Monthly Monitoring Highlights – genocide denial and hatred based on gender

August 17, 2023

Throughout the month of July, the RDN monitoring team has detected a range of hateful narratives and discourse. This month, we have seen hatred based on ethnicity and gender along with the unsettling occurrence of genocide denial, coinciding with the commemoration of the Srebrenica genocide.

Genocide denial in Bosnia and Herzegovina

July 11th marks Srebrenica Memorial Day and this year was the 28th anniversary of the genocide which took place in 1995 resulting in the systematic killing of more than 8,000 Bosnian men. This year, RDN monitoring team noticed a spike in genocide denial during the anniversary month and especially around the date of the memorial.

Journalist Danijel Simić once again denied the genocide in Srebrenica. Simić is the founder of the media organisation, which published a series of articles denying the genocide both before and after the 11th of July. On his personal Twitter (rebranded as X) profile, Simić attached one of the articles from published on the 11th of July with the caption ‘once again, just so you know, NO ONE KILLED 8,000 PEOPLE IN SREBRENICA, JULY 1995’. The article attached and published by contained the headline ‘In Srebrenica July 1995, no one killed 8,000 people!’ The article’s subheading goes on to call the Hague Tribunal (ICTY) ‘anti-Serbian’ whilst claiming that 3,568 pathological findings were presented, and the analysis determined that the number of exhumed bodies reached 1,923. It then goes on to pose the question as to ‘why then, for decades, have lies been made up that over 8,372 people were killed in July 1995?’

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, a legal ban was brought in place to prevent genocide and war crimes denial as well as the glorification of war criminals if it is ‘likely to incite to violence or hatred’. Genocide denial holds grave repercussions beyond its mere legal implications. It not only signifies a disregard for the victims and their families, but it is also profoundly offensive and unjustifiable.

Ethnic discrimination in Kosovo, Montenegro, and North Macedonia

Throughout this month, Europe has experienced tumultuous weather including the destructive storms in Croatia and Serbia, which resulted in roofs of houses being blown off and vehicles being destroyed. In Kosovo, the media including reported on the recent storms and bad weather, informing citizens about the sheer power of the storm and the destructive consequences it had for citizens in the respective countries.

In Kosovo, one such video of storms in Serbia was filmed and uploaded by and KTV-Kohavision on Facebook showcasing the scope and strength of the storms. However, commentators on social networks mainly took this opportunity to spread hateful language towards Serbs in Serbia. They published comments that were extremely insulting, saying that they believed that Serbs in Serbia do not deserve to live, that they should be razed to the ground, and that they should disappear. There were few comments that acknowledged that such disasters could happen to anyone.

No event should ever serve as a platform for the propagation of ethnic hatred. Moreover, it is important that the media oversee and regulate the comments on their platforms in order to monitor and respond to the dissemination of hate.

In Montenegro, during the 13th anniversary of the Day Center for Children with Disabilities and Persons with Disabilities in Nikšić, the mayor of the municipality of Nikšić, Marko Kovačević was filmed holding up his middle finger. He was doing so whilst the national anthem was being sung by those attending the event.

As mayor, Kovačević is an important public figure and a member of the government in Montenegro. He is also known for his problematic statements. Holding up his middle finger during the singing of the national anthem was an extremely insulting and disrespectful gesture. Holding a position of power and thereby, influence in the country, Kovačević should know better than to display such gestures and disrespect. In Montenegro, a nation characterised by its diverse ethnic makeup, actions like these can foster divisive sentiments that exacerbate existing tensions between various ethnic groups.

In North Macedonia, thirty predominantly Albanian workers from the Public Enterprise ‘Drisla’ were fired. In retaliation, the fired workers together with their colleagues went on strike in protest and blocked the work of the enterprise. This resulted in garbage in Skopje not being collected for days, which in turn created a revolt amongst the citizens and the political parties ended up pointing fingers and blaming one another.  Fired workers, mainly of Albanian ethnicity, were named by a derogatory label and it was insinuated that they were members of a terrorist organisation. Alongside this, various curse words were used for political parties and the mayor of Skopje too.

The labelling and naming of individuals based on their ethnicity, when ethnicity is of no relevance, is highly problematic. Ethnic discrimination holds no place in society and cannot be justified. Furthermore, North Macedonia is a multi-ethnic country where various ethnicities and religions co-exist therefore, by naming and shaming individuals because of their ethnicity, this can only serve to further promote division in society, pit groups of individuals against one another and promote discrimination.

A positive example of inter-religious respect and dialogue in Albania

In Albania, in the context of the recent burning of the Quran in Sweden, which caused a lot of controversy around the world, Albanian media nevertheless took to reporting on the incident in a very neutral manner. The media gave space to Pope Francis’ statement condemning the act of the burning of the Quran holy book and most importantly, in line with Albania’s multi-faith society and peaceful approach to religion, the comments on the social media posts of news items, in this instance on Euronews Albania and JOQ, were predominantly positive. Most believers of the Catholic Church conveyed their sympathy and support for individuals associated with Islam.

The comment section of news items is unfortunately far too frequently used as a space for spreading hate speech and discrimination online, however, as seen by this instance, there are occasions when such a space is occupied by individuals and comments which are positive and supportive. This is a very important example of the positive aspects of social media and the power it can have to bring people together to show their solidarity with a group of people around the world. It can serve to provide a space for inter-religious dialogue and respect.

Gender discrimination in Serbia

On the morning show called ‘Jutro’ on TV Prva there was a debate held on the topic of gender-affirming care and the newly imposed law banning gender-affirming surgery and health care in Russia. The guests invited on the show included Ana Petrović, an activist from the LGBTQ+ organisation ‘Da se zna’, and Aleksandar Šešelj, the vice president of the far-right Serbian Radical Party. During the debate, the host used outdated, incorrect terminology, referring to gender-affirming surgeries as a ‘sex change’, revealing their lack of education on the topic. Furthermore, the host did not react or respond to Šešelj when he used misinformation as arguments and when he addressed gender as an ideology and a danger to children. Although Šešelj didn’t have nearly the same amount of knowledge on the subject of the debate, he was nevertheless granted more time to present his views, taking away the time for Petrović to speak and share her thoughts on the matter.

In Serbian media, it is usual for individuals with right-wing political views to be invited to take part in debates with activists in the pursuit of providing ‘balance’, especially in TV debates on human rights. Here, it is often right-wing politicians and church officials who are invited to provide a perspective from the ‘other side’ rather than experts in their respective fields. Furthermore, hosts are often uneducated and ill-informed on the topics being discussed, resulting too often in the activist carrying the burden of debunking misinformation and providing a human-rights perspective within a tight time constraint. ‘Fake balance’ in the context of the media refers to the media outlets and/or journalists presenting a false sense of balance in their reporting. Balance is extremely important to allow audiences to make informed decisions on critical issues and subjects by being presented different perspectives and opinions on the same matter. Imbalance, caused by either presenting single or multiple but uneven perspectives, can result in an indirect favouring of one argument over the other. The media bears the responsibility to uphold this balance to ensure equilibrium.