of disparate influence, it must carefully balance relations with both Russia and China while considering the implications of such engagements for its long-term political and economic stability.
During the training, the focus was also on the specificities, differences, and synergies between the Chinese and Russian approaches in the Macedonian context. Within this, a workshop was also held, the task of which was to find out, without the help of the Internet, what kind of propaganda it is, and whether there is Chinese and Russian disinformation in the texts. Specifically, the participants had to indicate the source from where they think the information was given, key points of the text, the target audience, and whether they recognize misinformation, disinformation, and hidden information.
After the exercise, the participating journalists and the lecturers developed a discussion where the topic was exactly the Russian influence, and how much it is present in the country and the region, sharing personal views and perspectives. The trainers shared the differences between Chinese and Russian propaganda, highlighting that Chinese propaganda has a long tradition of acting within the country, but external action is still in the process of learning, spreading a positive perception of news from China and critical censorship. As for Russian propaganda, it was mentioned, among other things, that it has a long tradition of a scientific approach in relation to the spread of disinformation and fake news about the opponent, interference in the internal affairs of other countries, as well as support from intelligence services.
Such training is intended for journalists who report daily on topics from home and the world, from traditional and online media that use Internet channels for communication. The goal was to gain additional knowledge on recognizing external influence and avoiding it when presenting news to the public. In the coming period, students will be invited to work on collaborative media products on the topic, and the results will be published soon.