01. jul 2018.

Minister proposes working group be formed to defend against fake news

Investigative journalist Stefan Cvetković, who disappeared last month, only to report to police two days later claiming to have been kidnapped and detained against his will in an unknown location, appeared before prosecutors who have filed criminal charges against him for making false claims. Cvetković later announced that he would present new evidence proving that he had been kidnapped.

The news that Cvetković had been found was announced by Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Interior Minister Nebojša Stefanović, speaking at a press conference at which they also announced a campaign against “creators of fake news”. Specifically, the President of Serbia hinted that news about Cvetković’s abduction was fictitious – as was the news story claiming that Belgrade’s tap water was toxic, which had appeared on social networks in the preceding days – and announced that he would take on the creators of fake news.

Following their statements, Minister without Portfolio Nenad Popović – who is known, amongst other things, for having filed four lawsuits this year against independent investigate journalist portal KRIK – proposed that the president form a working group for defending against fake news, stressing that “what has happened in recent weeks, especially in Belgrade, is just a prelude to some future fake news.”

The working group, according to Minister Popović, would include representatives of the government, expert bodies, agencies and NGOs, while the idea would be “to establish a legal and institutional framework that would ensure citizens are not exposed to fake news”. It remains unclear, however, what precisely that group would do and what responsibilities it would assume.

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Investigative reporting portal KRIK has announced that the idea of a working group is “dangerous”, as “its fight will be directed against noncomforming media and social networks, while the tabloids will remain untouched because their daily spreading of fake news suits the authorities.”

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