How to distinguish misinformation from information
Roundtable on “Freedom of press, manipulation of thoughts, threats to media, role of social networks” was organized in Gazakh region by the Azerbaijan National Section of International Society for Human Rights.
Local social activists actively attended the roundtable. Saadat Bananyarli, the head of the Azerbaijan National Section of International Society for Human Rights, spoke about the place and role of information in the life of a modern man.
She stated that although the access to information is facilitated by information and communication technologies, it is not possible to say that access to reliable information is expanding: “Official information in Azerbaijan is still in the context of what the government gives to the citizen, not what the citizen expects from the government. There is practically no information link between many government agencies and citizens. Every year the state allocates funds for improvement of civil-government communication, adopts norms, but the situation does not change radically. Failure to sound the official version about any issue will cause disinformation. This creates confusion among citizens, and various groups use this disinformation for their own purposes. It is not only the matter of important issue of the country, it can create even undesirable conditions during local problems”.
Saadat Bananyarli stated that to distinguish disinformation from information is difficult for ordinary citizens: “Social networks can spread fast any news today. In most cases, false information is spread from fake profiles about specific persons and even processes. Citizens who are incapable of working with information believe in the information without giving importance who distributes the disinformation and become its carrier and transmitter. In this case, it is difficult to find out the truth. Because people remember what they first heard, and accept the reality as an attempt to cover up the purposely considered “truth”. As a result, a harmful tendency is formed. For this reason, it is the duty of civil society institutions to educate citizens how to obtain information”.
Participants of the meeting expressed different views on the role of social networks in the spread of disinformation. According to some participants, in some cases disinformation can also play a key role in uncovering the truth. Particularly about the issues that citizens want to hear at the official level but cannot get it. In this case, disinformation forces officials to take action.
Roundtable participants also emphasized that there is a special need for educational work in the regions. Because living in a closed society for many years causes people to be shy and this makes difficult to be adjusted to social life. They cannot even communicate freely when questions arise about issues such as schools, hospitals, or the service sector and they cannot also freely express their views on matters of public interest.
Participants of the roundtable emphasized that all of the problems mentioned are part of the problem of freedom of expression in Azerbaijan.