In Serbia, the Twitter account of Youth of JAZAS, an NGO committed to HIV support and prevention, was taken over by an unknown person on February 25. Tweets from the hacked account compared Ukraine to AIDS and claimed that Russia was “the cure”. The next day, after regaining control of the account, Youth of JAZAS apologised for the tweets.
In another episode, several web portals in Serbia made false claims about a change to the Zagreb Philharmonic program. Online media wrongly linked the changes of the program concerning the works of Russian composer Tchaikovsky to the war in Ukraine.
On February 25, Dušanka Majkić, an MP in Bosnia’s parliament from the main Bosnian Serb party, the Alliance of Independent Social Democrat Party, SNSD, tweeted that Bosnia could suffer the same consequences as attacked Ukraine if it joins NATO. “In March 2021, Moscow promised to react if Bosnia takes any further steps towards NATO. Don’t say you haven’t been warned,” the tweet read.
In Hungary, fake news and falsehoods on the Russo-Ukrainian War led to political clashes and smear campaigns targeting political opponents.
Pro-government media in the country struggle to move away from their former pro-Russian narrative. On the one hand, public media, pro-government media and some pundits uncritically reported untrue statements from the Kremlin about Ukraine. These include that Ukrainian troops entered Russia first, that a Ukrainian nation does not exist, and that Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky is comparable to Hitler.
Even after the Russian attacks began, some media still claimed Russia had no plans to attack Ukraine. Various Facebook pages linked to the ruling Fidesz party are also still spreading Russian propaganda. On the other hand, both government politicians and pro-government media have falsely claimed that opposition politicians want to send soldiers to Ukraine, plunging Hungary into war with Russia.
Finally, an item of disinformation about the Ukraine conflict has been widely shared online in both Bosnia and Hungary. Hundreds of thousands of users have watched a video on Facebook in less than 24 hours, apparently showing a military plane being attacked by air defence. The post suggests that the video is footage from the war in Ukraine. In reality, the video was from a war simulation computer game. Raskrinkavanje fact-checking portal clarified that the video was from the video game Arma 3, a realistic game released in September 2013 simulating military conflicts.
Religion and nationalism spur online attacks and hate speech in Bosnia and North Macedonia
Ethnic and political tensions, always characteristic of the Bosnian environment are being exacerbated by episodes of nationalist rhetoric in parliament. Aside from Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik’s secessionist threats, his Croatian counterpart has added to tensions.