Civic Roundtable - Democracy and Information: Friends or Foes?

Kyiv, 7-8 October 2019 

The Council of Europe in partnership with the Association of Schools of Political Studies and the Ukrainian School of Political Studies held the fourth edition of the Civic Roundtable in Kyiv, Ukraine entitled “Democracy and Information: Friends or Foes?”. The one-and-a-half-day event was organised through discussion platforms, workshops and a keynote speech and it was a chance for SPS alumni to gather and discuss questions on the future of democracy and information.

In today’s age, the future of democracy and information is uncertain. It is difficult to know whether this new decade will be ruled by liberal democratic qualities or authoritarianism. As Volodymir Yermolenko, Senior Lecturer at the Kyiv Mohyla Academy and Director of European Projects at Internews Ukraine said: “Today you don’t have to kill millions of people to demonstrate your power”. We live in a world where power is generated by media whose content, in one way or another, is beneficial to its owners. Information is imparted on websites, blogs and social media and in one click will reach millions of individuals around the world in real time.

Smartphones and others have changed the way we consume all this information. There are new ways of influence on people – bots, opinion leaders and fake news… Olga Aivazivska, Chairwoman of the OPORA Civic Council, used the example of Ukraine, disinformation and propaganda during the elections, saying that although they were democratic there was a brutal struggle between the candidates. All kinds of technologies were used to counteract the campaign of rivals. Olga said: “It is very easy to manipulate people who do not trust institutions.”

According to Andriy Kulykov, Ukrainian journalist and co-founder of Hromadske Radio, propaganda has been influential in Ukraine because domestic journalists do not meet the needs of the audience. “People watch Russian television because there is no quality substitute, which they were used to before the information war… then the society turns to other sources for information.”

And as British journalist, David Patrikarakos, said about social networks “We call them platforms where we can have a conversation. However, Facebook and Instagram are not platforms, but businesses. They were not created to teach or stop misinformation. Their only purpose is to make money.” According to Yegor Aushev, CEO at Hacken, “We are doomed to live in a world of fakes and therefore, we must learn to expose them and form a critical attitude to any information.”

The brochure can be found here.

For more information on previous Civic Roundtables.

Photos

Andriy Kulykov

Olga Aivazivska

David Patrikarakos

Yegor Aushev

Volodymir Yermolenko