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EUD Colombia Puts to Use Media4Democracy Recommendations on Countering Disinformation in 2022 Colombian Elections

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Bogota, December 2021Media4Democracy experts briefed representatives of the EU Delegation to Colombia and 11 EU Member States in October 2021 on recommendations for countering the impact of mis-and disinformation in congressional and presidential elections in 2022. These recommendations resulted from an independent Media4Democracy study analysing disinformation and misinformation in Colombia as it influences political debate and may impact the run-up to the 2022 elections.

The Media4Democracy study – Confronting False News & Misinformation in the Run-Up to 2022 Elections – and its recommendations were presented at a 15 October expert briefing hosted by the EU Delegation to Colombia and bringing together remote and in-situ participants. These included representatives of EU Member States Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. Representatives from Norway and Switzerland also took part.

The EU Delegation noted during the briefing that they were already implementing some of the recommendations from the Media4Democracy study. For example, the recommendations had helped guide an EU Delegation project focused on strengthening the capacity of youth candidates to fight disinformation during the electoral campaign for the Youth Councils. Just prior to the Youth Council voting held in all the Colombian municipalities on 5 December, a public ‘Pact of the Youth against Disinformation’ was signed at a 2 December meeting chaired by the EU Ambassador Gilles Bertrand and attended by Colombian young candidates, civil society, the government and the electoral authority.

The Media4Democracy study presented at the October briefing is a result of research and analysis conducted by Media4Democracy Senior Experts Paula Martins and José Luis Benitez and supported by Senior Expert Ian Noble between January and June 2021. It considers how the EU Delegation and EU Member States in Colombia can support actions to confront false news/misinformation within the 2022 electoral context and beyond. The research, analysis and recommendations were framed by the EU Delegation’s policies, current strategies and priorities for action as well as by the EU Delegation’s close engagement with the in-country Human Rights Group (16 EU Member States plus Norway and Switzerland).

The Media4Democracy study was finalised in September 2021 and provides practical recommendations for EU Delegation actions to achieve short- and long-term objectives, by working with EU Member States and engaging with government institutions, media actors, academics and civil society organisations. Near-term recommendations focus on highly feasible actions to be carried out between prior to the elections during the first semester of 2022. Longer term recommendations focus on ways to fight mis- and disinformation by addressing chronic weaknesses in Colombia’s information ecosystem that make it more vulnerable to these trends.

Throughout the research process the Media4Democracy research team engaged with several EU Member States already working in Colombia to support media and civil society in areas relevant to disinformation, elections and freedom of expression. These discussions informed recommendations on how EU Delegation activities can build on and be coordinated with existing or planned initiatives by EU Member States. Several Member State representatives indicated that additional cooperation under EU Delegation leadership would be welcome in relation to freedom of expression and disinformation, notably in the run-up to the 2022 elections, and stressed the importance of the role of the EU Delegation as convenor for joint actions and programming. The research included discussions with EU Delegation staff in order to develop appropriate political and programming recommendations.

Key informants from across Colombian institutions, civil society, media and academia provided detailed information and views about the dynamics in-country and assisted in identifying opportunities and potential partners for efforts to counter disinformation in the lead-up to the 2022 elections and beyond.