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.
This month, in the morning show “Novo jutro” on TV Pink in Serbia, a private video of opposition MP Đorđe Miketić was broadcast, where he was shown in sexual intercourse with an unidentified woman. In the early morning hours, the topic was announced, and screenshots from this compromising video were shown several times, after which the video itself was demonstrated live, first on mute and then with audio. The video was broadcast around 9 o’clock in the morning.
The tabloids, online portals, and other media outlets quickly picked up the story. On the same day, they published excerpts from the video with sensational headlines targeting Miketić in an attempt to discredit him as a public official and a candidate for the Assembly of the City of Belgrade. Perhaps the most gruesome was the front page of the daily tabloid Alo, which featured an explicit screenshot from the video.
The faces and intimate parts of bodies shown on TV Pink were blurred. However, the pornographic nature of the video was quite clear from what was shown. Also, the MP was unambiguously named in the show several times. By publishing this video, TV Pink violated the right to privacy of Miketić, as well as several media laws and regulations in Serbia. This includes the Law on Electronic Media, the Rulebook on the Protection of Human Rights in the Field of Media Services, as well as the Rulebook on the Protection of the Rights of Minors in the Field of Media Services, as pornographic content is prohibited due to the protection of minors.
Miketić, coming from the opposition party Zajedno (Together), was active in the election campaign of the main opposition coalition Srbija protiv nasilja (Serbia Against Violence), but withdrew after TV Pink published the video. This took place only two weeks before parliamentary elections in Serbia and local elections in Belgrade, where Miketić was a candidate for the member of the City Assembly.
The video was shared on social media before being broadcast on TV Pink. However, it was quickly removed. A few days before this, Miketić stated he was blackmailed and received threats that this video would be published. At the same time, the president of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, called Miketić a “human disgrace” in a show on TV Pink and followed by saying, “He won’t ask me much about what I am saying because he knows what I know. And when I said human disgrace, believe me, that is such a mild phrase… I better not say anything.” Miketić also says this video was stolen together with other old documents when his apartment was broken into about a year ago, and he claims that the Security Intelligence Agency was involved with this.
The Regulatory Body for Electronic Media (REM) reacted promptly and published a statement on the same day when the video was broadcast, saying they initiated proceedings against TV Pink for showing “explicit content in the morning program.” However, since that day, REM did not refer to this case again or inform the public about the outcome of the proceedings. It is important to note that TV Pink’s license for national frequency was recently renewed by REM, despite the fact that Pink made multiple violations of media regulations in Serbia, some of which were even recorded and recognised by REM itself.
The broadcast of this video was the climax of the negative campaign against political opponents, which contained discriminatory language and harmful narratives as recorded by the RDN monitoring team. The campaign intensified as elections held on December 17th approached. This way of dealing with political opponents is not unusual in Serbia, but that does not reduce its damage to the culture of political dialogue or the lack of fair election campaigns.
Fact-checking portal Istinomer, through their media monitoring of the election campaign, recorded over 160 cases of disinformation and manipulation on the front pages of the nine daily newspapers with the largest circulation. In this report, Istinomer also highlighted “the extremely negative propaganda directed at the representatives of the opposition, in which public officials and the media jointly participated”.