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

Our September Troll of the Month is TV Pink who spread sexist and misogynistic narratives towards women and victims of rape as well as ethnic discrimination and xenophobia.

TV Pink is a privately owned national TV station in Serbia and one of the leading commercial stations in the country. During the morning show ‘Novo Jutro’ on TV Pink, former Serbian football player and coach, Dušan Savić was invited as part of the programme and shared his opinions regarding the case against Miroslav Aleksić – director actor and acting teacher- who was recently released from prison following various rape allegations. Savić, a good friend of Aleksić, defended his friend by spreading harmful sexist narratives and victim blaming.

Last January, the Belgrade Higher Court ordered a ‘30-day custody remand for Miroslav ‘Mika’ Aleksic, who was accused of raping several female pupils, at least one of whom was a minor at the time’. Aleksić’s acting school was extremely popular in Serbia where ‘according to some local media around 3,000 people attended his classes over four decades’. Many of today’s famous actors and actresses as well as TV presenters attended his acting school.

Indeed, the MeToo Movement has helped start discussions towards the safety of women and violence against them including rape and sexual assault.According to Vanja Mecanović, a member of the NGO Autonomous Women’s Centre, the MeToo Movement has had a “positive trend of supporting the victims who were afraid to report the violence for a long period of time”. Within Serbia, the hashtag #NisiSama (you are not alone) started following the decision of actresses Milena Radulović, Iva Ilinčić and five other women, who attended Aleksic’s acting school to come forward and report instances of sexual harassment, rape and violence by Miroslav Aleksić.  This further encouraged others to come forward and tell their story. As a result, the Facebook group ‘Nisam trazila’ (I didn’t ask for it) was created to support women from the whole region, supporting one another through the hashtag #NisiSama.

When talking about the various actresses who came forward to accuse and expose Aleksić for both rape and sexual assault, Savić commented that “it’s not only about Mika Aleksić, it’s a much deeper story and more dangerous”. He also said to the TV host Jovana Jeremić that

the “attack on Mika Aleksić and that affair was constructed and made for almost a year and a half and financed from various sides, designed not only in our country but also in others and Lečić, Palma and Petnica case were later added to the story, and even your colleague started calling out Bata Miladinović, who died twenty years ago”. Following these serious rape denial accusations, the host of the morning show made a comment to add that “people do all sorts of things for 5 minutes of fame”. Such a comment made by the host of a morning show which has national frequency, is extremely unprofessional and runs the risk of presenting a national TV channel supportive of Dusan Savič’s assumptions and allegations of the ‘false’ stories of rape.

Savić linked the recent rape allegations as a mechanism for attacking the Serbian nation thereby, suggesting that rape allegations are a tool for attacking the country itself rather than actual accounts of violence towards women.

Savić went as far as to claim that all these stories were indeed ‘made up’, arguing that this “made-up affair” started “when there was a lot of lobbying around the world for the propaganda Muslim movie (Quo vadis, Aida)” – a movie set during the Srebrenica genocide.

These narratives are extremely dangerous and xenophobic. By making comments that include ethnic discrimination and genocide denial, Savić spreads and upholds anti-Bosnian rhetoric which are both dangerous and harmful towards the victims of genocide and those who suffered the wars in Yugoslavia by creating false narratives of denial.

Not only are such sexist and misogynistic narratives harmful but by promoting such hate speech openly on a national TV Channel, these ideas and false premises are spread and upheld within the population.

TV Pink, has both a moral obligation and a duty to stand up to hateful, misleading narratives such as those promoted by Dusan Savić – as this event took place on their morning show, the television station is responsible for the content which is shared and aired on their programme. Allowing such comments on a TV channel with national frequency, further promotes sexism and misogyny within the community whilst also allowing both rape and genocide denial to be said openly with no consequence. TV Pink has a duty to monitor the content of their shows and ensure that such harmful, unfounded, narratives are both exposed and counteracted to prevent them being accepted and maintained within society.

It is, furthermore, the duty of regulatory bodies such as  the Regulatory Body for Electronic Media (REM) within Serbia to react to such harmful narratives to prevent them from being said on national TV platforms with no repercussions of any sort.

Recently, Media Diversity Institute Western Balkans made a public statement to various media organisations in response to unethical reporting and secondary victimisation following the incident on TV Pink in which it was made clear that the broadcaster violated several rules and regulations in place for the protection of human rights in the field of media services. The most notable was Article 26 which explicitly states that when informing about violence or tragic event, the media service provider is obliged to do that in a way that will not violate the human dignity of the victim of violence or tragic event nor a person close to them, and especially in a way that they are not exposed to repeated suffering.

 Therefore, the media has an obligation and responsibility to ensure that when reporting on sexual violence they are aware and conscious of the sensitivity of the topic itself and nature of that trauma so as to provide a safe platform for victims of sexual violence to come forward and not promote narratives of denial which leads to further silencing.

Read the article in Sebian.