Throughout the month of August, the RDN 2.0 monitoring team has detected a range of hateful narratives and discourse. This month there has been a rise in homophobia, particularly in Serbia due to the upcoming EuroPride, along with sexism and ethnic discrimination.
Sexism in North Macedonia
The website express.mk published an article regarding singer Tamara Todevska in which it claimed that she was the former prime minister’s singer and that that was the reason why she was chosen to represent the country in Eurovision in 2019. Furthermore, the article claimed that when singing the national anthem, the singer purposefully forgot the part of the lyrics mentioning the name of Macedonian revolutionaries. The article also contained several remarks on her appearance emphasising that ‘only a few people can recognise her’ after publishing a photo of herself. The article went as far as to insult her career by adding that regardless of her aim to fix her mistake in regard to the national anthem, ‘her career did not get better’.
In addition to this, express.mk shared this article on their Facebook page with the title ‘After the North, nothing is the same as before’. This title provoked and prompted an avalanche of negative, personal and derogatory comments aimed towards Tamara Todevska.
Overly opinionated reporting of this kind which is not based on facts and truth can result in the creation of an environment of hate which spurs on negative attitudes and comments towards individuals.
Ethnic discrimination in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo
Antimigrant.ba, which has been the focus of RDN 2.0 highlights several times, is an extremely problematic website which shares discriminatory narratives in relation to migrants and refugees within the country. The portal often shares articles which contribute to the negative narrative which supports that an ‘overwhelming number of migrants are a ‘threat’ to the local community’. Their recent headline read ‘A migrant tried to kill another migrant, and he could have killed someone from Sarajevo’. This headline only contributes to the already present fearmongering discourse amongst Bosnians by placing a wedge between the local community and the migrant community with the dichotomy of ‘them’ versus ‘us’. The creation of a state of opposition between the two communities only contributes to the spread of discriminatory and prejudicial attitudes amongst them.
Headlines which hold little to no evidence for the claim, contribute to the spread of misinformation and disinformation and run the risk of spreading xenophobia. By assuming that such an event could have occurred to a local from ‘Sarajevo’ the headline creates a personalised aspect towards the issue by imposing the idea of a ‘threat’ to society.
Ragmi Mustafi, President of the National Council of Albanians in Serbia recently stated that there is no reason as to why Albanians from the south of Serbia have less freedom than Serbs who live in the north of Kosovo. On his Facebook profile he criticised Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s speech during the visit of Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic. More specifically he pointed out that, among the six points that were made during that speech, Albanian’s in Presevo should share the same rights as Serbs in Northern Kosovo.
This information was picked up and reported on by the website ‘Kosovo Online’ resulting in an accumulation of hundreds of comments and hate aimed towards Ragmi Mustafa. Albanians who live in three South Serbian municipalities, specifically in the region of the Presevo Valley, believe that their basic human rights have been violated. Representatives of political parties have continuously vouched for their involvement in the negotiations in Brussels in order to improve this situation.
Websites such as ‘Kosovo Online’ which report on sensitive stories that are later shared on their Facebook pages, create a platform which is filled with insulting comments and spread hate speech. News websites, similar to more traditional media should adhere to the Code of Ethics and should pay more attention to their method of reporting and they should moderate their comments sections in order to prevent hate speech.
Homophobia in Serbia and Albania
Milica Đurđević, a Serbian MP of the right-wing movement Zavetnici, recently appeared to Kurir TV’s morning show where the topics of EuroPride and the relations between Serbia and Kosovo were discussed. When talking about the recent events in Kosovo, Đurđević questioned the necessity of the EuroPride and suggested that the country has more important matters of ‘national interest’ to pay attention to rather than hosting of EuroPride. When referring to the recent events in the northern region of Kosovo, she reiterated the importance of this situation and the need for protection of the Serbian people. Đurđević went on to question whether it was necessary for the Police to protect those individuals who – according to her – merely act as ‘provocation’. She emphasised how the focus should rather be on the protection of the people and Serbia itself, in alignment with the priorities of national interest.
The latest developments between Serbia and Kosovo were connected to and misused against the EuroPride. Those who used such arguments dismissed the importance of the EuroPride and emphasised on the situation in Northern Kosovo. This has brought a lot of turmoil in the country. Many far-right politicians have expressed their dismay of the event taking place in mid-September and there have even been protests taking place in the capital. By allowing such rhetoric and comments on the morning programme of Kurir TV, only reinforces the existing prejudices against the LGBTQ+ community and leaves space for the spread of negative attitudes towards it.
In Albania, the popular meme page Brryli Broadway made a meme juxtaposing images of two well-known individuals, one the LGBTQ+ activist Xheni Karaj and the other the moderator Bledi Mane. The meme focused on mocking the individuals’ hairstyles which are similar. It depicted both of them but identified Xheni Karaj as Bledi Made and vice versa. Despite the humourous purpose of the meme, it alluded that both of them are queer and that they can both be identified with a different gender. The meme itself is problematic and mocking, as it contributes to the perpetuation of the stereotype that queer women look like men, while men with hairstyles that are different from the ‘masculine norm’ are said to look like women.
Accompanying this meme, was a number of homophobic and hateful comments aimed at both individuals. The comments section which is not moderated, provides a space for hate towards both individuals and the LGBTQ+ community. Posts such as this meme are used to invoke humour whilst simultaneously mocking individuals. They provide a space for the spread of homophobic rhetoric and should be removed and should not be posted on social media. Furthermore, social media platforms such as Instagram should have a duty and role to remove such content and comments from the platform according to their community guidelines for hate speech.
Misinformation in Montenegro
During the TV Pink’s morning show ‘Novo Jutro’, the host discussed and revealed the ‘exclusive’ information and motive behind the killing of ten people in Cetinje. Viewers in Montenegro could watch the program via Pink M television. The morning programme reported on this tragedy by speculating the causes of the accident. Indeed, unlike most media within Montenegro, the way that TV Pink’s morning show reported on this event was extremely unprofessional and unethical.
In reaction to this, the Civic Initiative ‘21 May’- an informal and democratic movement of free Montenegrin citizens who aim to defend the liberal values of the country – requested the Agency for Electronic Media to blackout the content of TV Pink for at least a year. They supported this claim with the argument that the programme itself frequently spreads hate speech.
Media such as TV Pink and their programmes have a moral and legal obligation to report in a professional manner in alignment to ethical and journalistic standards of practice. By reporting in such a sensationalistic manner, they contribute to the spread of harmful disinformation. Furthermore, such reporting contributed to the distress of the victims, families and friends of the tragedy as this news spreads media viewership by unethically speculating about the potential motives of the incident.
As a result of this case, TV Pink Montenegro morning programme has been banned for 6 months in Montenegro, which is an important decision showing that despite a lot of ethnic tensions were allowed on air in Montenegro, Regulatory Body reacts at least to some.