Original article (in Serbian) was published on 17/11/2022
Besides spreading pro-regime propaganda, the tabloid Informer is also known as being very sympathetic to Russia and the Russian president, which the editor Dragan J. Vucicevic does not dispute. However, it bothered them that they found themselves in the EUvsDisinfo database, a media database in which various manipulations and disinformation were observed in texts about Russia. More precisely, they claim that the database was created recently to record manipulations related to the war in Ukraine but that it contains Informer’s texts from 2019 that have nothing to do with Ukraine and that the EU is trying to “satanize” them. However, this is not true – the database has existed since 2015. Since then, numerous manipulations have been recorded, among others, by Informer, Pink, Vecernje novosti, Kurir, B92, Sputnik and other media.
“The EU is using the war in Ukraine to satanize certain media in Serbia and portray them as “Russian propagandists”!? The European External Action Service (EEAS) has created a specialized website to “help citizens spot fake news from Russia and China, and related to the conflict in Ukraine”. On that website, they published texts that the media in Belgrade published back in 2019, which have absolutely nothing to do with Ukraine!?!!”, writes Informer angrily.
The tabloid further states that the list of “Russian propagandists” includes web portals such as Informer, Pink, and Vecernje novosti, and as “key evidence for the accusations, texts from three years ago were published”.
It is unclear why the texts from three years ago, in which misinformation and manipulation were observed, would not be relevant. However, the Informer’s claim that they were falsely accused based on old texts does not hold up.
Namely, this base was not created during the war in Ukraine. It has been in existence since 2015 and was founded by the European External Action Service (EEAS), the diplomatic service of the EU. Since then, it has been recording misinformation in various European media regarding Russia. As they state on their website, the focus of their database is on “messages in the international information space that have been observed to present reality partially, distortedly or incorrectly, and spread key Kremlin messages”.
“However, this does not necessarily mean that these media are connected to the Kremlin or that their editorial policy is pro-Kremlin, or that they intentionally wanted to misinform”, they state on the website.
On the website of the EUvsDisinfo project, they say that they were created in response to disinformation campaigns coming from Russia and which “affect the EU, its members and neighbors”.
“Our essential goal is to increase public awareness and understanding of the Kremlin’s disinformation operations, as well as to help citizens in Europe and beyond to develop resistance to media manipulation”, states the EUvsDisinfo website.
The EUvsDisinfo database has collected more than 12,000 pieces of pro-Kremlin disinformation. As they say, their team that works to verify disinformation does not target opinions that are favourable to Russia or are against the EU, nor do they put anyone on the blacklist, but, as they point out, they deal with facts and disinformation.
“Disinformation is verifiable, incorrect or manipulative information that is created, presented and disseminated for the sake of economic gain or for the sake of intentionally misleading the audience, and which can cause harm. Harm includes threats to democratic processes or public goods such as public health, the environment or security. Disinformation does not include unintentional mistakes, satire and parody, or (…) comments”, the website states.
Informer was included in the database because of five texts published during 2019, among other things, because they shared the text of Vecernje novosti titled “Al Qaeda was created to destroy Serbs and Russians”. The text in Informer was titled “SECRET DOCUMENT DISCOVERED! In the operation “Breakup of Yugoslavia”, America used the paramilitary forces from which Al Qaeda was born! MARKALE ARE A SETUP TO SERBS!” Raskrikavanje also dealt with this manipulation of Vecernje novosti.
Vecernje novosti (also featured in the EUvsDisinfo database) published an alleged document of the Swiss intelligence services. It allegedly stated that Bosniaks did the shelling of civilians in the Markale market, that Srebrenica was the height of propaganda and that, as already said, Al Qaeda was created to destroy Serbs and Russians. As Raskrikavanje established, such a document does not exist, which was denied by the Swiss intelligence service.
In addition to Informer, the disinformation database includes web portals Pink.rs, Vecernje novosti, Kurir, Mondo, B92, Srbijadanas.com, the Serbian edition of Sputnik, Politika, Alo, Srbin Info, and several others. Texts from the database are publicly available, as well as explanations of why they were rated as disinformation, i.e. what makes them incorrect or manipulative.
Since its inception in 2017, Raskrikavanje has recorded several manipulative or inaccurate claims by Informer in articles about Russia or Vladimir Putin. The Russian president is presented positively in this tabloid and is one of the most frequent faces on the front pages. As a recent analysis of Raskrikavanje showed, from the beginning of February to the end of July this year, Putin appeared on the front pages on average every third day.