During 2019, there have been a considerable number of texts published by Montenegrin media to discredit the Montenegrin institutions. In most of them, it is about the institutions of crucial importance, that concern defense, and security, being the pillar of the protection and security of a state and society. Attacks on those institutions are periodical, which largely depends on the current topic.
However, the Montenegrin National Security Agency, which by its very name arouses the interest of both individuals and society in general, has had noticeable media coverage, mentioned both directly and indirectly. The obsession with security services and constant conspiracy theories is noticeable especially among members of one part of the political spectrum. In their public as well as political discourse, they often call upon their dissenters to cooperate with the Agency, using derogatory names such as udbas (a member of UDBA – State Security Administration of Yugoslavia ) and spy.
Why does the security agency, which is supposed to be the shield of Montenegrin society and the first line of defense, intrigue the public and the media, mainly the IN4S and Borba portals, subsequently transmitted by Serbian media such as Informer, Srbija danas, Vecernje Novosti, Alo, Kurir, etc? Information provided by Democratic Front MPs on the one hand, and unnamed, well-informed and high-ranking circles and insiders of the media, on the other hand, became texts that did not spare the Montenegrin security service. Whether it was about doing business inside or outside the institution, ANB was always on the agenda, especially when there was nothing bad to write about other Montenegrin institutions or authorities. The answer, judging by this, would be that ANB is always a good topic!
ANB has its hands full
Investigating and analyzing these releases, one could conclude that the Agency had its hands full this year since it could be read about shifts within the organization, snitches and secret cooperation, participation in numerous national events, and links to criminal clans and organizations.
The essential part is the texts about the cooperation of the Montenegrin service with NATO or the British intelligence service (negotiations recently launched on the NATO counter-hybrid team arrival to Montenegro) and disinformation about secret treaties and arrangements without concrete evidence, often backed by high-level sources from the Agency.
Such contents, however, did not concern exclusively foreign services. According to the sources of these portals (again unnamed officials), the Montenegrin authorities were often in collusion with the ANB. This has led to the creation of several conspiracy theories, from spying on individuals on social networks to creating opposition parties for winning the upcoming election.
These announcements are often accompanied by sensationalist headlines such as Borba finds out: MI6 wiretapping list includes MPs, academics, and Serbian Orthodox Church priests: Secrets leave the court: Djukanovic drove Vucinic out of the ANB because he colluded with the Americans!, We reveal: Director of BIA (Security Information Agency) together with five operatives on a secret visit to Podgorica!, Siege situation in agency: ANB on its feet, looking for a mole giving away the information!, ANB targets nearly 100 people on Facebook: Agents follow the regime critics! The Americans and British unhappy: NATO agents looking for a mole in ANB! NATO gives green light – they are arranging our security structures: Boskovic, to be the head of the ANB because he “obeys” well.
Although the amount and content of the headlines/announcements do not seem to lack in inspiring the IN4S and Borba portals, it is actually about disinformation summarized in just a few narratives, fabricated in around 240 texts. They advocate instability within the institution itself and activities against the Montenegrin state and society.
It is somewhat understandable why the attack on the Montenegrin security agency is more frequent since the secrecy of the service, which is by default implied, boosts up the human imagination. It is well known that everything mysterious and unfathomable is interesting and attractive. However, such an uproar against the ANB is worrying because those narratives and messages tend to undermine the credibility of the security agency, to provoke readers’ feelings of helplessness and insecurity regarding one of Montenegro’s most important institutions.
December disinformation campaign
The most recent examples of reporting, that is, disinforming of the Borba portal, are texts published in December on the secret plans of the Montenegrin National Security Agency, obtained from unnamed but high-ranking sources.
Thus, the Borba portal, in a text published on December 17th, entitled: ANB making its move: In the election campaign it will block profiles on Facebook that they cannot control!, suggests that during the election campaign the National Security Agency will block all Facebook profiles for which assesses that cannot be controlled, and which can harm the ruling regime. With this announcement, the Borba portal has already launched a disinformation campaign towards the 2020 parliamentary elections.
The text points out that a list of profiles has already been drawn up, so far there are about 100 of them, and that they will be blocked through Facebook admins for allegedly offending on religious and national grounds, but also for spreading hatred. They also say that the team involved in data collection and accounts sorting, more precisely differentiating the fake from real accounts, came up with a figure of near 100 people active on that social network, who were recognized as critics of the authorities. They keep track of all their posts, which are being updated into special folders, as a high-ranking ANB source allegedly confirmed to Borba.
What is disputable?
- There is no source of information. The Borba portal rarely cites the source of the information it promotes.
- Shutting down, deleting or suspending a profile is the sole responsibility of Facebook, not ours or any other agency or body.
- The text states that identified Facebook profiles through Facebook admins will be blocked for allegedly offending on religious, national or any other grounds and for spreading hatred. While looking at the Community Standards of that platform, it is clear that insulting and hate speech are sufficient reasons, even if the suspension of the account is temporary, the account will not and cannot be eliminated without Facebook having previously verified that there is a violation of Standards (upon submission of the complaint).
Destabilization of the Serbian corpus in Montenegro
Amid developments caused by the Proposal to the Law on Freedom of Religion, characteristic reporting of the portal Borba would not be comprehensive, unless, apart from the Montenegrin National Security Agency (ANB) NATO is included. Thus, on December 24th, Borba exclusively released the new secret agreements entitled: NATO and ANB Action: Fake news and spins build strife among Serbian corpus in Montenegro. In a short text with the bombastic headline, the author (again from an unnamed source from Democratic Party of Socialists – DPS circles) finds out that the ruling party and the ANB are launching media activities intending to confuse the Serbian corpus in Montenegro through spinning texts and promoting disinformation. The conceptual creators of the activity are allegedly NATO agents with headquarters in Podgorica, whose actions aim to confuse the Serbian electorate before the DPS media attack on Serbian Orthodox Church property, elections, and the census, with the warning that this is the beginning of destabilization of the Serbian corpus in Montenegro conducted by NATO and the ANB.
Even though such announcements by Borba are not based on credible sources, and although they do spread certain conspiracy theories about collusion and hidden plans without providing concrete evidence, it is clear that some parts of the public, we would say, gullible part, perceives them as true. This can best be deduced from the comments below the posts on the portal itself and also on their Facebook page. If viewed broadly, such content sends a message of potential vulnerability, which further upsets the public, and that is the goal of such tendentious but unfounded narratives.
DFC Magazine Issue 15