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Security Brief: EUCOM Week of December 6, 2021

Week of Monday, December 6, 2021 | Issue 54

Iris Raith, Pètra van de Gevel, EUCOM Team


Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan[1]


Date: December 6, 2021

Location: Montenegro

Parties involved: Serbian government; Serbian media outlets; Adria Media Group; United Media; Government of Montenegro; Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic

The event: Reports have emerged claiming Serbian media has increased its presence in neighboring Montenegro, with rising fears that Serbia will attempt to interfere in Montenegrin politics and public opinion. Serbian media companies with ties to Serbian President Aleksander Vucic, such as Serbian Adria Media Group and United Media, have overtaken three out of the four Montenegrin national broadcasters.[2]

Analysis & Implications :

  • Serbian media companies will very likely continue to increase their presence in Montenegro to eventually overtake all Montenegrin broadcasting channels. This will almost certainly result in an increase in Serbian investments in the Montenegrin broadcasting market. Serbian media companies will very likely share content that is affirmative of the Serbian government’s agenda and attempt to exert influence on Montenegrin public opinion.

  • The information that will be shared through media platforms will very likely promote a Serbian-friendly image, especially regarding the Serbian government, resulting in a lack of objective journalism. The lack of objective journalism will likely result in biased news coverage, censorship, and a decrease in media freedom in Montenegro as Serbian media outlets will likely try to prevent them from spreading criticism against the Serbian government. By attempting to exert influence through the media, President Vucic is likely wanting to attain the long-term goal of reunification between Serbia and Montenegro.

Date: December 8, 2021

Location: Russia

Parties involved: Russian government; Russian President Vladimir Putin; Privacy service Tor; Russia's State communications regulator Roskomnadzor; Foreign tech companies; US Tor users; Russian Tor users; Russian internet users; Russian activist movements; Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)

The event: Russia's State communications regulator Roskomnadzor blocked the global privacy service Tor, which hides user Internet Provider (IP) addresses, enabling people to browse the internet anonymously.[3] The Roskomnadzor accused Tor of providing access to illegal and unlawful content. This year, Russia increased its influence over foreign tech companies and the content disseminated on their platforms by expanding State oversight and internet control, such as prohibiting access to certain websites.[4]

Analysis & Implications:

  • Russian internet users will very likely have limited access to other online anonymizing services and VPNs in the near future as it is likely Roskomnadzor will continue to block access to these networks. Tor’s anonymizing services almost certainly created difficulty for the Russian government in investigating the browsing habits of Russian Tor users. It is very likely the Russian government viewed the Tor network as a platform to gain access to online content prohibited in Russia, as well as to anonymously share information online, evading Russian internet censorship.

  • By denying access to certain internet services, it is almost certain that internet freedom in Russia will decrease and Russia’s censorship technology will improve. Russian internet users will likely not be able to have access to free and unbiased internet resources as the Russian government will very likely continue to expand internet censorship to suppress activist movements. It is likely Russian activist movements will not be able to share content online and will face digital censorship efforts, such as intercepting, filtering, or removing of the data they share. This development will likely strengthen support for Russia’s ruling government as they will have the power to decide what the Russian public will see online.

Date: December 8, 2021

Location: Ankara, Turkey; Strasbourg, France

Parties involved: Turkish government; Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan; Council of Europe; Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala; Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas; European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)

The event: Turkish President Erdoğan announced the Turkish government would not recognize any decision made by the Council of Europe and the ECtHR regarding the calls for the release of Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala and Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas.[5] The Council of Europe, which Turkey is a member of, has announced it will start infringement proceedings against Turkey if both imprisoned individuals are not released. A decision could lead to the exclusion of Turkey from the Human Rights body.[6]

Analysis & Implications:

  • By disregarding the decisions of the European bodies it is very likely the Turkish government is endangering its EU accession status. It is also likely that President Erdoğan’s announcement will negatively impact Turkey’s relationship with EU institutions and Member States, such as Germany and France. It is likely that human rights groups will call upon the EU to reconsider its relationship with Turkey by publishing official statements and actively lobbying MEPs and Commissioners to adopt a stricter stance.

  • Human rights violations are likely to increase in Turkey during the next few months, given that the Turkish government is very unlikely to feel pressured by European decisions and international statements condemning its human rights violations. It is almost certain that the human rights most at risk include the freedom of expression and the right to fair trial. Individuals, especially Turkish and Kurdish activists and politicians who are critical of President Erdoğan’s activities and decisions, both in Turkey and abroad, are almost certainly at risk of prosecution.

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[1]Erdogan with Putin in 2015” by Kremlin.ru licensed under Creative Commons

[2] Serbian Media Step up Presence in Montenegro, Causing Concern, Balkan Insight, December 2021, https://balkaninsight.com/2021/12/06/serbian-media-step-up-presence-in-montenegro-causing-concern/

[3] Is Tor legal?, VPN Overview, February 2020, https://vpnoverview.com/privacy/anonymous-browsing/is-tor-legal/

[4] Russia Blocks Privacy Service Tor, Ratcheting up Internet Control, U.S. News, December 2021, https://www.usnews.com/news/technology/articles/2021-12-08/russia-ratchets-up-internet-crackdown-with-block-of-privacy-service-tor

[5] Erdogan says does not recognize European rulings on Kavala, Demirtas, Kathimerini, December 2021, https://www.ekathimerini.com/news/1173364/erdogan-says-does-not-recognize-european-rulings-on-kavala-demirtas/

[6] Ibid

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