One of the historical legacies of SFR Yugoslavia is that what was then the Serbo-Croatian language remains as a lingua franca in the former Yugoslav countries. Consequently, a majority of Macedonians understand Serbian; e.g. several years ago, Serbian textbooks were still at use in universities due to insufficient literature in the Macedonian language.
This bilingualism is a boon for online media production. A typical means of increasing article output is by translating directly from Serbian media, especially for stories that have a high click-bait potential. Their detection is simple. Very often, stories translated from Serbian reveal key grammatical errors. For example, words with declinations intact indicate Serbian translation, as Macedonian lacks them, so immediately alerting the reader as to origin. Headline searches on the Serbian news aggregators similarly affirm translated-story origins, their translations often being word-for-word.
These stories are typically vehicles for anti-democratic Russian propaganda. The articles’ translation is not a problem; rather, the issue is that they do not credit the source. Moreover, authors are rarely cited because of an article’s translation. Regrettably, readers often fail to note whether the article is original or its authorship, unaware that it originated as a Russian narrative served through Serbian channels.
F2N2 analyzed a series of translated articles, finding the most frequent sources of translated articles to be Serbian sites Sputnik Serbia, Kurir, and Informer. These outlets regularly publish articles with an overt pro-Kremlin bias, as well as hawking conspiracy theories intended to create fear among their readers.
North Macedonia’s Magazin is not the only portal that relies heavily on Serbian sources - but it is the most prominent. According to its website, the company is a member of SuisseControls AG. SuisseControls provides security, infrastructure, cleaning, and real estate services - none of which are related to media and journalism. Other North Macedonia websites commonly spreading translated disinformation narratives include MKD Press, Standard, Sloboden svet and Infomax.