Don't let this story fool you

While some in the Balkans offer a helping hand to refugees, the right-wing press often makes them a target of false reporting to stoke fear and hate. One such story has been making the rounds for two years now.

Tijana Cvjeticanin
Tijana Cvjeticanin Istinomjer, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Source: Istinomjer
Don't let this story fool you - NewsMavens
people in a fight By Лобачев Владимир (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

Using concern for womens' safety as a way to promote racism and xenophobia is a well-established tactic of the far right. So is making up tales of violence committed by migrants and refugees. 

The two often go hand in hand, as demonstrated in a fictional story about a fight in a small Russian town republished recently by some media outlets in the Balkans, along with a racist and sexist essay. 

Both the story and the essay were published two years ago, but the new arrival of Syrian refugees to the Balkans may have inspired the right-wing media to resurrect the story now.

And there could be more coming, especially in Bosnia, which has just now become a part of the refugees' migration corridor. Local officials are already pinning a "danger" sign on them, with a high state official making claims that "95% of them are drug addicts" and telling citizens who have opened their homes to the refugees to be "careful."

Media outlets in both Serbia and Croatia have been eager to amplify such messages. Hopefully, the ones in Bosnia won't follow suit.

What is the false story and how did it start?

  • More than two years ago, Norway deported dozens of asylum seekers to Russia, who ended up in small border towns in the Murmansk county.
  • Police in one of the border towns received a call about a fight in a local night club on Jan. 30, 2016 and established that it was false.
  • On the same night, the call was reported by news agency "Flash Nord" as an account of a fight between immigrants from "Arab countries" and local men who defended women from them.
  • All of it was debunked the next day by a local news website and refuted by the police.
  • Nevertheless, the story started to spread and got a major boost when it was translated to English and published on a right-wing website "Daily Caller."
  • From there, it got as far as New Zealand, where it was republished by a far-right, anti-immigration party.
  • It was also picked up by several media outlets in the Balkans, where it continued to make the rounds for a year.
  • Recently, a couple of media outlets from Croatia published it again, this time adding an essay about the "failing genetic code" of European men who, emasculated by feminism and "cultural totalitarianism," do not protect their women from violent foreigners (unlike virile Russian men).
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