Government news outlet puts words in Noam Chomsky's mouth

An article falsely claiming that American linguist and social critic Noam Chomsky described Albanians as "a wild tribe" was reprinted by dozens of media outlets in the Balkans.

Tijana Cvjeticanin
Tijana Cvjeticanin Istinomjer, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Source: Istinomjer
Government news outlet puts words in Noam Chomsky's mouth - NewsMavens
Noam Chomsky. Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

It's one thing when fake news is circulated by obscure and anonymous online portals, looking to draw visits to their pages and make a buck through Google ads. It's quite another when legitimate media outlets do it, putting their reputation on the line in the process.

But when it's done by a publicly owned news agency, it should be called out for what it is: flat-out propaganda.

This was the case with the article published by SRNA (public news agency of the entity Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina), which quoted Noam Chomsky saying that Albanians were "Europe's biggest embarrassment" and were "a wild tribe, which banished their host (the Serbs) from Kosovo, which is a disgrace."

Although not a single word of it was true, it was happily accepted as a fact and reprinted by dozens of other media, mostly (but not exclusively) from Serbia and Republika Srpska. 

Agency news are regularly used as a source of material by other media, who pay for their services and rely on their professionalism and accuracy in return. They are, therefore, typically subjected to less scrutiny by those who republish it.

It is, of course, not unheard of that news agencies demonstrate political bias in their work -- but inventing such a story out of thin air is a step too far, even in a highly politicized media environment.  

fake news,media,politics

Details from the story:

  • Earlier this month, SRNA published an article titled "Albanians - The biggest embarrassment of modern Europe."
  • The "when and where" of the news was presented as "Washington, Jan. 18th"
  • The article claims Noam Chomsky expressed harsh opinions of Kosovo Albanians in an article published in the magazine "Foreign Affairs." It was republished by RTRS, the entity of Republika Srpska's public broadcaster. 
  • But Chomsky never wrote an article for "Foreign Affairs," nor ever described Albanians "an embarrassment" or "like a wild tribe."
  • SRNA said that their sources were unnamed "media from Belgrade." However, the link they sent led to an article on a local portal, published a day after their own news, which clearly could not have been the source. Asked to clarify these inconsistencies in their response, they fell silent. 
  • Chomsky and "Foreign Affairs" have not responded to requests for comment.
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