TROLL OF THE MONTH: Portal Kosovo Online

February 2, 2023

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.

January Troll of the month is portal Kosovo Online for the denial of the Racak massacre.

The Racak massacre of 1999 saw the killing of 45 Kosovo Albanians in the village of Racak by Serbian security forces in reaction to Kosovo Liberation Army activity.

Upon hearing of the horrific events which had taken place at Racak, numerous journalists visited the site where the bodies of the victims, including minors, could be found. William Walker, head of the Kosovo Verification Mission at the time, also visited the site and declared the atrocities committed fell under crimes against humanity.

The Kosovo Verification Mission was an OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe) mission to ensure ‘compliance from all parties in Kosovo with the UN Security Council Resolution 1199 and reporting instances of progress and/or non-compliance to the OSCE Permanent Council, the United Nations Security Council, and other organisations’. The Mission opened in October 1998 and closed in June 1999. The events at Racak played a large role in NATO’s decision to organise a military operation and bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

However, despite the evidence and decision carried out by a number of international institutions condemning the massacre at Racak, Serbian officials and a large number of Serbian media both then and today deny the events having taken place.

During the 2023 commemoration of the anniversary of the massacre at Racak, William Walker attended the event as he had done in the past. However, on this occasion, online portal Kosovo Online used the opportunity to spread the position of their editor in chief who openly negated the massacre at Racak. The article was titled with an open denial of the events in Racak and its commemoration; ‘every 15th January for the last 24 years, the old closet with falsifications of recent Kosovo history is opened’. The article goes on to negate the events which took place in that region of Kosovo. The editor of the portal, Miloš Garić openly stated that this was a ‘falsification of history’, and that the actual version of events was that Serbian forces were fighting against members of the Kosovo Liberation Army whose primary goal was to ‘take away’ Kosovo from Serbia.

Providing the platform and publishing the denial of the crimes which took place at Racak by the editor of the portal is extremely problematic. It serves to deepen division amongst society and uphold harmful narratives with little to no consideration of those who have fallen victim to such crimes. The negation and denial of war crimes and human atrocities by officials, the media and those with influence makes it almost impossible to deal with the past and acts as a barrier to a reconciliation process in the region. This altogether further drives a wedge between the two ethnic groups and prevents the establishment of better relations between Serbia and Kosovo.

Kosovo Online portal is followed by over 66,000 individuals and it is also one of the few media outlets in Serbian in Kosovo, which speaks about its position and influence. Individuals such as an editor of a portal who hold a position of power and influence over the information and stories published, should adhere to journalistic practices. Rather than providing a platform for the spread of hate and negation of war crimes, online portals and journalists should strive to adhere by certain ethical codes and journalistic practices which firstly, do not seek to harm victims of war, and secondly, do not seek to further instil division within society.