Throughout the month of November, the RDN monitoring team has detected hatred based on ethnicity, gender, race, the trivialisation of femicide and hatred against political opponents.
Racism in Albania and Kosovo
In Albania, an agreement was made between the Albanian and Italian Prime Ministers to relocate thousands of African migrants, currently recognised as asylum seekers in Italy, to Albania.
The media has reported on this agreement in an altogether polarised manner – either being for or against the decision, which has equally been reflected by the public which is divided on the issue. As a result, there has been an increase in racist content, portrayed in the form of humour such as through memes, funny reels, and videos, as well as through articles including racist, insulting headlines. Aside from this there has equally been cases of racist content and rhetoric being upheld and spread by public figures including statements containing elements of dehumanising language towards refugees.
One such article was on syri.net, whose headline reads “Edi Rama’s ‘black’ Albania. Are you ready?”. Hateful, discriminatory, and racist narratives like these are highly problematic and unacceptable. Racism of any form is unacceptable – be it spread from a member of the public, a public figure, or the media itself. Furthermore, it is imperative for the media to uphold both professional and moral standards, refraining from leveraging their platform and influence to disseminate racist and discriminatory headlines and content under any circumstances.
In Kosovo, rapper Loredana Zefi posted several photos on her social media of herself and her partner, German footballer Karim Adeyemi, to showcase their closeness. As a result of this, many individuals in Germany came out expressing their concern that due to their relationship, the footballer is neglecting his career, arguing that his relationship with the rapper is negatively impacting him.
Loredena Zefi was born in Switzerland and is well-known on the international scene. She was previously married to a renowned Kosovar singer whom she also had a child with. Her current relationship with Adeyemi has resulted in various hateful comments aimed towards both individuals on a personal level as well as questioning the choice of Loredana to be in a relationship with Adeyemi. Patriarchal and conservative stances are still very present in Kosovar society, resulting in struggles with accepting differences and diversity. This further results in discriminatory views often being published and shared on social media, including racism and sexism, which is never acceptable.
Sexism in Montenegro
MP Aleksandra Vuković Kuč, member of the opposition Democratic Party of Socialists, fell victim to severe insults and misogynistic speech on various social media networks. Slavica Illinčić, a public official and her political opponent, also released insults on Vuković’s Facebook page following several photos of Vuković circulating on social media. Alongside this, an avalanche of hateful comments, including remarks regarding Vuković’s pregnancy, her looks, her national identity and various other sexist and misogynistic comments were posted.
As a result, the Basic Prosecutor’s Office in Podgorica opened a case with the aim to determine if there are any elements of a criminal offense as a result of the inappropriate comments about Vuković’s private live. The attack on Vuković was furthermore, strongly condemned by the majority of non-governmental organisations, her party, opposition colleagues and civil activists. The Defender of Human Rights and Freedoms called on the authorities to respond to this case, even to dismiss Ilinčić from office.
Alongside online violence and sexist, insulting hate speech, Vuković has also been said to experience attacks on the street. Unfortunately, violence against women and sexist remarks online for women engaged in public life is commonplace and on the rise on social networks. This is in line with the results of the Digital Forensic Centre’s October researcher ‘Sexism in Online Media’.
Online trolling, a manifestation of individuals seeking to inflict harm and spread hatred, is never justified. Cases like these maintain the cycle of violence towards women including upholding misogyny in society. The online space should be one ruled by dignity and respect rather than being used as a means to spread hate and sexism. Furthermore, individuals such as Slavica Illinčić should not be using their online platforms to spread hate speech in any form. Such attitudes by public figures can only justify and trigger further hate online as well as offline.
Trivialisation of femicide in Bosnia and Herzegovina
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, a thirty-year-old woman has been the latest victim of femicide in the country. She endured violence from her ex-partner that culminated in her violent death. The perpetrator then fled and hid in an apartment where he was ultimately arrested.
The following day, the abuser and murderer’s lawyer stated that his client loved his wife and was a caring father, labelling the act of femicide as the end of a tragic love story. This statement and sentiment were reported on by numerous media outlets, without challenging this harmful narrative.
Femicide, a brutal manifestation of gender-based violence, represents the gravest violation of women’s rights and the most extreme consequence of deeply rooted patriarchal structures. Within the Western Balkans, femicide stems from a structure of inequality, patriarchy, and misogyny, which needs to be addressed. The fight against femicide must be addressed at every level of society, from education, policy and law implementation to the mechanism, institutions, and structures in place to prevent, address, and respond to femicide. Furthermore, a serious topic like femicide needs to be addressed in the appropriate manner. Trivialising and undermining the gravity of femicide is not only harmful to those who have fallen victim to such crimes and violence but also to the overall protection of those who are in a vulnerable position.
The media, with a large platform and indeed with an educative and informative role in society, should not spread this kind of rhetoric which only serves to trivialise femicide and undermine its causes. It is imperative to address femicide with the gravity it deserves, ensuring that perpetrators face the appropriate consequences for their actions.
Hate speech against political opponents in North Macedonia and Serbia
Dragan Kovacki, a member of parliament from the VMRO-DPMNE party, was involved in the spread of disinformation. Using a photo from a concert in Sofia and portraying it as an image from the Boris Trajkovski Hall in Skopje, the act was an attempt to misrepresent the setup for the upcoming OSCE summit scheduled to be held at the Hall. The summit, significant to North Macedonia as it chairs the OSCE, was expected to attract over a thousand attendees from around 70 international delegations.
Following the media’s exposure of this act of disinformation, Kovacki acknowledged that the news was indeed false and proceeded to remove the post. However, rather than issuing a public apology, he responded with a Facebook post containing slanderous remarks, hate speech, and criticism of his critics and political opponents.
An individual, such as a member of parliament who thereby holds a position of power and responsibility, should be both accountable and professional. Spreading disinformation is both unprofessional and harmful, whilst furthermore, using social media to spread hate speech and rhetoric aimed towards political opponents is unacceptable. Differences in political opinion should never be a justification for hate speech.
In Serbia, in the morning show “Novo jutro” on Pink TV, a private video of MP Đorđe Miketić was broadcast, where he was shown having sexual intercourse with an unidentified woman. At the beginning of the show, screenshots from this video were shown several times, after which the video itself was broadcasted, first on mute and then with audio.
Regardless of the faces and intimate parts of the bodies of the people shown being blurred, the pornographic nature of the video was quite clear from what was shown. Furthermore, the MP was unambiguously named in the show several times. Moreover, during the morning show, host Jovana Jeremić asked, “Will we see, in a few days, the continuation of the video, which is perhaps far more perverse and has European rainbow colours? Whatever that means.” Her statement can be interpreted as an attempt to threaten further violation of Miketić’s privacy.
By publishing this video TV Pink violated all rights to privacy of Miketić, as well as several media laws and regulations in Serbia. Prior to airing it on a television channel with national frequency without authorisation, the video was initially shared on social media but promptly taken down.
Various tabloid media picked up on the story and shared screenshots with sensationalistic headlines in print and online portals. Indeed, a few days prior to this, Miketić revealed that he had been blackmailed with threats of this video being published. At the same time, the president of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, said that Miketić was a “human disgrace” in a show on Pink TV, and that Miketić will not ask him why he is saying that because, as he said, “he knows what I know”.
Miketić himself said that this video was stolen together with other old documents when his apartment was broken into about a year ago and claims that the Security Intelligence Agency was involved with this. In reaction, the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Media (REM) initiated proceedings against TV Pink for showing explicit content in the morning program whereby the Expert Service concluded that the release of such content was indeed a violation of the Law on Electronic Media, the Rulebook on the Protection of Human Rights in the Field of Media Services, and the Rulebook on the Protection of the Rights of Minors in the Field of Media Services.
This case is a clear example of a blatant violation of, as well as an attempt to discredit political opponents by manipulation with such content. Such actions not only breach ethical standards but also inflict serious harm on the individuals involved, undermining the principles of respect, consent, and personal dignity. This furthermore does harm to the overall culture of political debate, replacing it with smear campaigns. TV Pink must face the appropriate consequences and be held accountable for their actions.