The head of the Raskrinkavanje portal, Darko Brkan, says that the Kremlin-run media is helping to spread disinformation.
Brkan in an interview for The Geopost points out that Sputnik and RT are the ones who are helping the local media in the Balkans in spreading Russian propaganda.
“People forget that most of the disinformation comes from local actors. Foreign actors like Sputnik and RT are only used as some information links with local actors,” emphasizes Brkan.
He adds that there is an established disinformation structure ruling the region that serves Russia’s geopolitical interests in the region.
“There is already an established disinformation structure ruling the region. I’d say for decades and it’s nothing new, even our data that we’ve collected over the last five years that Raskrankavanje has been in existence shows that it’s even possible to create a defined structure of media networks, agencies that serve exclusively for promotion and propaganda through computer algorithms, which mainly on the one hand serves some geopolitical interests that Russia has in this field,” he adds.
According to Brkan, it is very easy to see how local actors amplify Russian disinformation.
“There is a large number of local actors who amplify misinformation and thus in Bosnia and Herzegovina it is very easy to see the influence of misinformation about Kosovo, Montenegro, the localization of topics about Kosovo is happening in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro”, says Brkan.
In this interview, he also spoke about the work of Raskrinkavanje and the influence of the Serbian Orthodox Church on the spread of narratives.
The Geopost: You are the founder and leader of Raskrinkavanje in BiH, which serves as an anti-fake news portal, how does it work?
Raskrinkavanje is essentially a portal for information control, i.e. for ranking media manipulations. The idea is to show in different ways and through the different evaluations we give to media articles what kind of media manipulations are happening in BiH and in the region, covering the whole area of speech.
Currently, we have 14 assessments that show the different strategies that the media or anyone who presents themselves as the media and wants to manipulate information and does so to the audience in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Geopost: We are witnessing how Serbian propaganda directed by Russia creates dangerous narratives against the countries of the region, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Kosovo. From your experience, how do you see it and comment?
There is already an established disinformation structure ruling the region. I would say for decades and it is not something new, even our data that we have collected during the last five years that Raskrankavanje has existed, shows that it is even possible to create a defined structure of media networks, agencies that serve exclusively for promotion and propaganda through computer algorithms, which mainly on the one hand serves some geopolitical interests that Russia has in this field.
There is a phenomenon that we call the ‘localization’ of these narratives, where these narratives take on a local image, where topics related to the local communities here are woven through the same structures and which actually serve to support the interests of all those who support them, i.e. , stand on Russia’s side in that geopolitical picture. This refers to the majority of political parties from Serbia, to a part of political parties from Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially from Republika Srpska, that is, to certain elements in other countries of the region.
The Geopost: The Kremlin, supported by the propaganda of the Orthodox Church and the Government of Serbia, continues to be interested in the Balkans. What should these countries do in order to deal with Russian influence in the Balkans?
There are several levels, I think that essentially we have one problem, which is the general level of awareness of citizens and what is the media image and what is the information itself, how it is made, consumed… it’s all one level of problem. The second level of the problem is that some regulation that we probably won’t be able to influence much, but some global regulation, maybe European regulation that could affect technology platforms to reduce models that promote misinformation.
There is that certain political, that is, social level where we actually need to recognize what these foreign influences are, in our context Russian, and there are others, from China, Middle Eastern countries, partly from Turkey, so that all of them need to be recognized and understood what is of that, the narrative and what is correct information and teaching people how to relate to it.
The Geopost: How does Raskrinkanje from Bosnia and Herzegovina see this situation in the north of Kosovo, i.e. have you noticed any foreign, Russian and Serbian propaganda influence in the country
The first thing to say is that the perspective we have from Bosnia and Herzegovina is that the local actors are generally the strongest, and this is what people forget when we talk about this specifically. People forget that the vast majority of misinformation comes from local actors. Foreign actors such as Sputnik, RT…are used only as some information links to local actors. We need to understand that in fact in a large number of cases people are deceived by the fact that there is no foreign influence because we only read local media. Those local media in many cases actually serve the interests of foreign influence and even those who fight against it come and say “you know what, there is no Russian ‘footprint’ here because the influence of Sputnik and other media is very small”, that is not true.
There is a large number of local actors who amplify disinformation and thus in BiH it is very easy to see the impact of disinformation about Kosovo, Montenegro, the localization of topics about Kosovo is happening in BiH and Montenegro. For Kosovo to take its dimension in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the division of territory, the issue of visas, all this very easily takes on a regional component that we see in Bosnia and Herzegovina as something that is emotionally close to us. We do not see Kosovo as another territory, but we look at the problem of Kosovo from our perspective and vice versa, the issue of Montenegro. These narratives connect our problems and affect the emotional responses of people in other countries, who then become even more inclined to believe in foreign influence.
The Geopost: How do you comment on the opening of the new Russia Today platform in the Balkans? Does this increase the risk of disinformation and Russian influence in the Balkans?
Each of these platforms, especially those with direct foreign influence, is a risk in itself. It remains to be seen how this will play out in these networks that we identify and how much some disinformation channels will be strengthened. I think they will as we see different manipulation techniques. For example, you have an agency that does part of the work, you have a possible connection with anonymous media sites that do another part of the work, so they use each other as sources.
A network of media, sources, experts is created, which is used as needed and then reports, reports, statements of officials and experts are easily made. A story is created that formally looks very good and that has very important elements of a journalistic reportage and that contains misinformation in its expertise.
This is something that we see that is very dangerous to use in this region. From local actors to foreign actors, various sources are used, which Russia Today will certainly help make that network look more credible to people who have to trust foreign influence. /TheGeopost/