Publishing fake news and misinformation is a common occurrence when it comes to news about and from Kosovo. This practice is particularly dangerous when such news is published in the midst of a crisis or situations that are sensitive in political and security terms – as was the case last week.
One of the more recent examples of this practice is this week’s news that a bomb was dropped at the Jarinje crossing from the Serbian side on the day of Kosovo’s local elections after polls closed. The news was originally published by the KosovaPress news agency. It then spread rapidly through the region via Beta news agency, but international agencies as well.
In its report, the agency originally relied on its own findings that the bomb had been dropped just minutes before the news was published (in the early evening hours). At the same time, they quoted the KP spokesperson for the North Mitrovica region, Branislav Radovic, as saying that „there is no information about this case“. In the follow-up Serbian version, the alleged and different time of the attack was revealed – around 7 pm. The agency also stated that the traffic at the crossing was temporarily suspended and that it was a case of an „armed attack“.
A number of media outlets in Serbian and the region soon picked up the news originally published by KosovaPress – that a bomb had been dropped at Jarinje – but now also containing an alleged statement by Pristina spokesman Baki Kelani for the same agency that „it is suspected that the attack came from the Serbian side.“ However, such a statement cannot be found in the online edition of Kosova Press from October 17th.
In fact, the same spokesman, immediately after the news on the bomb was published, denied the news for several media outlets (N1, Radio Kontakt Plus), even before the Kosovo police issued an official statement confirming that the bullet was found wedged in the roof of a customs and police container on Jarinje and that it is assumed that it came from the direction of the village of Tusnica on the Serbian side.
Referring to its findings from the police, RTV Kim also published additional information that an investigation has yet to be conducted on whether the bullet found in the customs and police container got there by accident or whether it was intentionally fired.
Beta soon corrected its news, but it was already too late. Numerous media outlets in Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina had published the first incorrect version…
At that point, several media in Serbia and the region picked up the rectified version from the Beta agency, while several of them added their own editorial interventions. Such as the following: „Kosovo Police spokesman Baki Kelani said that no bomb attack was carried out at the Jarinje border crossing, which he confirmed earlier, but that there was a shooting from a firearm.“
While the original KosovaPress article, which was transmitted by Beta, cited the spokesperson’s „suspicion“ as the confirmation of this news, the official police statement made no mention of „a shooting.“ Instead, it stated that the container was „hit by a bullet from a firearm.“
Some regional media outlets even used the term „grenade“ instead of „bomb“, and „projectile“ instead of a “bullet.”
In Albanian, the word „granatë“ means a „(hand) bomb“ in Serbian, while the term „granata“ in Serbian signifies an artillery projectile and howitzer.
The portal Slobodna Bosna used all of these terms in the same news piece, while also including misinformation and correcting the news in such a way that it only served to confirm the original incorrect news, thus giving readers completely different information and context.
The same portal published the news with a tabloid headline and sub-headline saying that the spokesperson confirmed the information presented in the headline, and uncredited photographs.
DRAMA IN KOSOVO: Attack on the Jarinje border crossing from the territory of Serbia
Kosovo Police spokesman Baki Kelani confirmed this information, stating that an attack was carried out.
As Pristina news agency Kosovopress reports, a bomb was launched from the territory of Serbia at the Jarinje border crossing tonight. According to this media, a police and customs checkpoint was attacked.
Kosovo Police spokesman Baki Kelani confirmed this information, stating that an attack was carried out.
„Based on the initial information, it is suspected that the bomb came from the direction of the village of Tusnica in Serbia. An investigation into the case has been launched,“ he said.
The Kosovo police announced that they received information from the officers at the Jarinje crossing that a firearm projectile hit a container at that crossing this afternoon.
„It is suspected that the grenade came from the direction of Serbia. Kosovo police received information from border officers that a firearm projectile hit the container used by border police and customs officers of the Republic of Kosovo at the Jarinje border crossing this afternoon,“ the police said in a statement.
They added that based on the initial information, it is suspected that the grenade came from the direction of the village of Tusnica, which is located on the territory of central Serbia.
„No was injured, the investigation is ongoing. The traffic at this crossing is proceeding smoothly,“ the police announced.
Local elections are being held in Kosovo today, polls are closed, and relations between Serbs from the north of Kosovo and official Pristina have significantly deteriorated due to recent actions of the ROSU special unit and conflicts between ethnic Serbs and Kosovo police.
Contrary to Slobodna Bosna, Belgrade-based Nedeljnik weekly, which also transmitted the misinformation published by Beta, approached the news correction more carefully.
While transmitting the news correction of the same agency, with a new and clear headline that a bullet hit the customs container, the news sub-headline stated that it was a denial that a bomb attack was carried out against the police and customs container at the Jarinje crossing.
They also distanced themselves by emphasizing that the original news of the Beta agency contained allegations that the spokesman „confirmed that a bomb attack was carried out on a police and customs container at the Jarinje crossing“, and that the spokesman “subsequently explained” for another media outlet – N1, that it was a bullet from a firearm. It also mentioned another local media source – Radio Kontakt Plus, for which this spokesman also gave the same statement.
Nedeljnik also wrote the following, in bold letters: Note: In the previous report, the headline read „Kosovo Police confirmed a bomb attack on a container at the Jarinje crossing“, according to the initial report of the Beta agency.
After sharing the incorrect news, several media outlets published the revised news piece as separate news, although once again in a sensationalist and tabloid manner.
„FIREARMS PROJECTILE HITS CONTAINER IN JARINJE Kosovo police: Grenade came from the direction of Serbia“ – reads the headline in Blic daily. In its text, which cites the Kosovoonline portal, the terms „projectile“ and „grenade“ are used, which in a broader sense refer to heavy-caliber weapons and cannon loading.
Although several media outlets corrected this news in the meantime – either by publishing a new news piece or removing the article from their sites or by correcting the old one, the incorrect news remained on several portals four days later, where it is still available.
Some popular portals have also yet to remove the news piece, such as Sarajevo-based Avaz – „A bomb was dropped from the territory of Serbia on the Jarinje border crossing“, or Danas daily: „A bomb attack on a police and customs checkpoint at the Jarinje crossing.“
Also, it is still available on those portals which used tabloid or sensationalist headlines (CHAOS ON JARINJE AGAIN! A bomb was thrown at the police and customs checkpoint, Drama in Kosovo: Attack on the Jarinje border crossing).
Just as the misinformation spread like wildfire through two agencies – from Kosovo, then from a Serbian agency to Serbia and the region, the same happened with the media
reporting in Albanian, whose headlines and sub-headlines highlighted the word „bomb“.
Several media outlets reporting in Albanian did not publish the correction afterward. Some of them, such as Koha and the Telegrafi portal, published the confirmation from the police as a news update to the previous article about the bomb attack, thus failing to clarify that the original news was incorrect, instead, it was presented as an updated event.
On the other hand, on the day of the elections, the Kallxo portal explained in detail the media trajectory of the misinformation about the bomb attack, thus being the only one among the Albanian-language media to do so.
In its article „The media lied about the bomb attack on the Jarinje border crossing“, Kallxo was one of the few media outlets that did not publish incorrect news of the KosovaPress agency. Instead, the portal obtained confirmation from several of its own sources that it was not a bomb attack, but a bullet. It also underscored that it was suspected that the bullet was fired from a weapon of a stronger caliber, and perhaps even from a sniper. It wasn’t until later that the Kosovo Police officially confirmed that a bullet hit the container.
In the conclusion of the text, this portal revealed that even after the Kosovo Police officially reacted, the Reporteri portal published the incorrect news: „Police confirmed: Police officers and customs officers attacked with a hand grenade“, and that despite the title, the text stated that it was a bullet.
When it comes to Kosovo Serb media, almost all local media, with some exceptions, did not publish the incorrect news. Only after the Kosovo Police reacted, or after obtaining official information did these media outlets report that it was a bullet and what had been previously happened, i.e. what had been published.
The misinformation that a bomb was thrown at police officers and customs officers in Jarinje and that an attack was carried out came only a few days after new riots broke out in the municipalities of North Mitrovica and Zvecan when Serb protesters and Kosovo police special units clashed. During the clashes, one person was badly wounded. Just two weeks before, the 13-day-long blockade of highways near Jarinje and Brnjak, where in addition to barricades installed by local Serbs, Kosovo special police units were deployed, had finally ended.
The incorrect news can still be read on the KosovaPress portal. And the many bitter and hostile comments under such news published throughout the region are still there, written by those who trust the media unconditionally.
Preuzimanje i objavljivanje tekstova sa portala KoSSev nije dozvoljeno bez navođenja izvora. Hvala na poštovanju etike novinarske profesije.