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 July Troll of the Month is T7 TV Channel from Kosovo which displayed strong homophobic narratives and hate speech directed towards the LGBTQ+ community.
T7 is a TV channel located in Kosovo’s capital, Pristina – it has a widespread audience and is both aired live and recorded on social media platforms including Facebook. This homophobic incident took place during a live debate on T7 surrounding the Pride Parade taking place in the city. This year’s fifth Pride Parade in Kosovo was part of the culmination of Pride Week activities held across Kosovo’s capital.
As a television company with national coverage and a source of information to the public, T7 has both a responsibility and duty to censor and monitor the information which they air.
On the show, Gezim Kelmendi who is the leader of the political party “Fjala” , was one of the many of the guests taking part in the debate . The debate which was dedicated to the Pride March in Pristina, lasted for over an hour and a half. During that time, Kelmendi claimed that the LGBTQ+ community is very dangerous for both society and the county’s birth rate as non-heterosexual partners cannot give birth naturally.
Kelmendi even went as far as to compare homosexual couples to animals by claiming that “not even animals have sex with the same gender” which is extremely degrading and humiliating, as well as an unsubstantiated claim. By making such demeaning and dehumanising comparisons between people and animals, it can lead to the exclusion and marginalisation of the LGBTQ+ community from society.
He furthermore went on to add that in addition to being a threat to humans and being a threat to Kosovo’s birth rate leading to a reduction in the population, they carry two other ‘great dangers’. First, that “they are the main carriers of sexually transmitted diseases” – as he claimed that the “the main carriers of AIDS are the LGBT community”. Secondly, Kelmendi went on to add that due to their activities, their partnerships and life choices, they are unable to donate blood. He chose to back this claim by adding that according to the legislation of the European Union, the LGBTQ+ community is forbidden to donate blood. He went on to say that “imagine how dangerous they are for society when they are not allowed to donate blood” creating a false narrative regarding the ‘dangers’ posed by the LGBTQ+ community.
These dehumanising narratives are extremely harmful, because taking away one’s humanity leads to members of the LGBTQ+ community becoming easy targets of hate crime.
Changing the civil code that would allow for same-sex marriage was one of the main demands of the LGBTQ+ community at this years’ Pride Parade. Lendi Mustafa, an LGBTQ+ activist in Kosovo further highlighted this during this year’s Pride Parade as he addressed ongoing efforts to ensure that same sex marriage is permitted in Kosovo by amending the civil code. Kelmendi took to the importance of the issue and claimed that he believes that Kosovo is currently facing more important issues than the fight for same-sex marriage. Indeed, these narratives are dangerous as they run the risk of undermining the significance of Pride as all individuals deserve to be treated equally.
It seems that the biggest opponents to the LGBTQ+ community, despite many conservative Kosovans being against people of different sexual orientation, are indeed members of religious communities who invoke alleged moral aspects of religious rules. By using homophobic and derogatory terminology including terms and expressions like “patients, directly endangering the human beings” and homosexuals being “the main carriers of sexual diseases” on live TV, this merely spreads homophobia and hate speech against LGBTQ+ community amongst viewers and members of society.
Harmful disinformation and homophobia
A large number of media outlets reported on the Pride Parade in Pristina this year, which led to hundreds of insulting comments on their social networks in regards to the LGBTQ+ community.
Not only are such comments promoting homophobia and anti-LGBTQ+ narratives, but by making such comments on live TV, they are undermining the LGBTQ+ cause and diminishing the real significance of Pride Month and marches that take place to promote equality amongst homosexuals.
Overall, by allowing guests such as Kelmendi to make such comments which promote homophobia and hate towards the LGBTQ+ community, T7 has an obligation to react.
If such comments are allowed to be made on TV without repercussions this can lead to a very toxic environment and further spur on negative attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community on the basis of opinion rather than fact.