Cyprus and Estonia in the Face of Information Disorder: Media, Audiences, and State Institutions

The first Cypriot-Estonian symposium at the University of Nicosia will be exploring challenges posed by information disorder within the context of the two countries

The University of Nicosia (UNIC) organizes a symposium entitled “Cyprus and Estonia in the Face of Information Disorder: Media, Audiences, and State Institution”. The symposium, which is organised in Cyprus for the first time and will take place on 2 November 2023, will be exploring challenges posed by information disorder within the context of the two countries.

Cypriot researchers representing the University of Nicosia and the Cyprus Radio television Authority, as well as Estonian researchers representing the Institute of Social Studies of the University of Tartu, will try to answer these and other relative questions at the symposium.

About the symposium topic

Modern societies in the digital media age, in the context of deep mediatization face several pressing difficulties, including the proliferation of misleading information spreading virally and the potential for this to take the form of hybrid threats. In contemporary societies, there is a tendency for individuals to consume information from limited, unreliable, and contentious sources. This also has an adverse effect on publics through a lack of confidence in the trustworthiness of media sources. The influence of these occurrences on confidence and trust in media is prevalent in different media on the global, regional, and local levels.

The symposium seeks to examine these issues in relation to media, audiences, and state institutions in Cyprus and Estonia, two small states situated in distinct geographical locations within the European Union. Despite their differing geographic contexts, both countries share a history marked by intense tensions and conflicts in their relations with larger neighbouring states and former empires. The presence of strained diplomatic ties with neighbouring countries, as well as the occurrence of hybrid and armed wars in Europe, has resulted in the proliferation of information disorder within the media. This disorder encompasses the distribution of misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation.

The keynote speaker of the symposium, Associate Professor Ragne Kõuts-Klemm from the University of Tartu, Estonia, says that information manipulation is a dangerous phenomenon that has manifested in recent years, for example, in cases such as Donald Trump’s election victory, Brexit, the coronavirus pandemic, but particularly acutely in the war in Ukraine.

“Unless we are aware of the dangers of the malicious dissemination of misinformation, democratic societies can be hit by unexpected changes. Disinformation can lead to wrong decisions, which may have dire consequences for individuals and the whole society,” says Associate Professor Kõuts-Klemm. Information manipulation can damage the functioning of institutions and push democratic societies onto an undesirable path. It is therefore important to discuss ways of strengthening the resilience of societies, including citizens, media, and state structures, also from a scientific perspective.

Professor Mike Hajimichael, Head of the Department of Communications at the University of Nicosia is chairing the symposium and expresses his excitement to host such a pioneering event, which brings Cyprus and Estonia together for a scholarly dialogue. He says ‘while the two contexts are radically different they share many common features in the digital age through the phenomenon of information disorder and how it affects small states in the European Union’.

Key Information

The symposium will take place on 2 November 2023 at the UNESCO amphitheatre of the University of Nicosia, starting at 9:30 am. It is organised by the Department of Communications, Centre for Communications Studies and Research at The University of Nicosia in conjunction with the Institute of Social Studies at the University of Tartu (Estonia) and The Cyprus Radio Television Authority.

Symposium Program

Professor Mike Hajimichael, Head of the Department of the Communications, University of Nicosia (Cyprus), Chair
Welcome and introduction: how the idea of the symposium was created, why do a comparison between Cyprus and Estonia? (10 mins)

Professor Klimis Mastoridis, Dean of School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Welcome address (5 mins)

Ms. Rona Petri Kassapi, President Cyprus Radio TV Authority
Welcome address (10 Mins)

Presentations (20 mins each – 10 mins questions/discussion)

Dr. Ragne Kõuts-Klemm, Associate Professor in Sociology of Journalism, Head of Institute of Social Studies, University of Tartu (Estonia)
“Trends in Media Trust – What is it and How is it Changing?”

Mihhail Kremez, PhD student in Media and Communication, University of Tartu (Estonia)
“Russian-speaking media audiences in Cyprus and Estonia: Their Media attitudes, Preferences and Susceptibility to the Spread of Fake News and Information Disorder in Media Outlets”

Lunch break – 13:00 – 13:45  

Dr Costas Constantinides – MedDMO/University of Cyprus
“The Role of Media Literacy in Combating Information Disorder: The Case of the Mediterranean Digital Media Observatory (MedDMO)”

Dr Antigoni Themistocleous – CRTA
“Cyprus Radio Television Authority – responses to the peril of information disorder in the digital age.”

Dr. Nicholas Nicoli & Dr. Theodora Maniou – University of Nicosia/MedDMO/University of Cyprus
‘The platformization of news: A media systems analysis of the UK and Greece. ‘

Coffee break – 15:30 – 16:00

Sten Torpan, PhD student (Sociology), University of Tartu (Estonia)
“On Designing a Communication-specific Table-top Exercise: Exploring Vulnerability to False Information” 

Concluding Session/closing remarks – 17:00-17:30

Possible Screening of a documentary (tbc)