The modern age has brought us into a new reality where social networks and media create and promote narratives and information that undermine the legitimacy of not only Montenegrin but also societies around the world.

The current situation regarding the Law on Freedom of Religion has deepened the crisis in relations between the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Montenegrin state. This has resulted in an intense disinformation campaign, and consequently a lack of trust in the media, with the crucial question being – who to trust?

In such conditions, working with young people, high school pupils and students is crucial in the fight against disinformation. Therefore, Digital Forensic Center of the ACM organized a two-day workshop for young people who were interested in training. The aim was to teach participants more about the pervasive phenomenon of disinformation – how to combat this phenomenon, what psychological aspects are behind the disinformation campaigns, what is the modus operandi of campaigns seen across Europe and the world etc.

Lecturers Darko Brkan from Raskrinkavanje and Milan Jovanovic from DFC, after providing participants of this two-day training with theoretical knowledge, demonstrated practical exercises. The participants were educated on how to find information in order to check the accuracy of texts through open-source tools, how to determine geolocation, and finally how to write text. After that, the students did specific exercises on their own.

Participants were also instructed how to make a good lie by taking information that is not easy to verify. Media types (public and private agencies, public, commercial and online media, social networks) were highlighted. Phenomena of bots and trolls, misinterpretations of terms, and distinctions among them were also discussed.

Also, concrete examples were presented on how the creation of disinformation can be grounded in political interests, and often in money.

Conclusions and recommendations:

  • Emerging forms of media manipulation are: fake news, spreading fake news, spin, disinformation, fact manipulation, pseudoscience, conspiracy theory, biased reporting, censorship.
  • In the domain of credibility, professional media must have a published impressum, contact, data, as well as ownership and publisher information, form, content and must be transparent.
  • Participants showed a high level of media literacy, answering correctly to over 83% answers of the given quiz.
  • Participants demonstrated the ability to put theory into practice through a series of successfully completed exercises in various fields.
  • According to the participants, the approach of focusing on the practical and interactive part, along with teamwork, is what really raised the workshop to a higher level.
  • A long-term process of raising awareness in the field of media literacy among the youngest, as well as strengthening digital literacy, as a resistance to disinformation is needed in Montenegro.
  • It is agreed that the subject Media Literacy should be an integral and obligatory part of the secondary school curriculum.
  • The participants expressed their interest in further workshops on various topics, such as the impact on the media when writing and publishing text, the detailed presentation of open-source tools, or a workshop that would address security and safety on the Internet.

A meeting with the Canadian Delegation was held today in the Atlantic Council of Montenegro. Members of the Delegation were: Michael Kaduck, Kristina Mastelica, Brian Ebel and Nathalie Niedoba. The issues discussed were the latest happenings in Montenegro, especially the current situation or, the Law on Freedom of Religion. Additionally, the work of the Digital Forensic Center, which is actively engaged in countering disinformation and fake news, was presented, as well as the research on the current disinformation campaign. The President of the Atlantic Council of Montenegro, Savo Kentera, pointed out that it is very positive that Canada showed interest in Montenegro and the region, which is the indicator that we are not alone.

At the press conference, held in the premises of the Atlantic Council of Montenegro on January 28, 2020, Milan Jovanovic from the Digital Forensic Center presented the new research concerning the current disinformation campaign. The goal of the presentation was to display quantitative and qualitative results, with reference to the key examples of disinformation, media narrative analysis but also to modus operandi of these campaigns.

According to him, during the last three months, 35000 articles and posts concerning directly the Law on Freedom of Religion were posted on social media.

„The campaign is coming from Russia and Serbia. It is completely indicative that during the last three months, out of 35 000 of articles which concern this Law, 20 000 is coming from Serbia, therefore it can be concluded that someone is intentionally forcing particular content which is gaining in popularity“, Jovanovic said and added that around 9 000 pieces of information came from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Jovanovic said that it is crucial to determine the key groups and individuals who are posting fake news on this subject through social media analysis.

As he said, in their research the focus was on the concrete examples of disinformation in order to present everything that a disinformation campaign implies, not just fake news and disinformation.

Jovanovic explained that this includes calls for violence, radicalization of comments, using of children for political and propaganda purpose.

He stated that the presentation represents a summary of everything that has been done during the last three months.

„I think that no platform, media or social network is excluded from this campaign. Facebook, as the biggest social network, together with the media represents the largest source of information but, unfortunately, the disinformation as well“, said Jovanovic.

Jovanovic said that the analyisis of the modus operandi of disinformation campaign in Montenegro indicates that the same was used in the SEE countries, Ukraine and Western countries.

„If the campaign in the above-mentioned countries is initiated by Russia using the same modus operandi, we can conclude that this campaign is coming from the same address“, Jovanovic said.

As he explained, the problem of disinformation cannot be easily solved, otherwise, this problem would be neutralized in the much more developed countries and societies.

“I think that we should always work on ourselves, this is the best answer to the question „how to be resilient to disinformation? “. We need to check the sources of information and not to believe in everything that is being posted“, Jovanovic said.

He said that the protests organized due to the Law on Freedom of Religion were of a spiritual character at the beginning, but meanwhile, they started receiving political dimensions.

„At the beginning, the protest had a spiritual character which is reflected in the lack of any propaganda material, flags or other nationalistic landmarks. Now, everything that we see implies that the litanies are getting political character“, Jovanovic said.

According to his words, it is necessary to devote more attention to the education of children, so, the state authorities should make more effort in that sense. He also added that the arrests cannot be used in a fight against disinformation.

The NATO Public Diplomacy Division (PDD) is organizing the Conference entitled An Integrated Approach to NATO Communications which is taking place in Brussels, on 23 and 24 January 2020 and is bringing together the experts from think tanks and academia together with government officials and communicators, as well as representatives from industry and culture. The Atlantic Council of Montenegro is also taking part in this high-level Conference. The goal of this Conference is to take stock of the latest political discussions in London and to chart out the communications implications for the next months and years.

The Atlantic Council of Montenegro, together with the Faculty of Law, University of Montenegro and with the support of NATO PDD organized the Workshop on preventing online radicalization of youth in Montenegro which took place on Tuesday, December 10, 2019 at the Faculty of Law in Podgorica.

Savo Kentera, President of the Atlantic Council of Montenegro, Dražen Cerović, Professor at the Faculty of Law at the University of Montenegro and Dragan Pejanović, State Secretary of the Ministry of Interior and National Coordinator for P/CVE gave effective welcome speeches.

When it comes to younger generations, there is a growing need for more proactive and comprehensive approach to the fight against online radicalization. Therefore, this workshop served as a great opportunity for young people to gain the skills, necessary knowledge and capacities to identify online manipulation and radicalization as well as to identify the ways to fight back this phenomenon.

The workshop built upon the momentum in which we mark the Human Rights week and emphasized the need to focus on human rights promotion as this boosts resilience of affected communities, builds their confidence in institutions of the system and ability for them to feel appreciated and free to express themselves and fully participate in public and political life of their society.

“Understanding radicalization”, “How to curb online radicalization among youth”, “Legal framework in the prevention of the violent extremism” are some of the main topics which were covered by interactive discussions whose participants were Jelena Fuštić, Project Coordinator at the Forum MNE, dr Adis Balota, Professor at the Faculty for Information Technologies at the Mediterranean University and Dražen Cerović.

President of the Atlantic Council of Montenegro, Dr. Savo Kentera, attends the NATO Summit in London, within the high-level Conference NATO Engages.

The Heads of States and Governments, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Ministers of Defence and other decision makers gathered in London in order to mark 70 years of the Alliance but also, in order to discuss the future of it.

The focus of the Summit is, of course, on the future of the Alliance, the analysis of the ways that the Alliance engages in the current geopolitical uncertainty, changes in nature, threats and new possibilities. Some of the key topics in London are hybrid warfare, disinformation, cyber security, development of new technologies, state on the geopolitical scene etc.

The statement of the French President, Emmanuel Macron, that “NATO is brain dead” attracted special attention, as well as the unacceptability of the fact that Turkey, as one of the most prominent NATO member countries, buys the missile system S400 from Russia. Relations with Turkey and France will be the main topic of the Summit and after that, we will know what NATO could expect in the future.

The NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, said that the Alliance is proving that it is agile, active and achieving results. Today, NATO is doing more than it has done for decades.

NATO is a guarantor of stability and safe future – it was the message of the Conference entitled NATO: 1949 – 1999 – 2019 The 20 Years of Poland in the 70 Years of the Alliance, organized by the Atlantic Council of Montenegro in cooperation with the Institute for Eastern Studies, which was held on November 28, 2019 in the hotel Centreville in Podgorica.

In his speech, President of the Atlantic Council of Montenegro, Savo Kentera, emphasized that only 15 years ago, the majority of people did not believe that Montenegro could be an independent state, let alone a NATO member state. Even though it takes a lot of time to see the real benefits of membership, Montenegro has achieved the concrete results during the last two years. Regarding this, Kentera emphasized the fact the Montenegrin borders cannot be changed and it represents a confirmation of Montenegrin sovereignty. He also highlighted that the level of safety is higher in comparison with the previous two years, that economic development is noticeable particularly when it comes to the sustainable investments and that one of the most important benefits of NATO membership is the acceptance of the Western values. Kentera concluded that Montenegro will not stop with the NATO membership and that it should do everything in order to become the EU member state in near future.

Ambassador of the Republic of Poland in Montenegro, Artur Dmochowski, pointed out that NATO is a guarantee for stability and that the admission of Poland to NATO in 1999 represents a confirmation of its sovereignty and independence. Also, by joining NATO, Poland made an exit from Russian influence and a strong entry into Western geopolitical world. Ambassador emphasized that Montenegro is making a strong contribution to the security of the Alliance and concluded that just as NATO can count on Montenegro, Montenegro can count on NATO and Poland.

Anna Kurowska, Programme Manager for the Balkans in the Institute for Eastern Studies in Poland, presented the whole project and publication and highlighted that the Conference is taking place just a couple of days before NATO Summit in London, therefore, it represents the ideal occasion for us to try to find the answers on the future of Alliance.

The Conference was completed with a productive and interesting discussion. Dragan Pejanović, State Secretary at the Ministry of the Interior and National Coordinator for NATO, Andrzej Jacuch, Professor at the Military University of Technology in Poland and Dmitri Teperik, Chief Executive of the International Centre for Defence and Security in Estonia took part in the discussion.

Dragan Pejanović emphasized that the enormous success was achieved in eliminating the prejudice that Montenegrin people have against NATO Alliance. He stated that it is a great privilege for Montenegro to be a part of the modern, democratic family and to bring decisions together with the most developed countries in the world and, therefore, contribute to the preserving of peace and stability. Pejanovic concluded that by joining NATO, Montenegro made a progress in all fields and added that the GDP grew by 5% as well as FDI, which grew for 30% in 2018 in comparison with the previous years.

Andrzej Jacuch pointed out to the significance of civil preparedness and resilience and said that he is very optimistic when it comes to the future of NATO Alliance. Jacuch considers that the biggest benefit of Poland’s NATO membership is a higher level of security and not just security in military sense.

Dmitri Teperik stressed out the importance of the global perception of NATO and expressed his concern about a generally negative view that the citizens of NATO members have on the Alliance. According to him, the smaller member states such as Poland and Montenegro are on the frontline when it comes to hostile influence and drew attention to the fact that the bigger allies could learn a lot from the smaller ones when it comes to this issue.

Conference: NATO is a guarantor of stability and safe future

“DFC 365“ Conference, organized by the Atlantic Council of Montenegro was held on October 22, 2019 in Centreville hotel in Podgorica. The Conference served as the occasion to present a year of work of the Digital Forensic Center (DFC), a section of the Atlantic Council of Montenegro which is actively engaged in debunking of disinformation and fake news. Additionally, there was a discussion on the key problems and challenges, with a special emphasis on the forthcoming elections, both in Montenegro and in the Western Balkans.

Dr. Savo Kentera, President of the Atlantic Council of Montenegro gave an opening speech and emphasized the importance of the Digital Forensic Center in a fight against undermining of democratic systems.

Kentera said that the Western democracies became too relaxed after the Cold War and it was a huge mistake. According to him, it is high time to shift from defense to offense and take initiative since the year of elections is ahead of us and it will represent a fertile soil for malicious foreign influence. He also added that Montenegro is readier than it used to be to respond to hybrid attacks.

“I believe that we are readier to respond to these attacks than we used to be in 2016 and I think that many things are going to improve. There is a high quality coordination in sharing of the information within the system, but we should also include NGOs, companies and all those who perceive Montenegro as a part of the EU.“, Kentera stated.

Reflecting on the recent messages from Brussels, he emphasized that the region must not be left to wait due to the strengthening of the EU, because, all of those who want to “cover“ this region will eventually do it.

Finally, the President of the Atlantic Council had a clear message for all those who strive to undermine democratic systems:

“You have been trying to accomplish this and you have been successful. Keep trying as much as you want and you can win one or two battles but you will never win a war!”

Milan Jovanović, Analyst of the DFC explained the work of the DFC in his presentation, as presented the publications with accomplishments during the previous year.

According to him, the main target of disinformation was not predominantly the EU, but NATO and Army. Jovanović stated that there were campaigns against the Army of Montenegro which resulted in a belief that we lost our sovereignty with NATO accession. “I am telling you openly that all of this is coming from Russia and has to do with their political agenda“ Jovanović concluded.

Ljubo Filipović, Chief Analyst of the DFC, highlighted that the trust is more important than the truth in this field and that the disinformation is created specifically in this context. According to him, we should not engage in counter-propaganda, but we should check the facts.

“And first, we should check our work, so that we would not become an easy target for the other party“, Filipović said.

Minister of Defence of Montenegro, Predrag Bošković, commended the cooperation between the Atlantic Council of Montenegro and Ministry of Defence of Montenegro and said that Montenegro is readier to fight against these issues today than it used to be during the period before NATO accession. „It is a fact that in 2016, Montenegro was the first country in Europe to experience direct interference of external factors, through the usage of different methods. Among the leading campaigns was the creation of false information. Of course, combined with different cyber-attacks and direct attempted terrorist act in Montenegro“, Minister Bošković highlighted.

U.S. Ambassador to Montenegro, Judy Rising Reinke, emphasized that Russia and the USA have two completely different approaches to Montenegro. According to her, Russia attempts to confuse the public and slow the progress of Montenegro, while the USA offers a support in building of democratic institutions. Rising Reinke commended the role of the DFC in a fight against demonstrating and creating of fake content.

President of the NGO Why not, Darko Brkan, stated that the regional cooperation is the key, given the fact that we speak the same language and without regional cooperation, we cannot go deeply into the matter. He also added that the hiding of information is considered disinformation.

Eto Buziashvili, Research Assistant in the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, emphasized the importance of social networks when it comes to disinformation and its creation. She said that the cooperation with Twitter and Facebook is crucial since the deactivation of profiles which coordinately spread disinformation helps us narrow the field for misuse of social media.

Two days long training on “How to assess and counter malign influence in the Western Balkans” started today in the Atlantic Council of Montenegro and will last until September 18.

The training was implemented with the support of the International Visegrad Fund and it was the occasion for analyzing how to assess and counter foreign malign influence in Western Balkans with a particular emphasis on the national plan. In this context, there were discussions about shared experience from beyond Western Balkans, particularly from Czech Republic.

The participants from the Central Europe and Western Balkans region will also address the security issue on social media, how to protect data on personal computer or mobile phone, as well as about what other protection measures there are.

Youth Atlantic Treaty Association (YATA) Montenegro is announcing a contest for admission of new members!

YATA is a very significant pillar of the Atlantic Council of Montenegro, with its young members who participate in numerous activities in Montenegro and abroad, including various visits to relevant institutions, meetings with ambassadors, attending schools and seminars as well as participating in international conferences.

Atlantic Council of Montenegro is educating members of YATA in order to form a team of young people who will be able to contribute to these activities and to take part in the activities on the international level.

If you are ready to present your ideas and initiative and if you want to become a member of our team, send your motivation letter and CV to the following e-mail address: [email protected]. Applications are open until September 30, 2019 for candidates between 18 and 30 years of age.

Become a member of YATA team!