Every fourth Bulgarian (25 per cent) sees false news in the media on a daily basis, every sixth (17 per cent) several times per week and equally 17 per cent several times per month, according to a new poll.
The survey was presented at a Konrad Adenauer Foundation conference on “Fake news, propaganda and geopolitics” in Sofia on June 27 2017.
The poll was conducted by Alpha Research among a nationally representative sample of 1024 respondents.
“These per centages show that the public already has a high awareness for the phenomenon,” said Boriana Dimitrova, managing partner at Alpha Research.
“Fake news is identified most commonly by the middle generation with university education and from bigger cities. These citizens perceive information more critically. People from smaller towns and villages with lower education as well as young people identify fake news more rarely. This makes them a potential target for such attacks.”
Prevailing source of information on politics are TV channels. Ninety-one per cent of Bulgarians receive political news from TV; followed by online news portals (24 per cent), social networks (23 per cent) and print media (18 per cent). Radio is used by 17 per cent as a source of political news.
Only few Bulgarians look for political information on websites of public institutions (government, EU, NATO) or NGOs – both categories of websites are visited by less than six per cent of the citizens each.
“The majority of Bulgarians are active on the internet every day, however for editorial news TV has still a predominant position,” said Christian Spahr, head of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation Media Program South East Europe.
“Concerning the political discourse, social media already have the same significance as professional online media. Journalists are not the only news providers anymore. All the more they have to convince the citizens with quality content. Especially print media and radio stations have to prove themselves to be a relevant political news source.”
Political institutions have to make their online platforms more attractive and need to spread their content on social media more actively, according to Spahr.
“The results show clearly that the large majority of Bulgarians comprehensively follow TV news,” commented Orlin Spassov, executive director of the Foundation Media Democracy. “However, for more and more citizens TV is not enough and they are looking for other sources of political news. Despite of this positive tendency the dominance of TV is indisputable.”
Another aspect of the survey was the trust of Bulgarians in other countries and international organisations. Thereby 38 per cent of the respondents have high or very high trust in the European Union; further 38 per cent indicate an “average” trust in the EU.
Only 24 per cent show low or very low trust towards the EU. Not quite as many citizens lean towards Russia: 33 per cent have high or very high trust and 44 per cent “average” trust in Russia. Germany enjoys the trust of Bulgarians as well (31 per cent high/very high, 43 per cent “average”).
The US receives lower scores with 15 and 37 per cent. Nato enjoys high or very high trust among 27 per cent of the respondents, “average” trust among 38 per cent.
In matters of national security, 29 per cent of Bulgarians trust their own security forces. Likewise 29 per cent trust the EU, 20 per cent Nato and 18 per cent see Russia as a warrantor of their security. Multiple answers were possible for this question.
“There is an increasingly clear connection between the global information space and security issues,” says Yordan Bozhilov, president of the Sofia Security Forum.
“We see how radical organisations use the internet and social networks in order to recruit new supporters. They are also used by individual countries to spread propaganda and fake news. The most endangered are democratic states. Nato and EU have taken practical measures to minimise this risk. Nevertheless, it is important for member states to define clear political positions.”
“Anti-European fake news are already being comprehensively analysed by the EU commission and other institutions,” Spahr said.
“Now it is not only necessary to publically expose propaganda mechanisms. The EU has to find simple and clear messages for social networks and needs to emphasise the values and advantages of its political model in a better way. Thereby the EU should not only communicate facts, but also evoke more positive emotions,” he said.
(Photo: Brano Hudak/sxc.hu)