Digital natives combating dangerous narratives in western Balkans

The project was implemented on the territory of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The contexts of both environments are significantly different in terms of historical events, more precisely the war actions during the 1990s. On the one hand, people in Serbia did not experience war on their territory and have no direct experience, while on the other hand BiH suffered the greatest destruction after the Second World War. At the same time, on both sides, the new generation has grown up without any war experience, and they learn about it at school and from the social environment they live in, which has not yet gone through the process of confronting the past. These generations have an “extreme” and “emotional” attitude towards war events. State and national policy makers continue to use this war for political purposes in order to stay in power as “protectors” of the national interests of the newly formed states. The media scene in both countries is also contributing to similar patterns from the 1990s, and has once again become a propaganda machine for divisions between nations and states.

Manipulative narratives have already created a gap in communication between social groups, which directly affects the youth – even though they should be the bearers of change and normalization of relations in the region. The educational systems in both countries give legitimacy to these narratives through curricula, created on a one-sided interpretation of the facts.

The first specific goal was to educate 20 young people from the Western Balkan region about the history of war in the former Yugoslavia, media literacy, disinformation and media production for social networks, in order to change nationalist and dangerous narratives among young people in the Balkans. In the educational part of the project, participants attended an online training session on the history of the 1990s conflict, media production and the world of social networks, and had a study visit to Sarajevo (via Srebrenica). This program served them to acquire skills and tools to implement changes in their societies and beyond this project.

Another specific goal of the project was to point out solutions, good deeds, advances in communication, initiatives for change, etc. through the media production of 10 topics (on 5 different communication channels), led by 2 experienced mentors, in order to influence the change of aggressive and destructive narratives that are present in communication among young people today, especially when it comes to topics related to the wars of the 1990s in the Balkans.

The third specific goal was to involve young people in a campaign to change the narrative on social networks, which will demonstrate the possibilities of digital media and social networks as communication channels for introducing and creating their own narratives, but also as tools for changing narratives in their communities. The campaign on social networks took place during the last two months of the project, with the aim of reaching more people on different social networks. The campaign included the promotion of media content created by young participants. You can view all video materials on the social networks of the “Forgotten Children of the War” Association and the Independent Association of Journalists of Vojvodina, NDNV.

Visit to the Memorial Center in Srebrenica

As part of the project, in 2021 we visited the Srebrenica Memorial Center together with the participants of the regional program, young people from BiH and Serbia who are resolutely walking the path of the future and equal narratives of the past. After the visit to the center, the participants took part in a psychotherapy session, the main goal of which was reflection and integration of the experience in relation to the many topics discussed during the program.

Conference “Digital natives combating dangerous narratives in Western Balkans”

In the period from Thursday (20.05.2021) to Sunday (23.05.2021), young activists and journalists gathered in Sarajevo. The participants had the opportunity to talk with Arijana Saračević Helać about journalism from the front line. Arijana presented her reporting work during the siege of Sarajevo, but also pointed out to young people the importance of objective and factual reporting. The participants had the opportunity to talk with the president of the Association Ajna Jusić, then with a director Dino Mustafić on the topic “Art practice in the service of dealing with the past”. The Forgotten children of war Association believes that art and culture are one of the key factors for building peace in post-conflict states and societies. As part of the conference, the participants toured the city of Sarajevo with historian Nicolas Moll and visited the History Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the War Childhood Museum in Sarajevo.

Donor: Regional Youth Cooperation Office – RYCO; Project duration: 7 months