Publishing of an inappropriate caricature of Vesna Bratic, the acting Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports, which is being spread on social media, provoked public anger for a reason.
Basic State Prosecutor’s Office in Podgorica file a case against John Doe for the offense that ridicules both the Minister and the State of Montenegro.
Discrediting, sexism, brutal attack on dignity, misogyny… those are just a couple of labels that numerous NGOs and public and political figures from Montenegro and the region utilized to rebuke this montage or caricature.
As the police have not identified the author of this debatable work yet, social media decided to assume the role of a detective. Led by emotions, the social media users could not wait for the Name to emerge. Two persons are suspects, but none of them is the culprit for this act. When the public was informed about this, it was already too late – the damage has been done.
Meme page Bestebe posted the name of the famous caricaturist Luka Lagator, without offering any proof for the claims. It did not take too long for the post to be shared, and the mass to become fervent. However, we did not expect an MP in the Montenegrin Parliament to publish this piece of disinformation and therefore contribute to its spreading online, damaging the reputation of a renowned Montenegrin artist from Cetinje. Marko Milacic, an MP in the Parliament of Montenegro and the President of the Prava Crna Gora party (True Montenegro), posted the following on his Facebook page, only eight minutes after the abovementioned meme page: This is not the first time for Luka Lagator, the author of the disgusting illustration of Minister Vesna Bratic to do something like this: When Miodrag Lekic was the presidential candidate, he illustrated him basically as a corpse. Shameless!
And even before Lagator had a chance to deny these claims, numerous threats, calling for lynching, and assaults on social media began. Due to the inappropriate comments, we will not quote them, but we believe that all of you came across at least one inappropriate post on the mentioned topic. The reasonable people that criticized the finger-pointing were the minority; therefore, they were powerless to influence further development of this event.
Luka Lagator said that he was horrified and speechless when he found out that MP Marko Milacic had posted on his Facebook a false claim that he was the author of the inappropriate and disgusting illustration that he scornfully reprimands, and which portrays Minister Bratic. He also announced a lawsuit against all of those who falsely accused him.
Another arbitrary claim
Three days later, almost the same situation occurred. Niksic inhabitant Nebojsa Kasalica was also targeted, but slightly more proof was offered. The alleged screenshots of a private Viber communication between Kasalica (allegedly the admin of one of the popular meme pages) and another unknown person appeared on social media. The screenshot reads that the author of the debatable illustration is known.
Kasalica denied that he had anything to do with the caricature and he was acquitted after having given the statement in the Police Station in Niksic and after the examination of his laptop and cellphone. He is also preparing the lawsuit against the persons spreading lies about him, as he wrote on Facebook.
Unfortunately, Viber correspondence that the unknown author set up in order to target Kasalica was a sufficient piece of evidence that initiated the attack on him, which the majority did not question.
However, it turned out later that it was easy to determine the truthfulness from the beginning. The photography of Kasalica, used in a montage, differs from his Viber profile picture that he has not changed for four years. Therefore, its author turned to be clumsy.
Both cases will receive a legal epilogue by filing a lawsuit and complaint, but this will not solve a deeply rooted problem of believing in anything that is launched on the internet.
For quite some time, the Digital Forensic Center has been trying to improve people’s understanding by raising awareness of the current internet phenomena, pointing out to the increasingly present issue of hate speech, finger-pointing, spreading disinformation, and other negative products of the modern digital era.
Active internet community actors in Montenegro such as the media, meme pages that became a significant factor, activists and key decision-makers need to help us ease the tensions and raise awareness of the importance of critical thinking and observing. Otherwise, it is just a matter of time when each of us will become a target. And if we keep up this pace, it is going to happen, very soon. There is no need to mention the implications that these events will have on the fragmentation of Montenegrin society.