Silenced for Angering Bosnian Serb ‘Patriots’

by Srdjan Puhalo

Facebook blocked my profile and fan page three times this month. I must be winning the media war, if they want to shut me up that much.

Srdjan Puhalo is political analyst based in Banja Luka. Photo courtesy of Puhalo

Out of an inability to get into electronic and print media, I have used social networks as a medium for my stances, thoughts and ideas to reach as many people as possible. I was relatively successful.

When you have 5,000 friends on Facebook, and over 16,000 fans on the fan page and almost the same number of followers, that is not something to be neglected. If we add over 16,000 followers on Twitter, that is over 50,000 people who read, watch and listen to what I’m saying.

For several years now, I have been absent from the mainstream media in Republika Srpska. I am undesirable on Radio Television Republika Srpska, even though I pay the TV fee regularly.

I am also not on Alternativna TV, for some time, or BN TV, or Nezavisne novine, or Glas Srpske, whereas my statements sometimes find a place on the pages of EuroBlic.

Six or seven years ago I was so present in the media of Republika Srpska that people were afraid to open the fridge so I wouldn’t jump out of it. What the cause of this embargo is, I don’t know.

I can just assume; I can’t claim with certainty. However, that is not that important at the moment.

Not being present in the electronic or print media doesn’t mean I was not present in public. On the contrary, I was very much present.

On one hand, there were the media from the Federation entity, or the region, where I appear, and there is the blog I regularly write, www.frontal.ba portal, as well as social networks, primarily Facebook and Twitter, over which I “bother” people who follow me.

It turned out that, despite being ignored by the media from Republika Srpska, my visibility in public space didn’t decrease but increased.

Blog writing and usage of social networks actually helped me to become visible and reach many people in Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the region, and beyond – all that without any costs and with total authorial and personal freedom.

The truth is, I upset many people in Republika Srpska who see themselves first as nationalists, and then as people.

I upset many people in positions of authority in Republika Srpska and those who live a good life thanks to their closeness to the authorities.

I upset conservatives, patriots, authoritarians and the Orthodox, for I do not respect their authority, their vision of patriotism, and I do not spare even the Serbian Orthodox Church.

I upset the majority of them quite a bit, a small portion of them truly hate me and these do not hesitate to show it; one of them even sued me for inflicting mental anguish in a blog post.

On the one hand, they are upset by my stances, and on the other, they are upset by the fact that they cannot prevent me from publicly presenting my stances on many issues, and not hiding behind a false name.

That was all provided to me by social networks, which cannot be controlled, censored or forbidden by any politician, tycoon or a policeman.

That was provided to me by social networks, where time or space mean nothing anymore, and where you can, from any location and at any moment, via smartphone be political, be subversive and anti-against.

As you can see, I don’t have such a bad opinion of social networks in Bosnia and Herzegovina, for whoever has such electronic and print media – social networks will not be a heavy burden.

It is the digital media that are islands of free speech in Bosnia and Herzegovina and thanks to it, some persons or portals have more influence and credibility than the classical media.

So, why I am writing? Because, from Sunday April 8 to April 17, my Facebook profile and fan pagewere blocked three times? Why? Due to inappropriate content.

Someone, I don’t know who, decided to eliminate me from Facebook by reporting my statuses as inappropriate (nudity, hate speech, violence, harassment, suicide and self-harming, fake news, undesirable content, unauthorised sales). I failed to understand why they blocked me the first time, but here is the status for the second block.

Judge for yourselves what is inappropriate here:

 STATUS 1

For the past five years in Republika Srpska, the number of elementary school students in regular schools was reduced by 7,600. At the same time, the number of elementary schools was reduced by 35. Brother Serbs, we will be stupid and irrational till our last child!!!

Facebook screenshot 1

STATUS 2

I am a Chetnik in the morning, Balija in the afternoon, that is the magic of social networks!!!

Facebook screenshot 2

As someone who everyday writes against, criticises and actively fights against Bosnian and Herzegovinian conservativism, nationalism, clericalism, homophobia, religious radicalism, sexism, hate speech, fake news and exclusivity/superiority of any kind, I have found myself in a situation where I have been banned from Facebook on account of everything mentioned above.

I admit, I am only employing exclusivity against World War II revisionism and I take special pride in that.

In my inability to get into electronic and print media, I used social networks as a medium for my stances. That is the reason why I got in someone’s way.

Still, that fight is unjust: conservatives, nationalists, priests and imams, homophobes, sexists and many others already have their television channels, radio stations, newspapers, political organisations, police, prosecutor’s offices and judges.

I had my opinions and the internet. To reach readers, listeners or viewers, I had to be clear, factual and interesting. That was helped by irony, sarcasm and mockery, because when the system does not work, humour and satire are the only way to grab public attention.

Today, someone decided to remove me from social networks, and Facebook became their ally in that endeavour.

Those who made that decision, if they are even human, on content appropriateness, lack any understanding of the political and social context of Bosnia and Herzegovina and of the state of the media; they lack understanding of sarcasm and irony and do not know who Srđan Puhalo is and what his opinions are but are simply sticking to clear instructions and algorithms.

To end, I will quote Mahatma Gandhi: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” It seems that I succeeded; they started fighting against me.

This article was originally published on Analiziraj.ba.

It was later published in English on Balkan Insight   

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