Unlike the European Union and social networks, which are trying to mitigate the effects of Russian propaganda, it is flourishing in Montenegro. Through certain portals, TV stations, networks such as Telegram, information, precisely and consistently harmonized with Moscow’s views, is being spread.
This morning, another disinformation was published on the IN4S portal, stating that the viral photo of the injured Olena Kyrylo upon the Russian bombing of Ukraine was actually taken in 2018.
Based on correspondence from social networks, IN4S claims that the photo was taken in 2018, after a gas explosion in a building in Kyiv. It is contradictory that the alleged evidence that IN4S refers to (comments from social networks) shows that the explosion from 2018 took place in Magnitorsk – a city in Russia, and not in Kyiv as claimed by IN4S.
Evidence provided by users on social networks is obvious photomontages in which photos of the injured Ukrainian woman are added to old media texts. By checking it can be easily determined that these photographs are not in the original texts.
The photo that IN4S and numerous Russian media have disputed is authentic, it is not four years old, and here is why.
- OSINT pretragom dolazi se do informacije da se pomenuta fotografija prvi put pojavljuje 24. februara 2022. godine na portalu Al Jazeera u 9.38 ujutro. U opisu stoji da je žena ranjena nakon vazdušnog napada, kao i ime autora slike.
- On February 26, the author Wolfgang Schwan spoke for the Anatolia Agency about his photo of the Ukrainian Olena Kyrylo, which appeared on the front pages of the international media and shows the scale of Russian military aggression.
3. The consequences of the bombing were photographed by numerous other authors on February 24 and provided insight into the consequences from multiple angles. This made it possible to compare the details and determine the authenticity of the original photograph.
This is not the first time that Russian and pro-Russian media in the world and in Montenegro are trying to accuse credible media of spreading disinformation. The goal is to cover up Russian military attacks on civilians and deny opposing information, all with the intention of continuing Moscow’s official narrative that the Russian military does not target civilians.
As Russian bombs and cruise missiles rocked cities across Ukraine early Thursday morning, another front, that has been prepared for a long time, opened. The Internet itself quickly became a battlefield, with propaganda and disinformation that, as a smokescreen, served to blur the boundaries of reality.
A series of suspicious videos and claims, which were also broadcast by certain Montenegrin and regional media, appeared on social networks and Russian state media. The propaganda barrage aimed to justify and lay the grounds for a decision on the already planned invasion, and on the other hand to trivialize allegations from the West about Russia’s intentions.
As part of this strategy, Russian television began to actively promote information suggesting that a huge humanitarian crisis was taking place in eastern Ukraine, that residents were under heavy shelling of Ukraine, which ultimately served as an excuse for Moscow to attack.
Russian propaganda was soon influenced by certain countries, such as the Czech Republic and Poland, and then the entire European Union, which announced that it would ban Russian state media such as RT and Sputnik, which is an unprecedented move against the Kremlin’s media machinery.
The sanctions also include the main propagandists – Margarita Simonyan and the creator of the Saint Petersburg Internet Research Agency, now the famous troll factory, Yevgeny Prigozhin. On the other hand, Facebook prevented the Russian state media from monetizing content on Facebook and Instagram. YouTube blocked the Russian state media RT in Ukraine and suspended its ability to monetize its content on that platform globally.
Unlike the European Union and social networks, which are trying to mitigate the effects of Russian propaganda, it is flourishing in Montenegro. Through certain portals, TV stations, networks such as Telegram, information, that is precisely and consistently harmonized with Moscow’s views, is being spread.
Narratives on portals
The Digital Forensic Center (DFC) analyzed the deceptive narratives that most often originally came from Sputnik or RT, and which were widely spread by the Montenegrin media.
- • The main and basic postulate of these media reporting on Russian aggression is that the word aggression or war is not mentioned. Pro-Russian media and their actors prefer the terms special military operation or crisis in Ukraine – treatment consistent with Russian state media;
- • Another narrative strongly present in the Russian and pro-Russian media in Montenegro is the portrayal of Ukraine as a communist creation. Citing Putin’s words, the media put forward the thesis that Ukraine was completely created by Bolshevik Communist Russia. It is stated that Lenin and his associates did it most sloppily in relation to Russia, as Vučić accuses his predecessors of sloppiness regarding the loss of Montenegro;
- • Emphasizing their own military strength in order to demoralize Ukrainians, emphasizing their losses or weaknesses, in order to make them aware that any resistance is in vain;
- • Denazification and the Nazis – another narrative of the Russian media that presents Ukraine as a Nazi state. Putin claims to denazify Ukraine, whose president Zelensky comes from a Jewish family, by the way, and won 73% of the vote, while the far-right Svoboda party won 2.15% of the vote in Ukraine’s 2019 parliamentary elections;
- • The next narrative is that Russia is not invading, but waging a defensive war against NATO on its border;
- • Ukrainians commit genocide against the Donbas population – for the past few days, Russian state media have insisted that Putin ordered troops to engage in a peacekeeping mission in eastern Ukraine to prevent what the Russian leader called genocide of the Russian-speaking population by authorities in Kyiv. The issue of genocide was also mentioned several times during Putin’s extraordinary meeting of the Security Council on January 21 in Moscow. The issue also appeared extensively in state media bulletins, prompting separatist authorities to demand military and economic aid from the Kremlin in Donetsk and Luhansk, as well as legal recognition that ensued. By accusing the Ukrainian government of the deadliest crime against humanity, the Kremlin is not only trying to portray Kyiv as the worst villain but is also abusing a term clearly defined in the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide;
- • A narrative that often appears is the thesis that the West, with its expansion to the East, pushed Ukraine into conflict;
- • Denial of Ukrainian identity, i.e. identification with Russian.
Narratives on TV
As on portals, similar narratives are being spread in shows on certain TV stations with national frequencies, which are broadcast in Montenegro. The journalists of TV Prva in Montenegro do not use the terms war or Russian invasion but use the terms military operation of the Russian Army and military intervention. A parallel is being drawn with Kosovo, which has been at the forefront of the media and social networks in the Western Balkans since the recognition of Lugansk and Donetsk and the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The situation is similar on TV Adria, where the defense of Donbas is being propagated through a special military operation. The hypocrisy of NATO and the European Union in the context of non-compliance with the principles of international law is often emphasized.
The TV Happy program continuously broadcasts official Russian narratives about the Ukrainian identity as an inauthentic and artificial creation which, as is the case with all newly formed nations, has a certain kind of intolerance in its psychology towards those from whom it gained independence. During the guest appearances on the program of that television, one could hear the views that Ukraine never existed as a state, but that it is actually Malorussia (Russian area) and that as such it is a part of the Russian civilizational heritage. The problem of such a Ukraine, which became especially evident after 2014, when Ukraine became a NATO fist, is that the Little Russians (Malorusi – as Ukrainians are called) want a rift within Russian civilization. Therefore, the Russian aggression on Ukraine is legitimized as a fight against insurgents and neo-Nazis who do not respect international agreements and who have been committing genocide against the Russian people in Ukraine for eight years. Their attitude towards Russians and Russian politics is also characterized as an attitude that is worse than the Shqiptar attitude towards Serbia.
The West, above all the United States and NATO, has been portrayed as a factor that has played an active role in provoking the conflict in Ukraine because its expansion towards the East has caused Russia’s unrest, which was a red line that could not be crossed. The events in Ukraine are being simplified, and the war is being reduced to the level of a crisis. It is also pointed out that NATO left Ukraine stranded and that it is not ready to clash with a country that is a nuclear power. Since January last year, the broadcasting of TV Happy in Montenegro has been limited due to chauvinistic and misogynistic content promoted to Montenegrin citizens, which this television has constantly placed. However, such content is still available on YouTube.
Fake news aimed at affirmation
As Russian President Vladimir Putin prepared for the invasion this week and recognized the two separatist-claimed parts of Ukraine as independent and sovereign states, dubious videos and claims, which were also broadcast by certain Montenegrin and regional media appeared on social media and Russian state media.
- • Planned evacuation
A striking example of such hybrid media activity is the video of Denis Pushilin, who is formally at the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, who called for an emergency evacuation on his Telegram channel on February 18, citing sudden Ukrainian aggression. However, unlike most other networks, Telegram keeps the metadata of the files, and they reveal that the video was created two days earlier, on February 16, which suggests that an emergency evacuation was planned in advance.
With this move, they planned and implemented the refugee crisis, placed people in camps in Russia, in order for the Russian state media to record them and presented them as evidence of the refugee crisis, continuing to spread narratives about the alleged genocide of Donbas. Moscow then used this and other reasons as part of its justification for the planned invasion of Ukraine.
This fake news was shared on the IN4S portal and then spread through Telegram channels.
- • Staged saboteurs
On February 18, the fake news was published on the IN4S portal that, on the territory of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, representatives of the People’s Militia prevented saboteurs from trying to break through and blow up chlorine containers in the vicinity of Horlivka.
As it turned out, this is another edited video. What is it really about?
On February 18, the Telegram channel of the press service of the People’s Militia of the Donetsk People’s Republic published a video in which it is claimed that it shows a sabotage operation aimed at chlorine tanks. The description of the video claims that the saboteurs planned to blow up the chlorine tank on the territory of the wastewater treatment plant near the town of Horlivka, and the video was allegedly taken from an action camera owned by one of the saboteurs.
As published on the Telegram, the video preserved all the metadata that clearly indicates two things – first, that the video itself was made on February 8, and not 18, as claimed, and second, that the audio in the recording was modified, i.e. that another audio channel is inserted in addition to the original. A search of the name of that audio file leads to a YouTube video of the same name, from a military training ground in Finland, which shows numerous explosions. It was the audio of one of those explosions that was incorporated into the video from the Telegram channel, to add to the intensity of the alleged fire exchange.
In an attempt to create a casus belli for the Russian invasion, the separatists published false allegations, using a fake video on the saboteurs, claims that were then propagated in the Russian and pro-Russian media.
- Fake Twitter accounts spread the news of the death of a CNN reporter
On Wednesday, February 23, a fake tweet from an account falsely presented as CNN announced the first American victim of the Ukrainian crisis.
The tweet – from the unverified, now suspended @CNNUKR account states: Thoughts and prayers with the family of activist Bernie Gores, who passed away this morning after a mine planted by Russian-backed separatists exploded.
The announcement was quite similar to another fake CNN tweet published in August when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. In that case, the unverified and suspended account of @CNNAfghan said in a tweet from August 16, 2021: The journalist of #CNN ‘Bernie Gores’ was executed in #Kabul by #Taliban soldiers.
In both cases, the tweets included a photo of the same man. It is a stolen photo of gamer Jordi Jordan, not a non-existent journalist Bernie Gors.
CNN confirmed in August that the account from Afghanistan was not theirs, while the @CNNUKR account was used in the information war, and was created in February, having only 129 followers. Twitter suspended the account immediately after the fake tweet on February 23.
This fake news was also published by IN4S, under the title: Virus of fake tweets of CNN in the middle of the Ukrainian-Russian crisis: The journalist passed away twice – in Afghanistan and Ukraine.
An analysis of the DFC shows how the Russian and pro-Russian media are actively fomenting current tensions by publishing fake or deceptive allegations of Ukrainian aggression and misleading narratives
The political situation in Montenegro is quite complex. The Parliament and the Government of Montenegro have not been functioning for a long time due to disagreements between the constituents of the parliamentary majority. All attempts to restructure the Government, and the entry of the DF into the composition of the Government, have so far been unsuccessful.
The international community and Montenegro’s partners have repeatedly expressed concern over the possible entry of the DF into the executive power. The messages that arrived always emphasized that the foreign policy course of Montenegro must not change and that every Montenegrin Government that nurtures Euroatlantic values will have the support of the international community. Such views were also expressed by EU representatives in a text published by Radio Free Europe.
However, certain Serbian tabloids used this text as an occasion to spread disinformation along with sensationalism and the already established narrative about the endangerment of Serbs in Montenegro. In the articles, the Serbian tabloids Alo, Informer and Objektiv, claimed that the European Union was preventing Serbian parties from entering the restructured Government.
In a statement for RFE, Marko Makovec, director for the Western Balkans and the European External Action Service, said that if the DF is invited to the government, it must be clear that it will support the geostrategic orientation that implies a European path. This statement clearly indicates that the EU does not block the entry of Serbian parties into the Government, but that the EU’s support for a possible restructured government depends on its foreign policy orientation.
Also, Democratic Front MPs do not perceive the messages of EU officials as an obstacle to the party’s entry into the Government.
We are not aware that any of the European officials said that the DF should not enter the Government. Such impression is obtained by certain incorrect and rigged headlines in which what was actually said has been distorted and falsified, MP of the Democratic Front Jovan Vucurovic said.
The fact is that this is just another in a series of disinformation of the Serbian tabloids, which aims to make even deeper divisions and further radicalize Montenegrin society.
On October 25, the Center for Civic Education (CCE) presented the results of research conducted in cooperation with the Damar agency as part of the joint CG Pulse initiative. Numerous Montenegrin media published the results of public opinion polls that showed the opinion of citizens on the path that Montenegro is taking after the change of Government, on the introduction of religious education in schools, as well as several other important topics.
The research showed that young people, Montenegrins, Albanians, Bosniaks, and Croats express strong dissatisfaction with the situation Montenegrin society found itself in, while the citizens who declare themselves as Serbs by nationality and those with a lower level of education are more optimistic that Montenegro is going in the right direction. These data were used by Novosti and distorted in favor of the narrative that Serbs in Montenegro are endangered and that anti-Serbian policy is being pursued in Montenegro.
Polls in which public opinion on important socio-political topics have been analyzed are sensitive, and the results are subject to manipulation by the media or even certain politicians and activists. This was exactly the case with this research. Namely, the Serbian portal Novosti published an article titled POLL AGAINST SERBS: Background of the public opinion poll carried out by the Montenegrin non-governmental organization CCE.
The article on the Novosti portal, which was later corrected and denied, states that the results of the research are just another in a series of attempts to discredit the Serbian people in Montenegro and that this is a new chauvinistic farce. In order to give importance to this narrative and manipulations, the statements of Petar Draskovic from the Democratic Front and political analyst Igor Damjanovic are also comprised in the text. Draskovic pointed out that Daliborka Uljarevic, the executive director of the CCE, who also presented the research, belongs to the anti-Serbian group aimed at destroying the Serbian Orthodox character of Montenegro, while Damjanovic said that the public was prepared to constitute a new parliamentary majority.
The Novosti portal probably found an additional reason for such reporting in the statement of the Democratic Front MP and President of the Administrative Board of the Parliament of Montenegro Milun Zogovic, who stated that Ms. Daliborka Uljarevic violated all principles and could not hide and channel hatred towards the Serbian people.
The research data are publicly available, so it is very easy to check these unfounded writings that aim to further divide Montenegrin society and cause tensions. The fact that Novosti is in the group of the most read Serbian portals in Montenegro is worrying. It enables such biased and false reporting to reach as many citizens as possible. For the sake of political goals, disinformation was placed along with targeting the organizations and individuals.
This is not the first time that the information and results of public opinion polls have been manipulated, which the DFC team has warned about several times so far.
Besides changing social, political and economic situation, the global health crisis, caused by the coronavirus pandemic, gave power to social media to reshape and create the perception of reality. In the time when the knowledge is reduced to a level of critically unprocessed information, together with communication and social interaction being moved to social media due to the global isolation measures, the reach and the consequences of disinformation are accentuated and the issues of social immunity to the infodemic wave that splashed the world soil is (again) on the agenda.
Fighting on two battlefields – medicine and disinformation, has been additionally complicated by the development of the vaccine that left room for further populistic narratives and manipulations in order to favor a particular pharmaceutical company, or country of origin.
On the other hand, the regional media, dominantly Serbia-based, launched a lot of pseudo-science content in the last months, which they used in order to compromise the credibility and trust of the public in the work of health authorities.
Fake news about the death of Dr. Topcic
On January 27, Facebook account Marina Knezevic posted that Dr. Blazenka Topic, Director of the Medical Center in Drnis, died soon after having received the COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Blazenka Topic personally confirmed for the Croatian fact-check news portal Faktograf that this was a piece of fake news. The colleagues from Raskrinkavanje analyzed the same issue. Faktograf published that they had received the response from the Sibenik hospital that it was not possible to provide a detailed answer on why Dr. Topcic had come to the hospital in the first place, because of data protection and Act on the Protection of Patients’ Rights. This way, we can deny the untrue claims stated in the post, which refer to the vaccine and side effects that we have no knowledge of, they responded.
Démenti from the University of Oxford on the death of a volunteer
The development of the AstraZeneca Company’s vaccine in collaboration with the University of Oxford was accompanied by some speculations. The suspicious were related to its effectiveness and that it is not sufficiently safe for usage. Allegedly, it was concluded that it caused serious side effects (hospitalization or death). In the previous period, the Serbia-based news portals wrote about death of a volunteer from Brazil who was vaccinated in the third phase of the clinical trial, using sensationalistic headlines in their texts. Here are a couple of examples: THIS IS WHAT AWAITS US: A volunteer who was vaccinated against COVID-19 died (Srbin.info); WORLD IS SHOCKED! Volunteer died after receiving the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine! (Pravda); BRITISH VACCINE IS DEADLY! A volunteer who took part in a testing of the COVID-19 vaccine died! Here’s what the authorities say (Kurir). Soon after the news had become viral, the reaction from the University of Oxford followed, which denied that the volunteer died due to the vaccine consequences.
Claims that the Western vaccines affect sterility and sexual orientation
One of last misleading claims on the vaccine, that even the political elite of the Western Balkans did not remain immune to, refers to the claim that the Western vaccines cause infertility. Therefore, the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency Chairman Milorad Dodik said that he does not believe in the commercial stories from the West, as he is afraid that they would affect the population sterility, and that the Republic of Srpska will supply the vaccines only from Russia. Dr. Ana Gligic, a famous virologist from Serbia, said that there was no risk for reproductive and overall health of those vaccinated with the Western vaccines.
The news portal Srbin.info republished a theory of a rabbi Daniel Asor that the COVID-19 vaccines turn people into homosexuals. Asor adds that the whole global vaccination is a creation of the global malicious government trying to establish the new world order, which is a well-known conspiracy theory. Even though there is no proof for his claim, it also completely opposes the statements of the leading rabbis who invited believers to get vaccinated.
Despite infodemic, vaccination supporters are growing in Montenegro
The flood of disinformation and conspiracy theories about the virus and vaccines, which resulted in the spreading of fear, emphasized the importance of trust in the work of institutions and necessity to provide constantly reliable information about vaccines. That way, the negative effects of numerous conspiracy theories and disinformation about vaccines would be reduced, and the responsibility of a society to identify and analyze harmful narratives would develop. In this context, a piece of research of the international NGO Globsec is indicative. According to the research, Montenegro is the first among the Western Balkans countries, and Central and Eastern Europe in the number of citizens believing in conspiracy theories (four out of ten citizens).
What do the experts say?
At the meeting of the Minister Jelena Borovinic Bojovic and Emanuel Salinas, the World Bank Country Manager for Montenegro, which took place on January 21, the Minister assessed that the current situation is at the same time the warning and the guideline for the further development of the health policy, especially for the cases demanding systematic approach and organization. She added that the response in the form of vaccination to the current health crisis caused by the coronavirus is the absolute priority. In that sense, the results of the Ipsos research from December 2020 pointing out to the fact that one in two citizens in Montenegro (42%) would get vaccinated with one of the available vaccines are encouraging. Also, the number of those doubting the vaccine has significantly lowered (from 22% to 17%).
In days when almost the whole world is facing a lack of medical supplies needed to fight coronavirus, the piece of news that Russia is sending medical aid to the USA spread all around the world with almost the same intensity as the pandemic itself.
And while many media outlets, including the American ones, were surprised, it turned out that the shipment was not free.
Russian media outlets were the first to publish the piece of news on March 31, day after the conversation of Trump and Putin, that medical supplies from Moscow are on the way to New York. They also wrote about it on April 1, when the Russian Ilyushin landed to the John Kennedy Airport. Headline is the same in almost all articles in Russian media: Airplane with Russian aid landed to New York.
Versions of this information were spread by numerous local and regional portals with headlines such as Russia sent aid to the USA, Trump accepted Putin’s aid. Only a couple of media outlets made corrections, or, published the information that this is not aid, but the shipment that Washington paid for.
And while numerous U.S. media outlets thought that this way April Fools’ joke, they received the official explanation. Spokeswoman of State Department, Morgan Ortagus, explained that the supplies purchase followed the telephone conversation that the Presidents Trump and Putin had on March 30.
It is not precised in the statements how much the USA paid for supplies that the official Moscow described as aid, just like the majority of local media.
Both countries have provided humanitarian assistance to each other in times of crisis in the past and will no doubt do so again in the future. This is a time to work together to overcome a common enemy that threatens the lives of all of us, says Ortagus.
Numerous experts think that the delivery of Russian supplies represents a part of the Kremlin propaganda campaign which is strengthening Putin’s strong internal position, while Russia is represented as a savior on a global plan. Meanwhile, as American media informed, the analysts warned Trump that Moscow is using this type of activities to strengthen the influence and possibility of having American sanctions abolished (imposed for electoral interference in 2016). Trump did not want to comment the situation in detail but he stated that Russian propaganda does not concern him since the medical supplies which could save many lives are the crucial factor.
On the other hand, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russian Federation does not deny that Washington paid for the supplies, stating that the USA paid for half of supplies while the other half was paid by Moscow. These claims are denied by an article on Reuters U.S. paying Russia for entire planeload of coronavirus equipment: U.S. official . This agency conveyed the message of a high official in the White House who wanted to stayed anonymous but he stated that his country paid for the planeload of equipment.
The United States is purchasing the supplies and equipment outright, as with deliveries from other countries. We appreciate Russia selling these items to us below market value.” explained high official.
American media did not succeed in finding out the value of the complete delivery but they announced that 60 tons of supplies were received, including respirators, masks and other protective gear.
Russian opposition also criticized Putin for delivering medical supplies to the USA, emphasizing that Russia is also lacking masks and medical supplies for fighting coronavirus.
It is incredible that we are selling the enormous quantity of medical supplies to the USA, but the whole Russia except for Moscow is lacking it, tweeted Leonid Volkov, close associate of Alexei Navalny, leading critic of Putin.
UPDATE: After the article has been posted, the editorial of Novosti updated the original article adding that arrest took place two months ago and not today.
An article headlined: Harvard professor made and sold coronavirus to China? FBI in major bust arrested the expert and two Chinese men (VIDEO), was posted on portal Novosti on April 5. Subsequently, the article was taken by the portals Espreso, Informer and Izazov, Kodex, Kurir, RTV BN, MontenegroClick and Pink.
The article claims that a Harvard professor, Charles Lieber (60) and two Chinese men were arrested on that day in the USA, since there are indications that they sold coronavirus to China.
Referring to FBI, they are adding the following:
FBI announced that there are indications that the USA have just found the man that was producing and selling coronavirus to China. Doctor Charles, Head of the Chemistry and Biology Department at the University of Harvard was arrested – said the Heads of FBI during their address to the nation.
However, this is another piece of disinformation. What is this all about?
On January 28, the United States Department of Justice posted a piece of news on the official site that the Harvard professor and two Chinese citizens were charged in three separate China-related cases.
Professor Charles Lieber, Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint for making a materially false and fictitious statement on receipt of financial means from China.
According to court documents, since 2008, Dr. Lieber has received more than $15 million in grant funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Department of Defense (DOD). These grants, inter alia, require that Lieber is obliged to disclose to these bodies significant foreign donations, or financial support that he may receive from foreign governments or foreign entities.
As it turned out, Lieber was a “Strategic Scientist” at Wuhan University of Technology (WUT) from 2012 to 2017 through the participation at Thousand Talents Plan. Under the terms of Lieber’s three-year Thousand Talents contract, he received $50,000 USD per month, his living expenses were covered, he received additional $1.5 million to establish a research lab at WUT and he was obliged to work not less than 9 months a year for WUT.
The complaint states that in 2018 and 2019, Lieber lied about his involvement in the Thousand Talents Plan and affiliation with WUT during an interview with investigators from National Institutes for Health, i.e. he claimed that he has never participated in this program.
When it comes to two Chinese citizens, they do not have any connection with Dr. Lieber. They are charged for smuggling the research from institutions that they were at and for sending them to China. It should be added that these three cases are completely unrelated, except for the fact that China is mentioned in each of them.
Therefore, a doctor was arrested for telling falsehoods to the American authorities on his financing from abroad and his case has nothing to do with coronavirus.
Many world media outlets wrote about this at the end of January and beginning of February this year.
UPDATE: Following our announcement, the Montenegrin media CDM, RTCG, Portal Analitika, Antena M, Pobjeda, FOS Media and Kolektiv have corrected the information and announced that China has not officially declared the end of the epidemic.
Numerous Montenegrin and regional portals have announced today that China has declared the end of the coronavirus epidemic outbreak. The news, according to the comments, made many citizens happy, but unfortunately it is not true.
Montenegrin portals Analitika, IN4S, CDM, RTCG, Pobjeda, PV informer, Antena M, FOS Media, Kodex, Kolektiv and Standard published the identical news – “China has declared end of epidemic outbreak”, referring to Banja Luka ATV. The information states that the spread of COVID-19 virus in China has stopped completely, and that the number of confirmed cases of infection is less than 3,000.
The portals transmitted a statement by the spokesman of the National Health Commission, Mi Feng.
On the other hand, the world media, including the Reuters, the New York Times, the US News, as well as China’s Sinhua.net portal, have published more complete information in which there were no words of the end of epidemic, but rather the emergence of new imported cases of coronavirus in China. It is also claimed that the risk of a second wave of infection is increased at the moment when transmission among China’s local population has actually stopped because the number of those infected has fallen below 3,000.
Also, these media have published a complete quote of Feng’s statement.
“China had an accumulated total of 693 imported cases entering from 42 countries, which meant the possibility of a new round of infections remains relatively big”.
It is stated that the virus is brought mainly to China by its nationals residing abroad, and that 45 new cases were registered on Saturday, down by 9 on the previous day.
This case only confirms that in these especially sensitive days, when we are all waiting for encouraging news, the media should pay extra attention and verify completely all the information.
This week again, the Digital Forensic Center has noted numerous pieces of disinformation and new conspiracy theories on corona virus. Besides that, we also initiated new live blog where we are posting the most important information on COVID-19 from Montenegro, region and world. Find the most important events that marked this week in this weekly review.
Dangerous video has been circulating on Facebook
A video which was for the first time posted on Facebook page Danak u krvi u Srbiji has been circulating on Facebook. It aims to convey the message that coronavirus is not a threat. The actors of the video are Wolfgang Wodarg, German pulmonologist and longtime MP of Social Democratic Party of Germany in Bundestag, Tom Jefferson from Cochrane Institute in Denmark and Dr. Michael Kentsch. The three of them are discussing the current situation for German television broadcaster Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (2DF) and are pointing out two theses:
- COVID-19 is not more dangerous than the ordinary flu
- COVID-19 does not require isolation measures, people are needlessly in quarantine without medical explanation
During pandemic, numerous theories have emerged and are being spread on a daily basis. This kind of content is typically characterized by numerous claims, presented as facts which have cause-effect relations, but with no credible proofs.
We are using this opportunity to appeal to all the citizens that the posts of individuals on social media are not a credible source of information on coronavirus. It is necessary to follow the posts and information coming from official and credible addresses such as the Institute for Public Health, Ministry of Health and World Health Organization.
Absence of help
Jerusalem Post posted the alleged statement of an Israeli doctor living and working in Parma. As it is stated in the article, Dr. Peleg said for Channel 12 that due to lack of capacities, Italy is no longer offering any help to people older than 60. It is not possible to find that statement or a similar one in original version. On the other hand, that post was condemned by numerous Italians on Facebook, claiming that it represents fake news.
Russian citizen arrested for spreading disinformation
Russian citizen was arrested in Montenegro for spreading fake news and disinformation on coronavirus. In fact, A.G. (35) posted on one social media that there are around 1000 people infected with coronavirus, that six of them died and that Montenegro is expecting the Italian scenario as well as that the staff of Avala hotel is infected and hospitalized
Creating panic due to coronavirus
In his article for portal Pravda, Velimir Erakovic is explaining the critical situation that Montenegro is in, affected by coronavirus. Article mentions alarming situation in quarantines, breaking privacy rights and alleged hoax concerning moratorium on loans as well as Montenegro being on the verge of bankruptcy due to stoppage of criminal activities because of coronavirus (smuggling of drugs, cigarettes and weapon).
Corona „united“ ex Yugoslavia
Corona „united“ ex Yugoslavia. Take a look at how many posts have been noted by DFC team during the period from March 20 – 26, which hashtags and emoticons are the most popular and which regional media are posting the majority of news on COVID19
We initiated COVID19 live blog
We are receiving news on coronavirus through social media, media and notifications. There are incomplete or false information everywhere, despite the efforts of the officials and media to remove them. Many are confused by that turmoil and are looking for answers. Point of DFC blog is to present in a simple manner the proofs of disinformation and narratives being spread in media and on social media but also to present the official information on pandemic
G7 noted Chinese disinformation campaign
We are receiving news on coronavirus through social media, media and notifications. There are incomplete or false information everywhere, despite the efforts of the officials and media to remove them. Many are confused by that turmoil and are looking for answers. Point of DFC blog is to present in a simple manner the proofs of disinformation and narratives being spread in media and on social media but also to present the official information on pandemic.
During coronavirus pandemic, citizens and media are being faced with numerous pieces of disinformation. When it comes to Western Balkans, around 245 thousand articles referring to coronavirus have been noted during last 30 days. Our colleague, Milan Jovanovic, was explaining for RTCG the dangers of fake news in pandemic period.
Man who died in Lazio is not a Montenegrin citizen
Some Montenegrin and Serbian media posted fake news that a man who died in Lazio (33) is a Montenegrin citizen and also the youngest victim of corona virus in that region. It was stated form Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Montenegro that the information conveyed by particular Montenegrin media, referring to Italian site and posts on social media is not true.
Deep state, baba Vanga and coronavirus
Week behind us is marked by numerous conspiracy theories. One of the Democratic Front leaders, Nebojsa Medojevic, claims that the whole crisis provoked by COVID-19 is only the artificial project that a deep state lies behind and that the point is to create chaos in Europe, especially in Orthodoxy. Appearing on the YouTube show „Intervju – u Centar“, Medojevic pointed out that the same mighty leaders are lying behind moving of the military formations ISIL to Europe, which media present as „migrant issue.“
On the other hand, in a debatable article published on Serbian portal Telegraf and after that on portal Politika Ekspres, it is claimed that baba Vanga predicted COVID19. These two articles reached more than 30 Facebook groups, which together have more than 2 million people.
Sputnik: It is possible that virus was made in order to reduce Italian population
Sputnik team from Latvia, in the article published on March 15 is presenting numerous non-founded conspiracy theories on coronavirus. Starting from the idea that COVID-19 originates from Latvia, to the one that it is made in order to reduce the number of old persons in Italy. The argument which is supporting their claim is that Italy has a large number of retired people, who are burdening the budget with their incomes.
Conte became Bolsonaro
Viral post on Facebook, allegedly containing the statement of Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, is fake.
“We lost control. I don’t understand what else we could do, all the possible solutions on Earth have been used. Our only hope is in Heaven, God save your people.”
Post is displaying the alleged photography of Conte.
It turned out that the quotation is made up. It cannot be found on any credible website through Google search, and the message does not correlate with the recent measures that Italy took. It should be added that the President of Brazil Bolsonaro is on the photo, and not the person whose statement is conveyed.
Even though Facebook marked it as fake, the post has been spread on social media.
Poland banned the transit for Russians airplanes
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs confirmed that Warsaw did not block any plane to Italy, adding that Polish airspace remains open for transit. The responses followed after the tweet of Russian Senator Alexey Pushkov who claimed that the Russian plane to Italy, loaded with goods for fighting coronavirus, was obliged to take a turn after the authorities banned the entrance into the Polish airspace.
After the official démenti, Senator deleted his tweet.
Coordinated „attacks“ on Holy Communion
In the article on portal Srbin.info, it is claimed that media in Serbia and Montenegro are attacking the Serbian Orthodox Church in a coordinate manner, due to religious gatherings and Communion with one teaspoon.
They also state that „making people decide between health and freedom of religion is nothing but a dangerous manipulation which should justify totalitarian order.
The authorities from all around the world are banning and punishing all kinds of gatherings, not as a sign of Totalitarianism but as a way to prevent spreading of virus.
Two pieces of news are the best reflection of a danger that the gatherings of any kind, including the religious, represent in this moment.
The first one is the fact that Milutin, Bishop of Valjevo and two priests of this eparchy were infected with coronavirus this week during liturgy. In the official announcement of the eparchy it is stated that „he, as a faithful shepherd, walked and served his eparchy, the way that he has been serving God and mankind for more than half of a century.“
The other one is the piece of news that Pope Francis began his extraordinary Urbi et orbi on Saint Peter’s Square in Vatican where he prays for the end of coronavirus pandemic and gives his complete forgiveness to believers. In normal circumstances, the Square would be full of people listening to Pope’s message but yesterday – there was no one.
Digital Forensic Center
Digital Forensic Center is a project of the Atlantic Council of Montenegro with the main goals of countering the problem of disinformation and fake news as well as reducing problem of digital/media illiteracy through events, work shops, and lectures that will raise awareness of this issue.
- Have you found a disputable article? Please share it with us, alongside things you find questionable.
- DFC - Digital Forensic Center
- Address: Serdara Jola Piletića 1/J, Podgorica 81000, Montenegro
- E-Mail: [email protected]
- Phone: +382 20 510 806
- Fax: +382 20 510 807