Serbian media outlets labelled “state-affiliated” by Twitter protested the platform’s action as censorship, while the country’s president, Aleksandar Vucic, said the social media company may as well ban him just like Donald Trump.
Twitter began appending the “state-affiliated” media label to outlets back in August 2020, and now the labelling was extended to Serbia.
“Twitter is a propaganda machine of war,” thundered a headline in the tabloid Informer, above an interview with a pundit who claimed the US-based social networks were “doing the same thing NATO bombers did in 1999,” and illustrated with a photo of Hitler peeking out of Twitter’s blue bird logo.
“Who else should they cooperate with, oligarchs, thieves and criminals?” Vucic – whom the AP described as an “autocratic leader” – said in response to the labelling. “It’s the most normal thing for the media to cooperate with the government.”
“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,” he added.
“I can’t wait for them to ban my account, so I can be another Trump in the world,” Vucic said.
This was a reference to Twitter’s decision to “permanently suspend” Trump’s account in January, while he was still the sitting US president.
The Serbian Radio-Television (RTS) pointed out the hypocrisy of this in their statement protesting the labelling and noting they are not funded by the state budget but from license fees, just like the BBC.
Calling the labelling a form of “impermissible pressure” on the media, RTS said it was “scandalous” that Twitter applied the label without notifying them, offering any “serious and argument-based explanation” for the move, or explaining what could or should be done to get rid of the label.
The move is “insulting to Twitter users, who are considered incapable of drawing their own conclusions about the content they read and follow,” the outlet added.