Apprehension of the Serbian citizens, DFC’s reaction and Telegram groups gaining in popularity

Another Friday has come, together with the new edition of our weekly column On Friday Afternoon. As usual, we will start this week’s overview with the topics related to Montenegro.

One of the burning topics was the apprehension of two Serbian citizens and one Pljevlja inhabitant on the Rance crossing border. The police found 26,500 euros, laptops and Serbian flags in their possession. The Serbia-based news portals wrote that the apprehension occurred only because of the Serbian flags that, allegedly, happened to be there, while omitting the real reason behind the apprehension. That way, the key details of the story were omitted and the narrative on Serbs being endangered in Montenegro has been spread.

Besides this, looking for the culprit, or, identifying the author of a disputable caricature of the Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports Vesna Bratic was in the spotlight this week as well, therefore, the social media decided to assume the role of a detective. There are two suspects, while none of them is the culprit. When the public was informed about this, it was already too late – the damage has been done. The DFC reacted in the context of this issue, but the active internet community actors in Montenegro such as the media, meme pages, activists, and key decision-makers need to help us ease the tensions and raise awareness of the importance of critical thinking and observing. Otherwise, it is just a matter of time when each of us will become a target.

Telegram application is still dominant among right-wing supporters and proved to be an excellent field for organization and initiation of coordinated actions on other social media. One of the examples is the group The Books of Knjige that was targeted by a right-wing Telegram group Nju Ejdž Četnici (New Age Chetniks) because they spoke about meme pages from Montenegro, admins’ identities, and those who allegedly finance them in their radio show from January 22. Members of this group received a link to the TBOK Facebook page with a task to act in coordination and spam with comments.

We are moving to Europe where the European Commission has told Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft to continue with their monthly reports on efforts to tackle fake news, especially on COVID-19, for another six months. The companies, together with TikTok and advertisers, have signed the European Union’s code of practice to tackle the spread of disinformation on their platforms and had to submit reports on their efforts during an initial six-month period. The European Commission said that the reports will continue for another six months because of their relevance during the virus pandemic.

Finally, here’s a friendly reminder to watch our final, fifth episode of the DFC podcast Under the Loupe. Our guest was Milivoje Pantovic, an independent investigative journalist based in Belgrade, with whom we discussed the Chinese propaganda during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pantovic specialized in the fields of interior and foreign policy and culture. He worked as a journalist and editor in Serbian news agencies Tanjug and Beta, the television B92 and BK, the newspaper Politika, and he is cooperating with numerous foreign media as well.