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SU-PRO-MEDIA | 03.04.2018 13:50 > 04.04 10:50

Fake News as a Political Program

The enormous quantity of fake news the public in Bosnia and Herzegovina is flooded every day with has created a situation where it is almost irrelevant whether the information reaching the public is indeed true or not.

Such news increasingly dominates the public space and the way to stop this rapidly advancing trend is nowhere in sight. What is even worse is that no segment of society is doing anything to fight it.

Milkica Milojevic, a longstanding editor and journalist of EuroBlic, the paper’s edition for Bosnia and Herzegovina, says that fake news is produced by “portaloids,” anonymous outlets that bear no responsibility for what they disseminate.


“The so-called mainstream media, including the Republika Srpska public service, carry such news and thus give it legitimacy,” Milojevic stresses as the main problem.

When fake news produced by such a source is released by the mainstream outlets, it is then widely considered as important and trustworthy.

“Thus, the so-called true media bear the biggest responsibility. They do not produce fake news, but they spread it after supplying it with a label of truthfulness,” Milojevic adds.

Dragan Bursac, a columnist for Al Jazeera Balkans and the recipient of this year’s major European prize for journalism – European Press Prize –shares this view. He points out that fake news is nothing new in this region and that it has been in use for decades, although this devastating phenomenon had only come into focus in the past two years.

“Last summer at the Boston University I attended the lectures given by some Nobel and Pulitzer prizes winners about the phenomena of post-truth and fake news. Midway through one lecture I realized that we have invented that, in 1989 on Gazimestan. Then I raised my hand as a first-grader to explain to those present that we have had both for a very long time. We have perfected fake news, we have brought it to such perfection that we are no longer paying attention, while they are still a novelty in the rest of the world,” Bursac says.

He also points out to the public services as the main source of the problem.

“It is interesting that here fake news is being disseminated from the top, from TV stations with national frequencies that are paid with our own money. They began experimenting in the area at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, they are progressing finely and doing quite well, and will evidently continue to be around,” Bursac said.

The sources of fake news are actually all the structures in society that wish to relativize reality and shift the public’s attention from important issues to the ones that suit them at a particular moment.

“As for their creators, these are the people engaged by the said structures, or, to be more precise, political parties,” says Eldin Karic, director of the ACCOUNT anti-corruption network, whose primary goal is to fight Bosnia’s endemic problems – crime and corruption.

It can well be said that fake news has grown into an endemic problem, too, that there are “farms” where it is invented and manufactured. And these farms are located very close to senior politicians.

What in that respect sets Bosnia and Herzegovina apart, however, is that these farms also include educational institutions and some faculties, led by persons appointed by high-placed officials.

“Politicians are among the main generators of fake news because they are trying to cover up their failures by spreading information that is meant to direct the public’s attention to the topics they consider most important and which they are addressing in their work at a particular moment. This is the main goal of the fake news production,” Karic adds.

Milojevic and Bursac agree with this conclusion.

“Actually, it is not clear who is catering to whom – the politicians to the media, or the media to the politicians. A politician says a half-truth, an outlet turns this into a “truth,” and the public is served their joint creation as a reliable piece of information. Of course, this has nothing to do with reality. The problem is that politicians are never called to account for that, although the media occasionally are. The end result is that nothing is happening to change this situation. No one is sanctioned. Not one person is Bosnia and Herzegovina has ever been sanctioned for spreading fake news,” Bursac says.

According to him this comes as no surprise, as, for example, there are no laws in Bosnia prohibiting the negation of crimes and genocide.

“This is what it is, and politicians may, for example, directly twist historical facts without being punished. Not only are they not punished, they are, instead, being elected. Fake information actually fuels their success. It is truly fantastic, though in a negative sense,” Bursac adds.

Milojevic believes that those in power in Bosnia have no reason to fight fake news, because false information serves them well.

“This makes everything so simple: I offer you fake news, and you busy yourself with it… It is very easy to convince the populace – I deliberately do not use the word ‘citizens’ – that anything they get in the form of news is truly news. They always say before an election, ‘They [politicians] are all the same’,” Milojevic adds.

Bursac says that fake news can only be fought with the truth, although for the time being this sounds utopian.

“There are, for example, several outlets in RS of that kind, but they are too weak to counter this flood. The fact is that we, who are independent – whatever that may mean – are doing our part of the job. But, you know, if the public is not educated, if it is afraid, if it fears for its very existence and if it has been living in that matrix continuously for 30 years, then it is all very difficult. Nothing can be achieved without education, and [this has to start] with children; self-criticism followed by criticism should be developed from that age,” Bursac says.

The only, the most efficient, and the most effective way to fight fake news is to release true information and raise the issues that are of true relevance for society, first of all corruption and crime, along with other multiplying irregularities, as a rule generated by the authorities on all levels.

“Fighting fake news, trying to deny them is a Sisyphean task. It is impossible to produce that amount of counter information or information to negate fake news to match the amount of fake news they can come up with. The only way out is to persistently make true stories about the situation in the society, tackle real problems and point to real culprits for the situation that we live in today,” Karic concluded.

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