DISINFO: Serbian media uncritically repeat false Western media reports on Russia
Western media, starting with Reuters, have misrepresented the results of regional elections in Russia. Reuters contemplated a possible “beginning of the end” for Vladimir Putin, speculated on Putin’s downfall in the 2024 presidential elections and made an unwarranted comparison to Erdoğan’s election losses in Ankara and Istanbul. The media in Serbia have uncritically repeated these conclusions, misinforming the public about the real state of affairs in Russia. That is bad and dangerous for Serbia, because marginal figures are getting media coverage, instead of those who really influence Russia’s policy, including that towards the Balkans.
These false claims were spread across two complementary reports of Sputnik Serbia, published on September 14th (“How Putin “lost” the elections in Moscow”) and September 15th (“The West is rejoicing Putin’s decline, but what really happened”). The claim that Serbian media have “blindly reprinted Western disinformation” is diametrically opposed to what actually happened. Reuters’ report on the results of regional elections in Russia, published on September 9th, does not mention Putin’s “downfall”, nor did Reuters compare Putin to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in this, or any other report on the results of the regional elections held on September 8th in Russia. Reuters also didn’t focus only on United Russia’s loss of seats in Moscow. The report states that the party “retained its majority in the Moscow assembly following Sunday’s nationwide local elections, and its candidates for regional governor appeared to have won in St Petersburg and in 15 other parts of the vast country.” The same point is reiterated in the video clip embedded in the article. The video report provides a statement of Alexei Navalny, but also that of Andrey Turchak, the chairman of United Russia, who said that the party’s overall result was “more than positive” and “has exceeded our most optimistic forecasts”. A number of media in the Balkans used Reuters’ report on the regional elections in Russia and added sensationalist headlines about “Putin’s downfall” and speculation about who will form the new majority in Moscow city assembly. Reuters, however, was clear on the fact that United Russia, whose candidates were “rebranded” as independents for the regional elections, will keep a majority in Moscow city assembly with 25 out of 40 seats. This claim falsely attributes these statements to Reuters, which has never published them (see a fact-check in local language here).