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Defending Freedom and Democracy: Liberals’ Global Fight Against Disinformation


25 Apr 2023 18:00


FNF Europe
Avenue de Cortenbergh 71
1000  Brussels


Global Europe

Event Description





Welcome Remarks by Jana Sproul

Human Rights and EU Funding, FNF Europe


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


Networking Reception


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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!