BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — An internet hoax that falsely trumpeted a Serb as this year’s Nobel Literature Prize winner was slick, and down fell the victims: State-run TV, news agencies, radio and several newspapers.
Moments before the Swedish Academy announced the real winner — Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer — on Thursday, unknown hackers said on what looked like an official Nobel Prize website that it was Serbian writer Dobrica Cosic.
The site included a photo of the 90-year-old Cosic, quotations from one of his books, and a description heralding him as “the last dissident of the 20th century, witness of a declining era, as well as the prophet of an emerging one.”
In today’s instant news markets, the false info quickly appeared on Serbian outlets, including Belgrade’s B-92 radio, state TV and independent news agencies.
“Someone has really tried hard to carry out the elaborate hoax,” B-92 said after withdrawing the news from its programs.
An email sent to the Associated Press and other media outlets — which appeared to originate from the prestigious Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences, of which Cosic is a member — provided a link to the website.
The academy, however, denied it had sent the email, and demanded police investigate.
“This is yet another in a series of attacks on the important institutions in Serbia with the intention of ridiculing the social values of our country,” the nationalist-dominated academy said in a statement.
Cosic is popular among his countrymen, but he’s also considered a proponent of the hardline Serbian nationalism which led to the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia in 1990s’.
Cosic briefly served as the president of Yugoslavia — consisting of Serbia and Montenegro — in 1992 when he was hand-picked by late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.