Dozens of Albanian nationals protested on September 14 in Skopje against, as they say, the mounted court cases with the main demand and slogan “international investigation” for some of the larger court cases in North Macedonia. The protest ended peacefully and without any incident.

Much more interesting were the days before the protest itself. The social networks made a dramatic build-up and an announcement that has almost turned into a Hollywood script. War, Ilirida, UCK and ISIS are just a part of the vocabulary announcing the protest in several “patriotic” Macedonian Facebook groups. Were the announcements of the protest misrepresented or was it a deliberate propaganda about war, terrorists, and separatists?

The writings on Facebook went so far as to interpret even the background of the “war” that, according to them, is ahead of us. The backgrounds for the war were supposedly ranging from defocusing from the affair “racket” to the federalization of the state, which, despite the announcement, turned out to be a peaceful protest of about 50 people.

A little internet search will show that behind these announcements are people with a precedent in spreading false news and fear among the citizens. Zlatko Kovaca 49-year-old Macedonian with US citizenship, is one of the people who was recently sharing this rhetoric on multiple Facebook groups. He had previously spread false news of NATO’s alleged intentions to use depleted uranium weapons in Krivolak, the Army’s military training center. On another occasion, Kovac claimed that the government was monitoring the citizens’ communications on Viber. All of this fake news posted by this man across the entire infrastructure of Facebook groups and fan pages is apparently intended to spread fear and panic about the physical, health and digital security of citizens. His writings are often broadcasted in some of the media in the country.

Kovach is one of the editors of the Russian government news agency Sputnik, which has regional offices in Washington, Beijing, Paris, Berlin, London, Belgrade and other capitals around the world. His involvement with Sputnik was revealed by his former colleague, in a column published in the US magazine Politico.

Regardless whether the fake news he spreads presents his personal views or are a part of his ideological-propagandistic involvement, they are dangerous and harmful, spread fear, panic, hatred and division among citizens. The media that broadcast such news share an equal responsibility for the harmful consequences. And until Facebook finds a more effective way to combat false reporting, citizens should be careful not to fall victims to dirty and dangerous propaganda.




This project was funded in part through a U.S. Embassy grant. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed herein are those of the implementers/authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Government.


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