Counteracting misinformation: How European best practices help finding efficient solutions for Ukraine

Jul 01, 2020 | E-justice, Judiciary, Justice

Misinformation and propaganda affect all areas of social and political life. However, the existing legislation does not have any effective leverage over the media that spread out misinformation. At the Fourth National Forum on Independent Courts and Free Media: Counteracting Misinformation, which took place online on July 1, 2020, as supported by the EU Project Pravo-Justice, experts discussed the following topics: what European best practices in counteracting misinformation are, how one may prevent fake news becoming arguments in court trials, and how to strike balance between freedom of speech and control over the outspread of bogus stories and fake news.

The EU Project Pravo Justice is supporting development of independent and accountable judiciary in Ukraine. To gain this goal, it requires transparency which is built also through effective communication. In the era of fake news, this task is even more challenging,” said Anna Adamska-Gallant, Key International Expert on Judiciary of the EU Project Pravo-Justice Project.

The harm of misinformation for the judiciary is particularly manifest, as the third branch of power should, on one hand, enjoy public confidence and, on the other hand – use only trustworthy arguments and facts while exercising its activities. Bogus stories damage the reputation of courts; while fake news is often sought as arguments in high-profile cases. However, counteracting misinformation that is spread by some media is quite difficult. Since, any sanctions bring about allegations of pressure on freedom of speech in the absence of high-quality mechanisms of control, except for warnings or fines. It is time to pass a law that would regulate the fight against misinformation in accordance with European best practices.

Today's discussion is an attempt for all branches of power to draw attention to the spread of misinformation about the judiciary in Ukrainian media space. This situation damages the public image of the judiciary and, most importantly, makes people feel helpless, insecure, and apathetic when they need to protect or restore their violated rights. According to Article 10 of the ECHR, everyone has the right to freedom of expression, but the exercise of such freedom is linked to certain duties and responsibilities, and it may and should be subject to restrictions when it comes to public safety, the integrity of the state, the protection of reputations or rights, preserving the public image and impartiality of the court, etc. These are the values that unite us all, guarantee Ukraine’s mere existence and development as a state governed by the rule of law. There is a very subtle difference between the concepts of “misinformation” and “expression of opinions”. Thus without joint efforts of judges, human rights activists, journalists, media experts, and communication specialists, one may hardly expect for any effective legislative solution to combat misinformation. That is why we have initiated this professional discussion, which I hope will follow up with re-uniting efforts to improve the legislation in the area’ said Larysa Shvetsova, a member of the High Council of Justice and a judge of the Kharkiv Court of Appeal.