Monthly Monitoring Highlights January: racism, ethnic hatred and gender violence

February 23, 2024

Throughout the month of January, the RDN monitoring team has detected a range of hateful narratives and discourse. This month, we have seen hatred based on ethnicity, race, and gender alongside genocide denial.

Racism in Serbia

In Serbia, an Instagram account started posting photos of Black people in Serbia, taken in public without their consent in October last year. This account has garnered increased attention lately, with reports of its hateful content prompting warnings from users, alongside a surge in followers. The description of the account itself reads: “DM if your picture is posted to be removed *(this account is satire)*.” However prior to the account becoming more visible, followers were asked to send in pictures of Black people “with location and time”.

In this way, the creator not only promoted racism and harassment of Black people in public, but also potentially posed a threat to their safety. In addition to this, the creator used racist “jokes”, such as creating fake giveaways of bananas and KFC food, both anti-Black racist tropes. Other posts included jokes that perpetuated anti-Black tropes, like one featuring a woman in a drugstore with the caption “banana or watermelon shampoo?”  An overwhelming number of racist comments could be found under these posts as well, including some that called for violence against Black people, including “How much does this one cost?” and “Where can I buy?”

In response to this, people mass-reported the account and helped to raise awareness about it. This included many Instagram users tagging the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs, CSOs, activists etc. Moreover, MDI filed a complaint to META through the Trusted Partner platform against the Instagram account. Shortly afterwards, META responded that they had acted and removed the account. An account like this is extremely harmful and racist. Racism is not acceptable on any grounds and holds no justification. Such accounts perpetuate harmful stereotypes and contribute to division and discrimination, undermining the values of equality and respect for all individuals. Eventually, they can threaten individuals’ safety.

Ethnic hatred in North Macedonia, Kosovo, and Montenegro.

In North Macedonia, university professor Vankovska posted a Facebook status commenting on recent events at the flight control centre where a group of individuals entered and began attacking employees. The professor’s post was written in an ethnically discriminatory manner whereby she begun to insinuate that the incident took place because of the Albanians who live in North Macedonia. She even went as far as to say that now is the time that they show who they really are, claiming that somebody should ‘fly away’, in other words referring to the Albanians and the Albanian party DUI.

This is not the first time that Professor Vankovska has spread nationalistic sentiments and ethnic hatred. This instance is just one of several where she attempts to shift the blame for systemic issues in the country onto the Albanian minority. A university professor spreading ethnic hate on social media undermines academic values, erodes trust, and fosters a divisive atmosphere contrary to the principles of higher education. Moreover, it exacerbates the spread of ethnic hatred within society, particularly in ethnically diverse nations.

In Kosovo, on the occasion commemorating the anniversary of the massacre in the village of Račak, the President of the Committee for Kosovo and Metohija, Milovan Drecun spoke out. The Račak massacre in January 1999 was perpetuated by Serbian security forces in response to Kosovo Liberation Army actions. NATO’s intervention, which included bombing Serbia, followed in the same year.

Drecun stated that it is incomprehensible that “for 25 years there has been insistence on presenting lies as truth and blaming Belgrade for a non-existent massacre”. This statement, as well as statements from other officials, were reported by Kosovo Online. Drecun took the opportunity to criticise the then head of the OSCE Verification Mission William Walker, stating that in a meeting with him and a British general, he saw “how willing these people are to manipulate what happened” and that Walker arrived first in the village of Račak, before journalists, and prepared the “scenario”.

Denial of genocide, massacres and war crimes is unfortunately common in the Western Balkans region. Every year, the commemoration of the Račak massacre is accompanied with denial of the events having taken place including accusations of such massacres being fabricated and fake. Denying massacres and historical events perpetuates dangerous cycles of ignorance and unacceptance, as well as injustice and harm to all those who fell victim to such atrocities. Moreover, it is imperative that politicians, as public figures entrusted with professional and moral responsibilities to represent the people, refrain from making public statements that deny the occurrence of atrocities. Such actions undermine efforts to acknowledge and address historical injustices.

In Montenegro, Dragoslav Šćekić, Vice-President of the Government of Montenegro and Minister of Sports and Youth, recently commented on the success of the Montenegrin handball players. He claimed that one should not celebrate their success, furthermore, implying that the official flag of Montenegro should not have been shown. He explained how the ‘tricolor flag’ was and will be preserved. The tricolor flag has been traditionally used to represent a Montenegrin and Serbian joint state thereby undermining the independent state of Montenegro.

Montenegro is an independent state, which has the right to self-determination and public recognition. Denying its independence is harmful and insulting to all those people who live within Montenegro and are part of its statehood. A public official such as Šćekić should stand for the rights and needs of the population of the country he represents. Remarks that undermine the sovereignty and independence of a nation pose grave harm to its populace, eroding the very foundation of their collective autonomy and self-determination.

Genocide denial in Bosnia and Herzegovina

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Milorad Dodik, president of Republika Srpska, attended a celebration in Banja Luka held on the unconstitutional Day of Republika Spriska. On this occasion, he denied genocide and furthermore, glorified war criminals claiming, amongst other things, that “Karadžić and Mladić were the people who led Republika Srpska, and you will not convince us that the Serbian people had a genocidal or any criminal urge. We fought for freedom”.

Both Karadžić and Mladić have been convicted of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Glorifying war criminals is a serious form of hate that not only dishonours the memory of the victims, but also perpetuates a culture of denial of justice. Such glorification normalises horrific acts of violence, undermines reconciliation efforts, and threatens the stability and peace of societies recovering from conflict. Furthermore, genocide denial and other war crimes, including the glorification of war criminals, are prohibited in Bosnia and Herzegovina since 2021. A recent publication by the Srebrenica Memorial Centre – ‘2022 Srebrenica Genocide Denial Report’ – found that during the monitoring period (May 2021 – May 2022), a total of 327 actors had been identified as publicly denying the Srebrenica Massacre. “Among these actors, the most prolific denier of genocide was BiH Presidency Member Milorad Dodik.” Despite genocide denial being illegal in the country, reports on genocide denial have been sent to the prosecutor’s office,but so far no one has been punished for it.

Gender violence in Albania

On Big Brother VIP Albania, a participant by the name of Klodian Duro – an Albanian former football player – was recently eliminated. This was in response to his admission of abusing his wife during one of the episodes. His elimination from the show was most certainly a positive step towards addressing and condemning such behaviour. Nevertheless, despite Duro being removed from the show, it is noteworthy to mention that Top Channel, one of the primary organizers of Big Brother VIP Albania, did not issue a public statement explicitly denouncing violence and promoting a zero-tolerance stance for such actions.

Furthermore, following his expulsion, several news media outlets continued to report on the incident. They not only revealed details of the case but also shared photos of his ex-wife. Rather than fostering a constructive conversation and critique about a TV channel and a program with millions of viewers accepting a participant who was previously convicted of domestic violence, the public witnessed the media playing a role in re-traumatising the victim and completely disregarding her privacy.

This incident reflects the lack of adherence to professional journalistic standards and ethics. This is a prime example of how the media, rather than using their platform to hold others accountable for wrongdoing and educate their audience on the serious topic of domestic violence, is more concerned with clicks and views.