Vucic Dares Twitter to Ban Him ‘Like Trump’ As ‘State-Affiliated’ Labels Reach Serbian Media Outlets


Serbian President

Aleksandar Vucic weighed in on US-based social network Twitter’s move to start labelling accounts in the country as purportedly “state affiliated”.

“I can’t wait for them (Twitter) to ban my account, so I can be another Trump in the world,” Vucic was quoted by local media as saying on Tuesday.

The remark was a reference to how the

ex-POTUS

was kicked off the platform. Donald Trump was permanently banned by

Twitter

for his alleged role in incitement of violence, when his supporters stormed the US Capitol on 6 January in protest of certification of Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential elections.


©
REUTERS / DADO RUVIC

Serbia’s president Aleksandar Vucic speaks during a news conference after donating a batch of coronavirus vaccines, at Sarajevo International Airport in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, March 2, 2021.

Twitter

defines

“state-affiliated” media as “outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution.” The platform “will not recommend or amplify” accounts thus labelled, it states.

Ahead of the November 2020 US presidential elections, Twitter

began appending

the “state-affiliated” media label to outlets in August that same year. The company stated at the time that its goal was to limit the spread of potentially harmful and

misleading content

.

Among those Twitter

deems affiliated

with Serbia’s government are the dailies Srpski Telegraf, Kurir, Informer, Politika, three free-to-air channels – Happy, Prva TV and B92, , as well as the news agency Tanjug. Serbia’s public broadcaster, Radio Television of Serbia, RTS, and Radio Television of Vojvodina, RTV, are also among those whose accounts are also labelled state-affiliated.

‘Who is Doing the Censorship?’

“Who should they cooperate with, tycoons, thieves and criminals? It is most normal that they cooperate with the government,” the Serbian leader queried in response to the labelling. Vucic, who heads the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), added:

“We don’t even fund most of these outlets, as a state. But they fund Voice of America and the BBC, and they are not labelled state media. Which leads me to wonder who is doing the censorship here.”

Vucic also congratulated all the media that received such a notification on their accounts, saying they were “spreading the freedom-loving ideas.”

‘Propaganda Machine of War’

Earlier, a dozen Serbian media outlets labelled “state-affiliated” by Twitter protested over what they branded as censorship.

“Twitter is a propaganda machine of war,” read a headline in the tabloid Informer. The outlet carried an interview with a pundit who claimed that Twitter was “doing the same thing NATO bombers did in 1999.”

The tabloid splashed an illustration with a photo of Hitler peeking out of Twitter’s blue bird logo across its front page.

Radio Television of Serbia (RTS)

issued a statement

deploring the move by Twitter as “hypocrisy”, and noting they are not funded by the state budget but from license fees, similar to the BBC. The company says they have placed labels on such accounts in the US, China, France, Russia, Germany, Italy, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

The “scandalous” move to begin such labelling without prior notification was denounced as a form of “impermissible pressure” on the media by RTS. The media outlet added that it had not been provided with any “serious and argument-based explanation” for the move. Nor had any clarification been offered as to what could or should be done to ditch the label.

Moreover, declaring journalists “state affiliated” can turn them into “targets”, warned RTS, in a reference to the April 1999

NATO bombing

of their building in Belgrade that killed 16 of their employees. In protest against the labelling, RTS has ceased to post on Twitter.