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December 2019

Establishing of a National Cybersecurity Council in North Macedonia

In October 2019, the Government of North Macedonia established the National Cybersecurity Council. The objective of this body is to coordinate the efforts and activities envisaged in the National Cybersecurity Strategy 2018-2022 and the Action plan for cybersecurity of the Republic of North Macedonia as well as defining new strategic objectives and recommendations related to cybersecurity. Additionally, the council will work to identify challenges in cybersecurity and will propose measures on how to manage cybersecurity crises. The council consists of ministers and their deputies from the Ministry for Information Science and Administration, the Ministry of Defence, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. 

Twitter as multiplication platform

A research conducted by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network describes methods for multiplying disinformation in the wake of the name change referendum in September 2018. The research reveals how a small group of influential Twitter users tried to shape the news environment. Most interestingly, the research reveals the connection between Washington based columnist for Sputnik and web portals from North Macedonia that propagated against the Prespa agreement with Greece, an agreement that de-blocked the country’s NATO and EU accession prospects. According to sources to the report, Twitter bots massively reproduced the news generated by this particular columnist.

How is the alleged "former head of CIA" reshaping the Balkans

A recent piece of disinformation, aimed at addressing the disputed issues in the region regarding territories, was published or republished by more than 50 media outlets in the Balkans region. It is focused on several statements of Steven E. Meyer about the potential future make-up of the region in the context of solving the most important political issues in the Balkans.

Most of his statements can be viewed as very biased and mostly promoting the interests of Serbs in the region. Apart from that, the articles claim that Steven E. Meyer is "former head of CIA" and, if we look into his biography available on the web site of Daniel Morgan Graduate School of National Security, where he teaches, we can see that his position in this agency, which he left in 2011, was analyst and manager and that he was a deputy head of an interagency working group for the Balkans in the 1990s. His role in the CIA is heavily inflated and false.

Moreover, all of these reports fail to mention another fact - Steven E. Meyer is currently closely cooperating with the main Government of Republika Srpska lobbyist in Washington, Obrad Kesić, being a part of the same lobbyist company. This is not the first and unique case of using disinformation to inflate the importance of certain people in the political discourse in BiH and the region but it is one of the most blatant and dangerous in the local context. 


Sputnik and its network trying to create an alternative history 

Another disinformation piece addressing the role of the US in the Balkans appeared in the regional media recently. Sputnik and Večernje Novosti have, on December 23, published parallel articles, quoting "Swiss intelligence services", claiming that, during the wars in the Balkans, and especially in Bosnia, the US has used the same paramilitary forces that they used in the war against Soviets in Afghanistan that would, later on, go by the name of Al Qaida. Sputnik has, in its previously established manner, expanded the story with "expert" opinions, where all respondents treated this claim as a fact in their comments. These articles were later on debunked by both from Serbia and from Bosnia, using relevant sources and research. The original source of the claims, a Swiss portal "Swiss Propaganda Research" regularly publishing conspiracy theories, even stated that no intelligence services were sources of the claims, giving this whole story proper closure. 

Is Montenegro stealing property from the Serbian Orthodox Church?

CDT's platform, with the aim to fight against fake news, has noticed a number of media narratives in this period. Briefly, the key narrative is – Government of Montenegro is stealing the Serbian Orthodox Church’s property through a new law on religious freedom. The information that made up this narrative incorrectly portrayed the content of the draft law, often including hate speech by pro-Russian opposition parties and church leaders against the Government officials. This draft law on religion includes a register of all religious objects and sites that it claims were once owned by the independent kingdom of Montenegro before it became part of the Serb-dominated Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1918. 

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European Values Center for Security Policy