Since its appearing on the media scene, the Udar news portal has been publishing unverified information, almost always with the reference to the unknown sources, and one month from its first texts, it still does not have an Impressum, even though the Law is obliging it to do so. The Digital Forensic Center analyzed written and video content from the Udar news portal, its influence on social media, and anonymous ownership and editorial structure.
Soon after its registration under the national Internet domain of Montenegro (the domain was registered on July 17), the authors announced the disclosure of well-kept information and secrets.
Our experience has shown us that the media, which has been launched prior to the elections, almost always serves the interests of the specific political option. The same case was with the Sloboda newspaper before the 2018 Presidential Elections, which was openly supporting the opposition. However, what makes Udar stand out and creates difficulties to identify it with a specific political party is targeting of all the actors, without exception.
Even though they announced the disclosure of well-kept information, the Montenegrin public has been provided with the pinpointing and unsubstantiated accusing of politicians, parties, and other individuals from public life, without providing any reference to the author or source of information, but always referring to well-informed and anonymous sources.
Moreover, what made Udar one of the main topics of the electoral campaign are YouTube videos of foreign (Serbian) security services’ co-workers disclosing names of famous persons from Montenegro’s public life. Contrary to its written content, videos published on the Udar news portal targeted only one side. In the six videos posted so far, almost all persons are either supporters of the Serbian Orthodox Church, representatives of the opposition parties, or activists close to them. Apart from the photo with their names and surnames, the news portal provides their code names as well, along with their operation links with the foreign country, without any concrete evidence on their alleged connection to the given structures.
A similar pattern has been used in the texts – a particular politician has been targeted with the reference to the anonymous sources. On July 25, an article: Boskovic has never returned the SPC’s decoration was published by that pattern. The main thesis was that the Minister of Defense has not returned the SPC’s decoration, even though he said otherwise in the Parliament in February this year, claiming that he has a DHL receipt as proof. Referring to anonymous sources from the SPC’s Holy Synod, Udar claims that the Church did not receive the decoration, although it does leave open the possibility that such a thing could have happened. A similar example of contradictory stances was noticed in the articles published on July 23: The DPS’s representative married daughter despite the measures, where they stated that Mayor of Ulcinj Loro Nrekiq breached the preventive measures of the National Coordination Body (NKT). Further in the text, they stated that another source claimed that all measures were met and that the truth was still unknown?! Even with that conclusion and without any concrete evidence, Udar accused Nrekiq, by providing a bombastic headline, of jeopardizing the health of citizens of Ulcinj.
The same day the text on Nrekiq was published, Udar published another article: EXCLUSIVE: Krapovic wants to join the list It’s in Black and White! Again referring to the anonymous sources, the text stated that former Mayor of Budva Dragan Krapovic wanted to transfer from the Democrats to the list It’s in Black and White lead by Dritan Abazovic. As proof of the claim, they published a photo of the two actors from one of the cafés in Budva. Interesting is that the same day the text was published, Krapovic appeared on TV A1, where he represented the Democrats. Even though the second guest was Filip Adzic from the URA (It’s in Black and White), Krapovic not once mentioned leaving his party, and four days later when the DIK (State Election Commission) confirmed the electoral lists, he ended up fourth on the list Peace is our nation.
Besides speculations, incomplete information, and accusations towards public persons without concrete evidence, Udar publishes conspiracy theories too. The text: The DF confirmed suspicions: Mandic is NATO’s player, states that it is a well-kept secret that the American scientists have developed an experimental COVID-19 vaccine, which is currently only available to a limited number of people. They state that on July 11, 25 of such vaccines were imported in Montenegro because of the regime’s fear of someone of the key players being out of the game ahead of the elections, and Mandic was given the vaccine because he is the key regime’s opposition player. At the moment of publishing, this text (July 26) nowhere in the world was available the COVID-19 vaccine. Only on August 15, Russia published that they initiated the vaccine production, even though the World Health Organization data show that not all the phases of the clinical trials of such, as they said, experimental medicine have been completed.
When it comes to social media, the news portal has an active account on both Facebook and Twitter. But despite their frequent advertising, they did not generate a large number of followers on both platforms (Facebook – 870, Twitter – 87).
During the Facebook analysis, only one person was noticed as an administrator from Montenegro. Besides, the Crnogorske novosti (the Montenegrin news) page is substantially active in sharing of Udar‘s content – out of 80 posts in total, one third (27) constituted posts shared from that news portal. The page was created on October 29, 2019, under the name Crnogorke najljepše djevojke (Montenegrins the most beautiful girls) just to change its name in Crnogorske novosti on July 22, ahead of the beginning of the election campaign. On that occasion, all of the previous content was deleted and then they started to post content aimed at discrediting the Montenegrin opposition.
Anonymous ownership and no impressum
Although they announced that the mission of the Udar news portal was to publish well-kept secrets and truths and that its editorial board is constituted of a team with international expertise in investigative journalism, till this day there is not an Impressum with the names of editor-in-chief and members of the editorial board, which is a legal obligation.
According to the Law on Media, Impressum should be visible, easily recognizable, and always available. Likewise, Impressum consists of the name of the media, e-mail or website address, name of editor-in-chief, name and headquarters/location of the founder, and a TIN of the media founder.
Milorad Vujovic and Srdjan Peric have recently and in the capacity of citizens submitted a request to the Agency for Electronic Media to take necessary actions within their authority and regarding the unregistered electronic media www.udar.me and the content it publishes.
The Udar news portal was created on the Internet by using the tools for anonymous web hostings, such as Njalla, which uses Bitcoin as a type of payment method that cannot be traced, and Cloudflare. These tools are designed to keep the ownership identity by hiding the information on domain or web hosting tenant (WHOIS).
Overview of the news portal’s certificates, WHOIS information, IP address history, hosting server, and the portal’s content did provide us neither with any information nor mistake that would uncover the ownership identity. It is about an organization with technical knowledge, which has carefully created and kept their anonymity.