The Balkan Troll of the Month is an individual, a group of individuals or a media outlet that spreads hate on the internet based on gender, ethnicity, religion, or other diversity categories. The Balkan Troll is selected based on hate speech incidents identified across the Western Balkans region.
Our February Troll is the Bosnian website www.antimigrant.ba. This website serves as a platform for spreading hateful narratives targeting the migrant and refugee community in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The website operates under total anonymity, without an editorial page, contact information (other than an email address) and without its own social media profiles. Despite that, antimigrant.ba contributes towards the creation of an unwelcoming environment for the migrant and refugee community in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Hate speech monitors from Reporting Diversity Network 2.0 have detected several hate incidents involving this website which is devoted to creating antimigrant (and anti-refugee) sentiments in the society. Migrants and refugees are referred to as ‘bandits’, associated to the Islamic State (ISIL), their presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina is named ‘occupation’ or ‘invasion’, altogether creating a climate of fear and unwelcoming conditions.
“It is a poor country whose army is building barracks for the occupiers“
The website calls the country and/or local authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina traitors of their own nation, because they are giving refugees and migrants a montage housing facility. The articles often work towards evoking a feeling of urgency among the local community to defend their own territory from ‘occupation’.
Antimigrant.ba also features hate speech towards ordinary citizens who decide to offer help to refugees and migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The web portal shared a story about a man called Izo who offered housing for migrants and refugees in his home. While the article itself was not problematic, the headline of the article incites hate: “There is no humanity in betraying the homeland!!! A Bosniak from Zavidovići hosted migrant bandits“.
Media rhetoric of this kind influences public opinion and contributes to an atmosphere of hate not just towards the migrant and refugee community but also towards all those who help them in any way. Such narratives that prevail among citizens created hatred towards journalist from Banja Luka Vanja Stokic who helps refugees and migrants in BiH by reporting their position but also by organising humanitarian actions. Stokic was targeted by sexist and misogynist hate speech and received death threats. She was exposed to the comments on her social networks that included sexist derogatory names such as “migrant whore“ as well as comments of a person saying they would ‘decapitate’ not just migrants but also all who welcome them.
Hateful narratives are mainly directed towards refugees and migrants, but there is an intersectionality element, thus other minority groups including LGBTQ+ community or women are also targeted.
“All those who support the migrant invasion supported the so-called Pride parade! The noisiest gay activists are the noisiest pro-migrants“.
An article on the website targeted Haris Pasovic, Bosnian theatre director who attended the Bosnian Pride Parade. The website denies the Pride Parade as an event by refereeing to it as “so called“. Furthermore, it argues that those who are in support of the LGBTQ+ rights are also migrant supporters by default. In this way the website goes beyond creating antimigrant atmosphere and touches upon the rights of other marginalized communities.
If you want to learn more about how to report on refugees and migration, read more in Reporting Diversity Manual. The manual and other useful resources are available on RDN website resources page.