A video of two Italians buying the allegedly efficient medicine to treat coronavirus on the Moscow airport has been circulating on social media. Two men entered a pharmacy and bought „Arbidol“, allegedly efficient medicine to treat coronavirus. Moreover, coronavirus is drawn on the packing of the medicine. One of the actors of the video is saying that „there has been so many deaths in Italy since this medicine is not available, while Russians can protect themselves thanks to it.

„Arbidol“ (falsely called Abidol) was developed by a Russian pharmaceutical company „JSC Pharmstandard“ and is not available in Europe and the USA due to the fact that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not include it into their approved flu medicaments. That is the reason why this medicine can be bought in Moscow but not in Europe and the USA.

„Arbidol“ is actually a name for the medicine whose generic term is „umifenovir“ and it was not created in 2019 as it was stated but during the 1970s in the Soviet Union. Patent right expired in 2007 and since then, „Arbidol“ is produced in numerous companies in Russia, Belarus, and China.

A graphic view of tweets on “Abidol” or “Arbidol” on Twitter.

Besides this one, there is another video with the same claims. Unnamed person from our language region claims that it is a sort of anti-virus substance, to fight the epidemic.

He added that a pharmacist ensured him that the virus is nothing new and that it has existed since forever.

„Don’t panic, goodbye friends and all the best from Russia“, he concluded at the end of the video.

WHO’s website dedicated to current pandemic states that to date, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the new coronavirus.

Many times have we emphasized that the individuals’ posts on social media are not a credible source of information on coronavirus. When there is the cure, relevant institutions will inform us, but not Facebook or other social media. It is necessary to follow information and posts coming from credible and official addresses, such as the World Health Organization, the Institute for Public Health and the Ministry of Health.

While the world is fighting the coronavirus, there is some encouraging news. A patient from Genoa (79) was cured from coronavirus with the experimental medicine named „Remdesivir“. On the other hand, in China, more precisely in Wuhan, there was not a single case of coronavirus yesterday.

A coordinated campaign against Montenegro, which has been spreading negative and bizarre disinformation over the last 3 months, continues unabated

Another narrative has emerged in the last few days: NATO requires from the President of Montenegro to introduce a state of emergency, as a response to current litanies, that are being held twice a week. This fake news was initially published on the Serbian portal Srpsko ujedinjenje, and later on transmitted by other Serbian portals Alo, Vidovdan and Opcija.

All of the articles promoting this narrative have a couple of inconsistencies in common:

  1. They claim, without any credible evidence, that dozens of NATO special units have arrived in Montenegro, have rented villas in Podgorica and Budva and have largely been working on a project of breaking the Serbian Orthodox Church back.
  2. Allegedly, NATO special forces are under the command of Stuart Peach, located outside Montenegro. Marshal Stuart Peach is a chairman of the NATO Military Committee and has no mandate to command over NATO forces, but to advise, from a military aspect, the North Atlantic Council, as the most important NATO body
  3. Contents of the articles state, without any sources and evidence provided, that President Đukanović was informed during his recent trip to the US that any compromise with the Serbian Orthodox Church would be a slap to NATO and it would be unacceptable.
  4. The mentioned portals cite Montenegrin media as sources. The fact is that no Montenegrin media has written about a potential state of the emergency. This topic was discussed only in a letter of the Democratic Front addressed to Aivo Orav and to the EU mission in Montenegro.

The Ministry of Defense of Montenegro also responded to these writings, announcing that the Ministry denies allegations in some Serbian media outlets about engaging NATO special forces in Montenegro. They are absolutely false and, once again, with tendency of flagrantly disinforming and deceiving the public.

The stories about the loss of the country’s sovereignty, the freedom that NATO soldiers would enjoy on our territory, and the possible attacks from other states or terrorist organizations holding grudge against NATO, date back to a time of Montenegro’s accession talks with the Alliance. Even back then did the opponents to the Montenegrin North Atlantic Alliance membership air similar narratives in the Montenegrin and Serbian media and political scene.

Hence, an article headlined It doesn’t seem as they aren’t building: NATO properties everywhere, everything that the Alliance controls in Montenegro and published on the IN4S portal on November 5 is nothing new. It reads that since Montenegro joined NATO without a referendum, pro-government media has been constantly launching in the public information about the Alliance membership benefits. It refers to the statement of Dusko Markovic confirming that in the moment of joining this aggressive military alliance, as much as 85% of the citizens were against it.

Such claim of the portal referring to the alleged confirmation of Prime Minister Markovic is false and put tendentiously in such context, with the intention of disinforming the readers and leading them to false conclusions. In an interview for the Radio Television of Kosovo (RTK) held on February 6 last year, on the eve of his visit to Pristina, the Montenegrin Prime Minister stated that the Government of Montenegro recognized Kosovo despite the fact that more than 85% of the citizens were against it.

It is true that it is false

That was not the first time IN4S put this statement of Markovic – referring to the opposed citizens (85%) – in the NATO membership context, and not in the Kosovo recognition context. The portal editor Gojko Raicevic attended the first Russian-Balkan summit of public diplomacy held in Voronezh, Russia, on November 12 this year. On that occasion, he again highlighted the news on Montenegro’s membership into NATO, contrary to the alleged 85% of the population who were opposed.

The author also recalled the building of a military training range on the Sinjajevina Mountain. As written, beside regular trainings of the AFM, there were indices that the range would have other purposes too, what has raised great concern. The research center of IN4S found out about a plan to use the range for hazardous waste disposal, without providing any concrete proof for the claims.

In the last months, Sinjajevina has been at the epicenter of the public interest through discussions and debates, because of the fear of the impact on environmental pollution. However, the Ministry and the Government stated many times that the range would exclusively serve for the Armed Forces training, and not for surplus weapons destruction, as frequently stated in the media.

Reading these and similar articles, it is suggested that certain portals sometimes return, in the regular order, to already well-worn and disputed topics when they do not have ideas for the new ones.

Press release of the Government of Montenegro

Given the purpose the location concerned will have, the building of a training range for needs of the Armed Forces of Montenegro will not have an impact on environmental pollution. This is also confirmed by the report on the measurement of radioactivity in the environment (air, water, soil) done by the PHI Institute for Public Health of the Republic of North Macedonia and commissioned by the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of North Macedonia, for the Krivolak military range, after a month-long exercise.

DFC magazin broj 14

Over the last years, and particularly over the last months, we witnessed very intensive negative campaigns on Serbian media portals aimed at deteriorating the image of Montenegro as a preferable tourist destination

The Serbian and pro-Serbian media do not miss an opportunity to point out at all the tourist offer shortcomings on the Montenegrin coast. By spreading panic and giving warning alerts, they tend to present bad situation in the country, with a view to destabilizing the domestic economy by provoking the collapse of tourism.

Dreadful sight in Montenegro: Serbs will never visit you again! Tourists cancel packages on a large scale! Discharge of raw sewage seen at the most beautiful beach in Montenegro! Dangerous shark seen in the Adriatic Sea! Sneaks scared bathers at Buljarica and Mogren beach in Budva!

We singled out only some of the headlines which media such as Espreso, Alo, Telegraf, Srbija Danas, Informer portals, use to spread negative campaign. The headlines are followed by a set of appalling photos of waste in Sutomore, Budva and alike, intending to sabotage tourist season.

However, according to Maja Vukicevic, PR manager of the Montenegro Stars Hotel Group, most of the published photos and texts have been fabricated and re- cycled over the years.

Regardless such a negative campaign, the number of Serbian tourists has not decreased compared to previous years, said Aleksandra Maksimovic, PR of the National Tourism Organization. Judging from the tourism turnover gene- rated from the Serbian market, it is evident that the negative media campaigns do not influence significantly the tourist revenues, she concluded.

The informative portal borba.me published on February 9, 2019 an article entitled “Montenegro goes deeper and deeper: Learning Albanian songs and cutting out Serbian writers” on its site. This is the heading that can easily catch the readers’ attention and make them continue reading the text and find out what the kids in schools learn and which texts they do read.

Screenshot of the article heading on the borba.me portal

As stated in the text, there is an Albanian song Mora Mandolinen in the textbook for the musical culture subject for the third grade of elementary school. The portal points out this information as something unacceptable, stating that the children’s learning the Albanian song results in Montenegro getting deeper and deeper. However, we must point out the fact that the text does not state that this is a folk song, but rather an Albanian song, while under the photos from the textbooks it is written that it is an Albanian folk song, and it is published on the portal. Accordingly, it is important to emphasize that in the musical culture curriculum for the third grade of the elementary school, one of the learning outcomes is singing, individually and in a group, folk and artistic songs, which is a sufficient reason for this song to be found on the list.

Screenshot of the curriculum for the musical culture subject http://www.zzs.gov.me/naslovna/programi/osnovno

Moreover, the text states that there are some new names in Montenegrin textbooks, while some other names have disappeared from it. The author gives mocking comments that everything is different in Montenegro today, and instead of the Serbian renowned writers, the opportunity has been given to some new, literary “giants”. The author characterizes Serbian writers as renowned, while new authors, who are predominantly Montenegrin and Bosnian authors, are mockingly called “giants”.

Having an insight into the curriculum of the Montenegrin – Serbian, Bosnian, Croatian language and Literature subject, which is available on the official website of the Bureau for Educational Services of Montenegro, we have come to the list of the authors in the Montenegrin textbooks. All names listed on the portal borba.me are found in the textbooks, apart from Nazmi Rahmani. In the textbooks from the first to the ninth grade of the elementary school, Montenegrin, Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian writers, as well as some foreign writers, are enlisted. Only one Albanian writer and his piece is found as a text proposal for the ninth grade.

Screenshot of the curriculum for Montenegrin – Serbian, Bosnian, Croatian language and literature
Find out more on : http://www.zzs.gov.me/naslovna/programi/osnovno

The author pointed out that, back then, the curriculum could not be imagined without St. Sava, Desanka Maksimovic, Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj, Aleksa Santic, implying that these authors are no longer present in the textbooks. Nevertheless, the name Desanka Maksimovic or Aleksa Santic can still be found in the elementary school textbooks, which can be confirmed by reviewing the curriculum.

Also, a detailed analysis of the Montenegrin-Serbian, Bosnian, Croatian language and literature curriculum, led us to the conclusion that the number of Serbian writers presented in Montenegrin textbooks is almost equal to Montenegrin, which may confute the author’s information that Serbian writers were cut out.

There are several topics that have being recycled for years, and certain media will see to provide some of them with the never-ending shelf life. Considerable share of conspiracy theories, spins, unverified and disinformation narratives on the territory of Montenegro, concerns not as much Montenegro, as the NATO Alliance. Such narratives, playing the emotional card, due to the unpleasant events from 90s, have their target audience, all with the task to further polarize the Montenegrin society and divert the course from relevant and crucial issues for future of our country, but also of the region.

A number of regional media have reported the statement of a NATO official, who said for Pobjeda newspapers the following: “The mission is open for members and partners and we already have Australia, Finland and Sweden participating in it. We would like to compliment participation of Montenegro, since we have excellent relations with your country, although our process of introducing a member may sometimes take a while”, during a briefing at NATO Headquarters, which dealt with the NATO Mission Iraq (NMI). However, partial reporting is utmost unprofessional, all with a view to deceive and provide disinformation to the public, as well as to further discredit NATO Alliance.

What has actually happened?

At NATO Summit in Brussels this July, on the requirements of the Iraqi government, allied leaders launched new training mission in Iraq, named NATO Mission Iraq (NMI). The new mission is based on trainings and efforts with the aim of building capacities, that has already been carried out in Iraq through NATO Training and Capacity Building Activity in Iraq.

The Mission was launched in the end of October and consists of 500 members. Apart from member states, soldiers from Australia, Finland and Sweden have taken part.

source: nato.int

Thus, this is a non-combat mission with the aim of building more efficient, inclusive, sustainable and responsible defense and security structures. Also, it will strive to improve professionalism of Iraq forces and security institutions, by helping Iraq build capacities for preventing ISIS reemerging.

However, unlike Pobjeda, a number of portals, while reporting, has decided to omit crucial part, i.e. non-combat character of the mission, with a view to train people. On the other hand, the emphasis of the narrative was that Montenegrin soldiers are going to fight in Iraq, which caused strong reactions and disapproval expressed through numerous comments posted on portals, knowing that it is a high-risk area of crisis, where the fight against ISIS continues.

Additionally, they referred to the recent statement of the Minister of Defense, Boskovic saying that Montenegro was interested in participating in the mission at logistics positions at the airport in Bagdad, as well as to the statement of the President Djukanovic after the Summit in Brussels, stating that Montenegro Intends to send its soldiers to this venture.

Through headlines such as “Cannon Fodder: The Army of Montenegro – a part of the NATO structures on battlefields in Iraq, Milo’s Army Fighting for American Interests” and selective reporting of the facts, portals, such as in4s.net, b92.net, srbijadanas.com, standard.rs, novosti.rs, kurir.rs, aspire to deceive public when it comes to this sensitive issue.

Spreading disinformation and propaganda through the Internet, especially via social media has been in the center of debates in the last years, due to the severity of the issue, but also because of the urging need to counter that issue, particularly after the US elections in 2016. It should be emphasized that portals b92.netand kurir.rs are the most visited in Serbia, with 36 million views on monthly basis, hence, they not only do harm to their reputation by partial reporting, but also contribute to general level of (dis)information of the society.