In times of crisis, one of the best ways to get the public to switch its attention from the accountability of the government is to amplify stories about foreign-orchestrated – often conspiratorial - efforts to destabilize the Western Balkans. As during previous elections, certain media outlets in collaboration with officials from Republika Srpska government promote tales of foreign operatives planning different actions against its government, e.g. mobilizing local agitators in opposition. Aiming to legitimate these false narratives, the local media amplify an established a group of dubious pundits that they refer to in terms such as “experts in fighting international terrorism”, “ex-intelligence operatives” and the like. The following illustrates the means of their amplification.
On July 3, a story that was circulated by Večernje Novosti, claiming that the BiH state intelligence agency (OSA-OBA) is preparing a faked report of various, fabricated means of Russian assistance to the regions Serb populations. The alleged report was purported to contain stories of Russian training in destabilization operations to groups in Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Republika Srpska.
The Večernje Novosti story of the fictitious OSA_OBA report was then cited in remarks by Dževad Galijašević, an alleged “expert for international terrorism” who frequently affords unsubstantiated commentary on various pro-Serb media and public media of Republika Srpska over the past years Galijašević has been repeatedly identified by Raskrinkavanje.ba as a primary purveyor of conspiracy theories in BiH. His remarks were then recycled by multiple media outlets from BiH and Serbia, adding claims of the “preparation of migrants for war with Republika Srpska” and “OSA-OBA listening to the phones of Republika Srpska and Serbia” officials.
In its debunk from July 14, Raskrinkavanje refuted all of the claims made in these articles. Moreover, researchers discovered a set of similar claims published over several years through various channels, each time by using same or similar pundits bereft of any proper source citation.
The establishment and use of pundits to propel disinformative narratives are recognized as one of the most threatening tactics in the region, given traditional media reports’ assumed credibility and reach (e.g. the Večernje Novosti story was recycled by 15 media outlets). Lacking source citation behind their statements, these pundits’ narratives are especially challenging to debunk.