Analysis of the News “Albanians hit the most vulnerable social class: A primitive decision aimed at expelling the Serbs”

July 2023

As part of the Regional Initiative in Combating Disinformation “Western Balkans Anti-Disinformation Hub: Exposing Malign Influences through Watchdog Journalism”, we present you a new analysis of fake news and disinformation narratives.

Albanians hit the most vulnerable social class: A primitive decision aimed at expelling the Serbs

The portal of the Russian state-owned media Sputnik in the Serbian language published a series on the ban on the construction of buildings at three locations in the northern Serbian part of Kosovska Mitrovica. Even though the buildings in question do not have a construction permit according to Kosovo laws, Sputnik Serbia writes that it is a “primitive decision aimed at expelling the Serbs”.

In a text published on July 21, Sputnik writes that “the decision by which the mayor of North Mitrovica, Erden Atiq, banned the construction of apartments for socially vulnerable families upset the citizens who point out that this is a political decision directed against Serbs in the direction of discrimination against the most vulnerable population.”

“Since the end of the conflict in Kosovo and Metohija, Kosovska Mitrovica has been the only city where Serbs live, and after fleeing from their homes, Serbs south of the Ibar River who were determined to stay in Kosovo and Metohija found refuge in Kosovska Mitrovica. Their houses and properties were usurped, and their financial situation did not allow them to build a new home for themselves and their families,” writes Sputnik. The text further quotes an anonymous resident of Kosovska Mitrovica whose family left Peć in a refugee column after the war ended.

It is concluded that the Albanian who came to power with the vote of 3% of the citizens of North Mitrovica and thus became the mayor made decisions against the Kosmet Serbs and their survival in Kosovo.

On the same day, the portal also conveyed the announcement of the Serb List, in which the decision of the local authorities in North Mitrovica is interpreted as a continuation of Kurti’s escalation and plan to expel Serbs from their homes.

Sputnik Serbia does not convey that these are buildings about which almost nothing is known: nor who the investor is, nor what the facilities should be used for. As Radio Free Europe journalists reported from the scene, a board with information about the investor and the contractor is only in front of one of the three buildings whose construction has been stopped.

“It is about the construction of a new building of the University that works in the Serbian system and for which money was allocated by the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Government of the Republic of Serbia, while the contractor is a company that is on the black list of the United States of America, ‘Rad 028’,” RFE writes.

Nothing is known about the other two buildings. However, the Serb List, the largest party of Kosovo Serbs that has the support of official Belgrade, says that they are apartments for socially vulnerable persons and a school, without specifying who is financing and building the facilities.

Sputnik Serbia did not even convey the explanation of the authorities in North Mitrovica regarding the ban on the further construction of three buildings, in which it is stated that “legal criteria and norms” were not met. In a statement to RFE, the deputy mayor of North Mitrovica, Katarina Ađančić, explained that the work was suspended because they did not have a building permit.

“It is not known who is building them, nor from what budget. That is why the construction was suspended in order to identify the contractor and the investor in accordance with the law,” said Ađančić.

In this whole case, the silence of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija is also interesting. As the daily newspaper Danas wrote, the silence of the official Belgrade surprised Kosovo’s citizens, especially regarding the Rector’s building. “Although the rough construction on the building of the new rectorate has reached the roof, the citizens of Mitrovica also notice that almost nothing is known about how the contractors were chosen and why subcontractors are Albanian companies,” writes Danas.

A series of news articles published on the Sputnik portal on this topic can be characterized as manipulative. The portal uses accurate information – that the construction of buildings was stopped by the order of the authorities in North Mitrovica. However, from that information, which is correct, the authors continue to produce claims that try to lead the audience to the conclusion that it is about the continuation of the persecution of Serbs and not about the questionable spending of money and the construction of illegal buildings.

Author: Sofija Popović