Proclaiming corona free destination on June 2 and opening the borders for particular countries in the region and Europe incited the new attacks on Montenegro

Even though Kosovo and the upcoming elections in Serbia were the occasion and topic of the President Vucic’s appearance on the TV show FoKus on a B92 television (on June 14), it is evident that the position of the Serbian Orthodox Church and Serbian population in Montenegro, as well as the corona free status of Montenegro, were not less interesting.

When a TV show host asked Vucic why Serbia is testing so much since no one in the region is doing it, Vucic commented that Serbia does not want to hide anything, adding that the funniest thing is when someone from the region is teaching us what to do regarding coronavirus. These people, they do not have a laboratory, nor the PCR tests… You have two territories in the region where there are no laboratories for the PCR tests. You just laugh, let it go and say – ok, you are great, you are “corona free”  while we don’t know anything, alluding to Montenegro which proclaimed the end of pandemics on June 2 and therefore became corona free destination.

Brnabic – the decision of Montenegro is political

During her visit to Ivanjica on June 8, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic responded negatively to the journalists’ question whether a decision of Serbia to abolish the second negative test for the coronavirus infected was political and tactical. However, she added that a decision of Montenegro (author’s comment: to close its borders for Serbia) is political…we are following the advice of experts and are not making any political decisions in a fight against COVID-19. The easiest political decision would be to reduce the testing. If you look at the countries which live from tourism, you will see that today, they do not have anything. They have 10 cases, no newly infected. Do you think that’s possible? Everyone who thinks this way is either stupid or crazy, Brnabic concluded.

Ana Brnabic in a TV show Cirilica on Happy TV

However, this is not the only occasion when the Prime Minister of Serbia spoke this way. In a TV show Cirilica on Happy TV (June 15), Brnabic commented on the decisions of Greece and Montenegro to open (or close) the borders with Serbia and said that there are countries that depend on tourism but are not testing people. They are not corona free but they are not testing… You don’t know the epidemiological situation there, you don’t know what to expect nor where is the hotspot… As mafia would say „no man, no problem“, when there are no tests, there are no positive cases either. Interpreting the words of Stalin death solves all problems – no man, no problem, the Prime Minister of Serbia pointed out, when speaking of Montenegro, that if there are no tests, there are no infected.

The Institute for Public Health announced on Sunday, June 14, that one positive case was registered. It is the imported case who was in Bosnia and Herzegovina a week before. The next day, another COVID-19 positive case who also was in Bosnia and Herzegovina was registered. These two cases are the first cases registered from May 5.

Minister of Health of Serbia, Zlatibor Loncar, commented on the Montenegro’s request to Serbia – to explain 4000 recovered cases in one day. He said that Montenegro must qualify with knowledge and results so that it would receive an answer to this question, adding that Montenegro has tested from the beginning of the epidemic as much as Serbia has tested for three days. You need to test people, to have laboratories, to be expert in that field, Loncar concluded.

Serbian pulmonologist Branimir Nestorovic (famous for his controversial statements regarding COVID-19), was wondering at the beginning of June: What is the laboratory where Montenegrins have done the PCR test, since they do not have a laboratory for testing? He added that the rough testing on coronavirus is the only one performed in Montenegro. His statement was also supported by the news portal Kurir. A journalist from that tabloid commented that it is clear that Montenegro is presenting itself as a corona free country since the tourist season is beginning soon. They have been telling lies from the beginning of the pandemic. The only thing that was not a lie is that they did not have any REGISTERED cases in the beginning, only because they did not have COVID-19 tests, therefore, they could not register the infected which doesn’t mean that there were no infected cases.

Response of the NKT to Serbia

The National Coordinate Body of Montenegro (NKT) gave a statement regarding these claims, announcing that the so-far quality and efficient engagement of a whole health system and operational headquarters is the best démenti of the poorly argued and false claims presented from the highest instances in the region, inter alia, the claim that only „rough“ tests are performed in Montenegro, therefore, Montenegro does not have the adequate laboratories and testing resources. They emphasized that Montenegro has the most modern laboratory, excellent experts, and organization.

The same day, the Government of Montenegro posted a video on Facebook from the Molecular Microbiology Department, showing how and where the testing for coronavirus is performed.

Recognition for Montenegro

However, not all Serbian officials have given negative statements and criticized the Montenegrin health system during coronavirus pandemic. Epidemiologist Zoran Radovanovic said in his interview for Pobjeda (June 14) that Montenegro dealt better with coronavirus than all the countries in the region. Even the superficial look at the situation indicates that Montenegro has done the best. The epidemic started on March 17 and passed about a month and a half later with a relatively small number of victims. It is certain that the number of the infected was higher than the number of the officially registered case which accounts for 324, since COVID-19 also appears with the absent, or more frequently, very mild symptoms. However, Montenegrin epidemiologists are keeping the situation under control. If it wasn’t the case, the epidemic would burst from May 5, when this disease was diagnosed for the last time, as this recognized scientist concluded.

Montenegro is the least developed society in Europe when it comes to media and informatics literacy. Instead of searching for reliable information on relevant media, we wait for them to appear on social media, estimated Zoran Markovic Zonjo, director and member of The Books of Knjige (TBOK) organization, in the interview for the DFC Magazine.

Zoran Markovic Zonjo is someone who has been present in the media for ages and who often comments on fake news and conspiracy theories on his Facebook page, which has more than 113,000 followers. This is the reason why he was our best choice for the first interview, which we are publishing in the 20th issue of the DFC Magazine – the anniversary issue.

Markovic considers that the greatest war that has been waging now is the one against fake news, because, as he explained, anyone can create fake news or spread them on their social media accounts. We also discussed why people are more susceptible to believing fake news in the times of a crisis, and the possibilities of improving media literacy in our society.

DFC: Are you familiar with the work of the Digital Forensic Center and how would you assess it? To what extent is the work of such an organization important for society in the fight against disinformation, fake news, and conspiracy theories?

Z. Markovic Zonjo: I have heard about you, but I haven’t been following you until now. Of course, it is important that such an organization exists, which would point out to citizens what disinformation is and what isn’t. The problem is that disinformation had already made harm before being debunked. People, however, tend to memorize the things which appear first. Nothing that comes after has the same effect as the first blow.

Our problem is much media per capita

DFC: How would you assess the Montenegrin media scene and which social media do you follow?

Z. Markovic Zonjo: Media in Montenegro can be better, that is for sure. But compared to those in Serbia, they are small potatoes. There’s a level of seriousness in our country, however, and luckily, the editors of the most prominent media have built a high wall to defend themselves from pap and pablum. Our problem is much media per capita. Those media can’t have financial stability on such a small market, therefore they can’t be immune to political spheres of interest. Now, it is more than clear which media support the government and which the opposition. Only by connecting these two dots, we are able to find the objective thread of a piece of information. When it comes to social media, I’ve been active on Facebook under the nickname ZONJO for over twelve years now, while I started using Instagram this January, under the name ZONJO_. Most of the time I create my own content and I don’t search for relevant information there.

Markovic has more than 113,000 followers on Facebook

DFC: On which platforms and in which media do you find fake news most frequently?

Z. Markovic Zonjo: Regarding the current media attacks on Montenegro coming from Serbia, it is evident that those are Serbian media and their promoters in our country. They really write a bunch of nonsense. It is interesting to note that every year before the summer season, there is a similar negative campaign going on, which has escalated this year. According to their reporting, every year there was someone eaten by a shark on our coast or a virus that made chaos, or harassment of Serbian tourists. However, the agenda obviously suite the ruling regime both in Serbia and Montenegro, because I can’t see us benefiting either economically or politically by Greeks or Croats making business.

No one has ever apologized to us for fake news

DFC: Have you ever seen fake news or disinformation published about you or your TBOK organization, and what was your reaction to it?

Z. Markovic Zonjo: As far as I can remember now, it happened only once. There was a research text in Monitor, republished by Vijesti, about the Montenegrin Ministry of Culture financing films. The Books of Knjige was lamped together with authors who have been financed by the Ministry for years and haven’t produced any film during that period. The truth was somewhat different. We got the money on paper, but we have never seen any of the cash in reality. While preparing his text, a journalist asked me for a statement, but it was done rather in an unserious way, via the Facebook page. These days, I was very tired and the obligation slipped from my mind, while he went on with the article containing half-information that he got from his source. In the end, fake news was good for us as we made pressure on the Ministry to wire finally the money, and shortly after, we made a film. Unfortunately, the received money wasn’t enough to meet the budget. It is important to note that no one has ever apologized to us for fake news, not even via message on Facebook. I see there a huge flaw of the domestic media. If it occurs that nonsense slips away and is published, then it would seem logical to compensate for the damage with an apology, at least.

DFC: The coronavirus epidemic, both in our country and the world, was followed by many fake news and conspiracy theories. Which of those do you find the most memorable?

Z. Markovic Zonjo: I wouldn’t specify one piece of news, rather a general feeling of a large number of citizens in Montenegro now that the coronavirus is nonsense which shouldn’t cause the world shutdown. This happened due to the influence of many conspiracy theories, but also because of the fact that much greater consequences have spared us. We could use here the old saying: out of sight, out of mind. Many didn’t care about the numbers of the dead or the images of mass graves, because they didn’t see it in person or experienced it firsthand.

People love to believe intriguing information

DFC: During the coronavirus, you wrote that you don’t know whether all those people, who were advocating two months ago that the situation around the novel coronavirus was another media falsehood, are now ashamed of it. Which profile stands out in such rhetoric and are people more susceptible to believing in conspiracy theories and fake news during a state of emergency?

Z. Markovic Zonjo: It seems that people love to believe intriguing information, regardless of the situation, and that somehow stands out particularly in the times of a crisis. I see there two types: a carrier – those super-smarts who what to stand out from the masses, regardless of the reason, and spread conspiracy theories as a sort of their intellectual image. The other group is those people who believe foolishly such nonsense, without any sense of logic. It is interesting to note that those who believe that the COVID-19 wasn’t dangerous are anti-vaxxers by rule, and in a large number of cases procession-supporters too. In other words, those people don’t trust the system, because it has deceived them million times before. When people become existentially wasted, then one trouble more or less means nothing to them.

DFC: During the recent protests in Niksic, there was a photo on social media of an injured baby, with a claim that police beat the boy. To what extent can such manipulation be dangerous, particularly in a sensitive situation the Montenegrin society is now?

Z. Markovic Zonjo: This is a typical example of stirring up the divisions. But, I don’t fall for that and I made jokes about the post. An internal combustion engine called the DPS consumes a great deal of gasoline called pro-Serbian opposition. From time to time, the engine is lubricated by a minor political party, which after certain kilometers simply flows away. The problem with such engines is that they develop little power, literally CRAWLING ALONG. I like to think of me and my friends from the group as windshield washer fluids, which make the road ahead clearer.

DFC: Media literacy research recently done by the DFC showed that the majority of respondents find fake news mostly on social media and news portals. In what way can our society and young people, in particular, become more educated about media literacy?

Z. Markovic Zonjo: I was shocked by revelation two years ago at a regional IT gathering, lectured by the Google director from Southeastern Europe. He then stated that out of all countries in Europe, Facebook exerts the greatest influence in Montenegro. He then added that it is proportional to the development of media and informatics literacy. The more developed a society is, the less influence Facebook has, and vice versa – the less it is developed, the more influential Facebook is. According to that definition, Montenegro is the least developed society in Europe when it comes to media and informatics literacy. Instead of searching for reliable information on the relevant media directly, we wait for them to appear on social media. While waiting lazily, various bots are gladly shoving us different phallic candies, which we’re obviously sucking on with great pleasure.

The only solution – to unplug from the socket

DFC: Do you think that social media are sufficiently dedicated to the protection of those platforms from suspicious posts and what could be improved in that sense?

Z. Markovic Zonjo: The greatest war currently waged on the planet is the war against fake news. The situation, in which anyone can create fake news or spread it on their social media accounts, initially seems way too much for any algorithm to handle. No matter how much the filters are sophisticated, or helped by administrators who remove such news, I think that this task is impossible. Moreover, social media have owners who support this or that administration, so it is also possible to discuss their readiness to fight for the truth until the end. Apparently, the only solution is to unplug oneself from the socket.

The Digital Forensic Center did a detailed analysis of the pieces of research of the International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan studies (IFIMES), due to discovered inconsistencies in claims, biased coverage of specific topics and changing attitude towards the events and players in a short period.

In their last research 2020 Bosnia and Herzegovina-Montenegro: Dodik and Đukanović are destabilizing factors in Balkans and Europe?, IFIMES states that the declaring Montenegro a corona-free country was met with ridicule in Western diplomatic circles. Recently, Montenegro’s President Milo Đukanović (DPS) lightly declared Montenegro’s “victory over the Corona virus”, which was met with indignation, disbelief and ridicule in Western diplomatic circles. What the US President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and other world leaders have not managed to do, Đukanović managed to do through a Twitter post, by which he deceived once again the Montenegrin and international public.

Without any intention of commenting on or disproving the author’s personal opinion, we cannot ignore the fact that the vocabulary used is neither appropriate nor characteristic of academic pieces of research of the Institute, whose name suggests influence, along with expertise and professionalism.

Shift in writing about Montenegro and Serbia

The research Security-intelligence activities at the time of Covid-19 pandemic, published on March 29 of this year, suggests that Montenegro is hiding results in the fight against coronavirus and withholding the data on the infected, presented itself as one of the few countries with no Covid-19 cases, which did not actually reflect the real situation in the country.

Besides negative narrative about Montenegro and its President, favoring the Serbian President and Serbia is evident, and they have been portrayed as victims of the intelligence services’ activities in the region. The research Serbia 2020: Serbia – scene of confrontation of intelligence services? (published on May 15) suggests that cooperation Podgorica-Zagreb-Pristina is directed against Aleksandar Vucic, without providing any proofs for the claim.

Vucic and Becirovic at the meeting in Belgrade

Analyzing IFIMES’ pieces of research, published from 2016 until 2020, a set of inconsistencies has been seen. The differences are visible in the tone and shift in writing about specific countries and actors. The changes happened after the meeting between President Aleksandar Vucic and IFIMES’ director Zijad Becirovic (on February 12, 2020), even though there was no significant political or social events in the preceding year that would support such a shift.

Vucic – a factor of instability, Djukanovic – a leader

Before the meeting in question, pieces of research had mostly been criticizing the politics of Aleksandar Vucic, calling it a successor of Milosevic and Seselj, and his party right-wing, conservative, and in many aspects nationalistic. Vucic was portrayed as a factor of instability in the region, whose destructive politics is based on media control, creating of crisis in the regional countries, schizophrenic foreign policy and inability to face the past. Both Vucic and Dacic have been constantly creating problems and crisis to appear as problem-solvers and solution-makers, thus ensuring themselves a status of regional leaders.

On the other hand, President of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic is presented as a leader who is establishing harmonic relations with all ethnic communities and whose country became a prominent factor of stability in the region, with one of the best macroeconomic indicators in the region.

Change of tone – roles reversed

In the research Current events in the region 2019: Who wants to destabilize Serbia? published on June 18, 2019, after the meeting of Vucic and Becirovic, the tone of writing is changed and the narratives opposite to the previous analyses of IFIMES are increasingly noticeable. Vucic is presented as a factor of peace and stability in the Balkans and his current position is the most difficult. Even though he has been criticized for media control, now he is the target of the financed media network. The Serbian opposition is also threatening to the integrity of the President of Serbia by misusing the civilian protests and meetings with Kosovo-Albania politicians.

Montenegro, previously presented in the pieces of research of IFIMES as a factor of peace and stability is now presented as a country in which the virus of corruption and criminal is widely present through the DPS and Djukanovic, whose intelligence services are protecting the regime. President Djukanovic, who used to be portrayed as a factor of peace with all ethnic communities, is now playing the card of manipulation, nationalism, and religion in the analyses of IFIMES, and as a former participant in war crimes threatens to the image of NATO.

Besides the change of attitudes of IFIMES towards Montenegro and Serbia, during the observation period, the constant of a positive rating of Zoran Zaev, leader of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) and former Prime Minister of North Macedonia is noticeable. When Zaev came to power, this country became a bright spot in the region, was stated in many pieces of research. Affirming the politics of Zaev continued in the period from July 2017 to July 2019 when Becirovic, together with the other director of IFIMES, Aljaf Bakhtyar became an advisor in the Government of Zoran Zaev.

The credibility of the IFIMES under the microscope

Stjepan Mesic, former President of the Republic of Croatia and Honorable President of IFIMES and Budimir Loncar, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and President of IFIMES Advisory Board distanced themselves from the recently published pieces of research of that Institute, by the mutual press release. The Slovenian media wrote many times on the affairs in relation to the financing of the Institute and its work. The case of Kopar municipality and six ordered pieces of research stands out.

Between 2011 and 2016, the municipality of Kopar bought six pieces of research from IFIMES for EUR 69,132 on the possibility of economic cooperation with the Balkan and Middle East countries, migrants, and Albanian families in that municipality. Instead of detailed analysis, the research provided general information on the wanted topics. A detailed analysis of the Slovenian portal Pod Črto demonstrated that two out of six pieces of research were completely plagiarized, while the two of them contain the parts taken from other sources.

A piece of research from 2016 conducted by the Radio-Television of Slovenia RTVSLO points out to another paid research where the municipality of Kopar sought the analysis on the funeral customs of Muslims, Jews, and Orthodox people for which they paid EUR 11, 000. It is stated that the research is bizarre and does not make any sense since only five Muslims are buried in the municipality of Kopar each year. Therefore, the President of the Islamic Association himself was surprised by the research. The opposition of Kopar stated that a mayor Boris Popovič and director of the Utility Company of Kopar, Gaspar Misic ordered this unnecessary study in order to finance Zijad Becirovic, their acquaintance and Director of IFIMES.

Sputnik just published a piece of information, which was republished by many media in Montenegro and Serbia. The information claims that the judges refused to try Bishop Joanikije and that they gave a written statement about it.

That it is about common fake news and its malicious spreading in order to create chaos in Montenegro was confirmed to us by relevant authorities from the judiciary.

After the fake news on judges was published, another one followed. This time, Serbian media published information about the explosive devices being thrown at the citizens’ protests in Berane.

That this too is fake news was confirmed to us by a DFC associate who was on-site.

A photography of a wounded baby was circulating on social media last night.

A description of the posts on social media stated that the injuries on the baby’s face were caused by the police officers in Niksic, which is the additional proof of their alleged brutality. Along with the pages on Facebook, the photo was posted on the profiles of the politicians Nebojsa Medojevic and Marko Milacic. Medojevic and Milacic asked the citizens to share the photo so that as many people as possible would see how far the regime could go. However, this was a manipulation – photography was not taken in Niksic nor did the police physically assaulted the child. The photo was downloaded from the internet, which is easy to determine with a simple research. After it had been concluded that this is fake news, Medojevic and Milacic removed the debatable post.

Measures introduced to prevent the spreading of coronavirus are in force in Montenegro just like in the rest of the world. Even though the citizens are obliged to comply with the measures in order to avoid possible consequences, the narrative that the church and believers are among the main targets and victims of the „regime repression“ is present on a daily basis in particular media in Montenegro and Serbia.

Ban on liturgies and Holy Communion

These narratives started circulating after the introduction of the measures prohibiting all kinds of gatherings, and therefore the religious gatherings. Even though the other religious communities in Montenegro (the Islamic Community in Montenegro and the Catholic Church in Montenegro) accepted the adopted measures and temporarily stopped the religious rituals in all places of worship, it cannot be said that the Serbian Orthodox Church did the same. The opinion that the adopted measures indicate to the inhuman discrimination „of the Orthodox people only“ is present as well as that the „persecution of the church and its believers“. The impossibility to organize liturgies with the believers and Holy Communion is presented as the greatest issue even though the SPC claims that „nobody got infected from the Holy Communion“ and „everything is being done so that the Church would be hated for its infectious spoon“.

Ban on intercity transportation

The arrest of priest Sinisa Smiljic, a Bosnia and Herzegovina citizen with a temporary residence in Ulcinj due to the violation of measures prohibiting the intercity traffic during the coronavirus pandemic is also presented as the reflection of the regime repression. Even though this is the well-known measure which has been in force for a long period of time and whose violation has always been sanctioned, portal Pravda reported on this piece of news with a headline: SCANDALOUS! MILO’S MONTENEGRINS ARE ARRESTING THE PRIESTS: Priest from Ulcinj is brought in for questioning because of his alleged violation of prohibition of movement which indicates to subjective reporting whose goal is to bring the narrative on the alleged regime repression to the first plan.

Metropolitan Amfilohije and the priests brought in for questioning

Metropolitan Amfilohije, Archpriest Velibor Dzomic and a couple of citizens were brought in on the Orthodox holiday Palm Sunday after the service which was held on Zlatica, due to the violation of temporary measures prohibiting all kinds of gatherings. This initiated a large number of articles on Montenegrin portals such as IN4S and Borba but also on Serbian portals (examples: InformerKurir) and on certain portals in Republika Srpska.

Almost every reporting on this event was followed by the narrative on the persecution of the church, the intention of President Djukanovic to send Metropolitan Amfilohije to jail, attack on the Orthodoxy and its believers, the government’s misuse of the pandemic to fight the church in a hidden manner, fascism and the atmosphere of the prison on Goli otok. There is also a theory that the police officers received the order to infect Metropolitan Amfilohije during his arrest.

Easter and the culmination of narrative on repression

The whole narrative on the regime repression during coronavirus culminated during Easter holidays. It is well known that the religious holidays are celebrated without the presence of believers in this situation all around the world. Therefore, Pope Francis sent his Easter message „Urbi et Orbi“ from the empty Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican, the Orthodox priests served the liturgy in the empty Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow invited all the citizens to spend Easter in their homes.

Before Easter, the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and Littoral announced that the Easter liturgy will be held without believers attending and they will comply with the measures but the part of believers still tried to enter the churches. During the reporting on these events, it is stated that the police occupied the churches and is patrolling fully equipped in front of the Church of Holy Resurrection in Podgorica just like in time of the Crusades.“

The disinformation are usually launched together with the narratives. Therefore, an article appeared on the IN4S portal reporting that a particular number of police officers refused to arrest the believers in front of the Church of Holy Resurrection in Podgorica. The Police Administration denied these claims on their Twitter account and stated that the police was not arresting the believers in front of the Church, therefore, a part of officers could not refuse to do this non-existent task and that this piece of news represents an unsuccessful attempt to disturb the public.

After the Digital Forensic Center had published the analysis on new network of bot accounts in Serbia, which was published by almost all local, but also regional and even Chinese, American and Central European media, the web sites of the DFC, Atlantic Council of Montenegro and “2BS” Forum have been constantly attacked by hackers since yesterday.

Let us remind that the analysis of tweets from March 9 to April 9 revealed 30,000 tweets produced by the accounts in Serbia, with keywords Kina (China) and Srbija (Serbia) in their content. As much as 71.9 per cent of the content originated from bot accounts. A large network of pro-government bot accounts wrote on and praised the Chinese aid, as well as the friendship between the two countries, and amplified the visibility of the tweets by retweeting. Simultaneously, they criticized the EU due to the alleged lack of its help.

It is interesting to note that the first hacker attack at our three web sites occurred shortly after Sputnik had published our analysis with a headline: “NATO worries from Podgorica about Belgrade being closer to Beijing than Brussels”. Only a part of our analysis was published by Sputnik followed by their conclusion that our research is connected with the Alliance, without reflecting on the facts that we discovered.

DFC successfully defended itself against the attacks

Therefore, they are concluding, “the DFC is resignedly asking if Belgrade is closer to Beijing than Brussels”. The truth is – we never wondered if Serbia is closer to China than to the EU. There is the inter-title in our article – Beijing dearer than Brussels. Therefore, we were not wondering but we supported the subhead with the facts. The President from Serbia thinks the help from China and Russia was “fraternal” but on the other hand, he openly criticized the EU assessing that there is no European solidarity. However, the help from Brussels arrived. Within the immediate support, Western Balkans received EUR340 million out of which Serbia received the majority –  EUR15 million for its health sector; and EUR78.4 million for overcoming the economic crisis which will follow after coronavirus.

The point of our analysis, even though Sputnik wants to suggest this through its spins, is not in our assessments that Serbia is changing its political course but in the new network of bot accounts that we discovered in Serbia, which was clearly indicated in the headline and the text itself. The fact that bots were consciously spreading the content in more than 21k tweets and praising the Chinese aid and President Vucic and simultaneously criticized the EU due to the alleged lack of its help is not our assessment or value judgment but the mere fact. As well as the criticism that Vucic voiced to Brussels, simultaneously commending China and Russia.

After Sputnik had published its own version of our analysis, the text was reproduced by the portal, and later on by Informer. The text of this tabloid was headlined: THEY CROSSED THE LINE! NATO FROM PODGORICA DOESN’T HIDE ITS ANGER TOWARDS SERBIA! They are bothered by the Chinese and Russian aid to Belgrade, and the gratitude of our country to Moscow and Beijing! The text was later on reproduced by the web site.

The DFC analysis published on front pages of the regional media

In our analysis, Informer is stated as one of the media, which was, along with Kurir and TV Pink, mostly mentioned by bots, and from before it has been known as a loyal supporter of Aleksandar Vucic, to put it mildly. Since the coronavirus outbreak, Informer has had two phases. First, at the end of February, it tried to downplay the seriousness of the situation, spreading the statements of Dr. Nestorovic with a headline: Coronavirus is ridiculous; we should not wear masks. Then, as early as March 12, they changed the story and instead of famous “shopping in Milan”, they opted for a front page: Serbia attacked by a dangerous virus – The war against coronavirus.

On the other hand, our analysis was spread in its original form by numerous domestic and regional media, even the Chinese ones, and after that, our representative appeared on a TV show of TV N1.

Attacks at our web sites, from the addresses we discovered, will not discourage us in our mission of debunking disinformation and fake news, in the fight for democracy. This only indicates that we are on the right track.

Our colleague Milan Jovanovic appeared on the television N1 Srbija (N1 Serbia) and spoke on the hacker attack which followed the analysis on the new bot network in Serbia connected with the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic. Watch the video bellow to find out what are the characteristics of these bot accounts, when these campaigns were intensified and when we could expect the similar actions in our country and the region.

After the Digital Forensic Center had published the analysis on new bot network in Serbia, which was taken by all domestic, regional but also Chinese and American media, the web sites of DFC, Atlantic Council of Montenegro and To be secure forum were taken down for a short period of time.

Let us remind that the analysis on tweets from March 9 to April 9 revealed 30,000 tweets produced by the accounts in Serbia, with keywords Kina (China) and Srbija (Serbia) in their content. As much as 71.9 per cent of the content originated from bot accounts. A large network of pro-government bot accounts wrote on and praised the Chinese aid, as well as the friendship between the two countries, and amplified the visibility of the tweets by retweeting. Simultaneously, they criticized the EU due to the alleged lack of its help.

It is interesting to note that the hacker attack at our three web sites occurred shortly after Sputnik had published our analysis with a headline: “NATO worries from Podgorica about Belgrade being closer to Beijing than Brussels”.

Additionally, we have seen strong but unsuccessful attacks at our IT infrastructure. With a swift reaction of our team, the websites have been restored again, and a detailed analysis will determine an origin, i.e. a source of the attack.

These days have seen numerous disinformation and conspiracy theories posted and shared on social media, doing unmeasurable harm to individuals and the community.

In this short video, find out what the new DFC Magazine issue brings, which can be also downloaded on our website.