Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic slammed Twitter on Thursday, daring the social network to ban him, after it has marked several private Serbian media outlets’ accounts, like those of B92, Kurir, and Informer, as state-affiliated due to the control the government exerts over them, The Hill reports.
Twitter’s definition of state-affiliated media encompasses “outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution.”
To add insult to injury, Twitter turned “state-affiliated” localization into a rather more sinister-sounding “government collaborator.”
A dozen Serbian media outlets protested Twitter’s decision labeling it as censorship with Informer thundering “Twitter is a propaganda machine of war” headline illustrated Hitler’s photo peeking out of Twitter’s blue bird logo. The front page also features an interview with a pundit saying Twitter’s “doing the same thing NATO bombers did in 1999.”
Angry Vucic asked Twitter if Serbian media should cooperate with, oligarchs, thieves and criminals to get rid of the label, arguing that VOA and the BBC are not labeled state media despite receiving government money while Serbian government doesn’t even fund most of the labeled outlets.
He dared Twitter to ban his account so he can be “another Trump in the world”, pointing that the world can now see who the real censors are.
Serbian president’s position on Twitter was supported by Trump’s former US envoy for Belgrade – Pristina dialogue, Richard Grenell, who tweeted that world leaders are fed up with Twitter’s hypocrisy.
The Serbian Radio-Television (RTS) protested the labeling noting they are not funded by the state budget but from license fees, just like the BBC, and pointing out the hypocrisy of this. I has also stopped posting on Twitter in protest.
RTS called Twitter’s decision scandalous and a form of impermissible pressure on the media, blaming the platform it applied the label without notifying them, without offering any serious and argument-based explanation or explaining what should be done to remove the label.
It warned that declaring journalists government collaborators can turn them into targets and expose them to security risks, reminding them the last time that happened was in April 1999 when NATO bombed RTS building in Belgrade and killed 16 of their employees.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) warned recently of pro-government media’s almost daily attacks on independent journalists in Serbia, calling the country prey to fake news, while the European Parliament pointed to the deteriorating media freedoms in the country.
More than 43 million tweets from 8,500 accounts were deleted by Twitter last year for criticising Serbian opposition and country’s independent media, and it’s worth mentioning in the context that large piece of Serbia’s media space is controlled by Western corporations like Ringier Axel Springer Media AG and KKR Global, owner of CNN affiliate N1 and the SBB cable distribution network.