TROLL OF THE MONTH: Daily paper “Alo”

April 5, 2024

The Balkan Troll of the Month is an individual, a group of individuals or a media outlet that spreads hate 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.

March Troll is a tabloid Alo in Serbia.

On March 6th, a protest denouncing police brutality targeting LGBTIQ+ individuals took place in Belgrade’s central square. Da se zna, an organisation dedicated to addressing discrimination and violence against LGBTIQ+ individuals in Serbia, initiated this protest in response to what they claimed to be Novi Beograd Police Station’s dismissal of a complaint concerning alleged misconduct by police officers toward two members of the LGBTIQ+ community.

Prior to this, the organisation Da se zna held a press conference in late February announcing that two LGBTIQ+ people, a young man and a woman, contacted them for support after they allegedly experienced brutal verbal, physical and sexual violence by police officers who raided their apartment on February 14th.

The police had entered their apartment under the premise of suspected drug possession by the two young individuals, who were also roommates. They ended up finding some materials that were supposedly drugs. The investigation of this case is still ongoing. According to the young man and woman, the special police forces tied them up and knocked them down whilst pointing their guns at their heads. Upon noticing the LGBTIQ+ symbols in the apartment, including the rainbow flag, further abuse followed.

In addition to the absence of an immediate reaction from the relevant institutions, some of the mainstream media in Serbia also failed to report on the case. The Radio Television of Serbia, a public media service entrusted with informing all citizens of Serbia in the public interest, failed to provide timely reporting despite its fundamental role and obligation to do so. On the other hand, Da se Zna representatives and the mother of the young man went public with this story and engaged with journalists to address their queries. Some media outlets with limited reach did provide timely and professional reporting on this case.

Following the protest in early March, popular tabloid Alo, both on their online portal and in the print edition, published a text titled “WE DISCOVER! LGBT ASSOCIATION “DA SE ZNA” SELLS DRUGS IN ITS OFFICES: The fight for the rights of gay people is their facade for dealing!”, claiming that “this organisation, in addition to fighting for the rights of homosexuals and bisexuals, is also involved in the sale of narcotics.” Alo also claimed in the text that “sources close to this case state that both the guy and the girl whose apartment was searched, as well as the “Da se zna” organisation itself, of whom they are members, are involved in the sale of narcotics.” This was the first time tabloid Alo reported on this case of police brutality. The only evidence they provide for these serious accusations was an unidentified source and a picture of confiscated drugs taken by the Police of Montenegro. Da se zna denied that the two people accused of drug possession were their members and announced a lawsuit against Alo.

Da se zna announced a lawsuit against Alo and journalist Sofija Lolić, the author of this text. They claim that the newspaper Alo and Lolić directly targeted Da se zna and put their safety at risk. In a public statement, Da se zna said they view this as “an attempt to intimidate our activists who, together with the mother of a brutally beaten young gay man, made public the details of the police torture of two young LGBT+ people that took place on February 14th this year”.

The intentional spread of misinformation and disinformation by portal Alo in reference to the organisation Da se zna is extremely harmful. Aside from undermining the case of police brutality and not addressing this case in its seriousness, the intentional spread of harmful lies is both unprofessional and unacceptable. Furthermore, police brutality against LGBTIQ+ individuals is a big violation of human rights. Failing to respond accurately or condemn such cases not only perpetuates systemic injustice but also undermines the credibility of both the media and relevant institutions who have a duty to stand for equality and report on cases of injustice.