TROLL OF THE MONTH: Journalist Darko Momić Čkalja

June 4, 2024

The Balkan Troll of the Month is an individual, group of individuals or media outlet that spreads hate based on gender, ethnicity, religion or other categories of diversity. The Balkan Troll is selected on the basis of hate speech incidents identified throughout the Western Balkans region.

In a column written by journalist Darko Momić Čkalja and published on the website of Nezavisne novine (Independent Newspapers), the author denied the genocide in Srebrenica and insulted the victims, in particular the Mothers of Srebrenica – mothers and relatives of the victims. The column had the mocking and insulting title “Fairly Tales of Srebrenica (Bajke Srebrenice)”, which sounds similar to Mothers of Srebrenica (Majke Srebrenice). The whole text conveys the message that the story behind the genocide in Srebrenica and the resolution on the genocide in Srebrenica is a fairy tale which, according to the author, is built on lies, manipulation and distortion of facts. He accuses the Mothers of Srebrenica, survivors and family members of those killed and missing in Srebrenica and Bratunac, of presenting even their stillborn babies as victims of genocide and of making themselves cry on command in front of TV stations, implying that it is all a show against the Serbs. He wrote that no one denies what happened in Srebrenica, but does not say what exactly, and that everyone with any sense justifies the pain of the survivors (as if such pain needs to be justified), but that no one can justify the behaviour of the Mothers of Srebrenica when they stand quietly in front of a cordon of peaceful policemen in Kravice ”until the cameras of Sarajevo’s television stations arrive, and then as if on command, they start crying and attacking the policemen”.

This column and discussion follows the recent adoption by the UN General Assembly of the resolution on the Srebrenica genocide, which proclaims 11 July as the ‘International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Srebrenica Genocide’. The resolution condemns ‘any denial of the genocide in Srebrenica as a historical event and actions that glorify those convicted by international courts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide’. In addition, an outreach programme entitled “The Srebrenica Genocide and the United Nations” will be launched in 2025 on the thirtieth anniversary.

In response to the recently adopted resolution, there has been a rise in genocide denial. Political leaders from Republika Srpska have made numerous statements denying genocide, relativising war crimes, using offensive messages and spreading hate speech. According to the amendments to the Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina imposed by High Representative Valentin Inzko in 2021, it is a criminal offence to justify, trivialise and deny the crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in a way that could incite violence or hatred against a particular group of people. However, one of the prominent figures denying genocide is the President of the Bosnian entity Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik. Dodik is one of the biggest deniers of the Srebrenica genocide, and according to research by the Srebrenica Memorial Centre last year, Dodik denied the genocide in various ways no less than 11 times in 2023. 

In addition to genocide denial, political leaders from Republika Srpska and Serbia spread disinformation, relativising the nature of the genocide in Srebrenica and claiming that the UN resolution was a conspiracy of Western states against the Serbs with the aim of destroying the entity. Although the resolution reiterated that responsibility for genocide is individual, political leaders in the Republika and Serbia claimed that its intention was to portray the entire nation as genocidal and called for succession from BiH, creating a narrative of collective guilt. However, this resolution and international judgments only enforce individual responsibility.

The media often reported these statements without any critical approach, culminating in an organised marketing campaign in the week leading up to the UN General Assembly session, which was seen not only in traditional and social media, but also in public spaces. The main message was: “We are not a genocidal nation. We remember… Proud Serbia and (Republika) Srpska”. This message was plastered on billboards in cities throughout Serbia and Republika Srpska, including Srebrenica.

Darko Momić Čkalja’s column is another example of the response and reaction to the adopted UN resolution, published one day after its adoption. His entire journalistic column focuses on the idea that the Serbs were labelled a genocidal nation after the UN resolution on Srebrenica. He goes on to claim that all other past history and atrocities suffered by Serbs throughout history have been overtaken by this label. His entire piece is focused on the idea that the history of Srebrenica is fabricated and should therefore be called the Srebrenica Fairy Tale.

Genocide denial not only distorts the historical truth and dishonours the victims, it also perpetuates cycles of hatred and violence and undermines efforts towards justice and reconciliation. Recognising the genocide in Srebrenica is essential to honour the memory of the more than 8,000 men and boys who were systematically murdered, as well as the women and girls who were raped, sexually abused and subjected to other forms of torture. The Srebrenica genocide, adjudicated by two internationally recognised tribunals, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Court of Justice, marks a horrific genocide and a period of history during the Bosnian war. Recognising and commemorating this event is extremely important, not only for reconciliation, but also as a means of moving forward to ensure that such acts never happen again in the future. Darko Momić Čkalja should be held accountable and recognise the harm of his words and denial of genocide, which is harmful not only to the victims and their families, but to all those who have had to bear the wounds of war.