Mineco Group representatives meeting the Serbian press

Posted by Aleksandra Hristov on January 27th, 2020 under Events | No Comments »

Hristov Consulting organized a meeting of Serbian media editors with leaders of the British company Mineco, one of the largest investors in the mining sector in the Western Balkans, at the Zepter Hotel in Belgrade on Thursday, January 16th.
Informal annual meeting of the Mineco Group CEO’s with media representatives was held for the fifth time, and traditionally. Mineco Group CEO Bojan Popovic spoke about Mineco’s results last year, while Mineco’s operations director Dominic Roberts briefed journalists on developments in the global market of metals, but also on the use of innovative technological solutions and on the penetration of new technologies in mining.
Invitation for this informal gathering was answered by 30 editors and journalists of the most influential Serbian media, including the economic ones, who expressed satisfaction with the exceptional communication they have with the Mineco leaders. After the meeting, a large number of news articles on this event appeared in the Serbian media.

PR In the Service of Conflict

Posted by Aleksandra Hristov on January 24th, 2020 under Articles | No Comments »

Aleksandra Hristov article in the leading Serbian weekly magazine: Novi Magazin
In our public domain, we often hear the assessment that European officials coming to Belgrade do not see or understand how much the freedom of media in Serbia is endangered, including undermining of the public benefits and the democracy itself. One possible explanation would be the fact that in their countries this is no longer a topic they are dealing with, and in Serbia all this is “formally – legally” – all right.
The new media strategy is about to be adopted, despite the big battle currently underway for the survival of the Press Council, a self-regulatory body that is currently the only such entity doing its job professionally.  Existing media laws and codes have been drafted to European standards, while everybody is questioning the functioning of the Electronic Media Regulatory Body (REM) and of the public media service (RTS).
The fact that most of the principles prescribed by laws and codes are not practically applied, or to a lesser extent even abused, it is difficult to present this case to those in whose countries the mainstream media, the courts and the public are functioning in a democratic manner. When bots, trolls and other “satraps” come up, it’s really almost impossible to tell strangers what this is about.
THE CONFLICT OF TWO PRINCIPLES
The main focus in their countries, as well as in the European Union as a whole, is how to deal with propaganda, misinformation and spreading fake news on online platforms and how to resolve the conflict between two principles underlying democracy, namely freedom of speech and the right of citizens to be timely and objectively informed. It is difficult for them to explain that in our country there is actually a problem in the main pillars on which the informing of our citizens rests, which is the traditional media where our society is mostly informed for the time being.
According to a survey by the Plum Mark agency at the end of 2018, 4.2 million citizens of Serbia are online, of which 73 percent are from urban areas. The majority of citizens, according to a survey by Ipsos, still receive information through television, or 5 million. According to a December 2018 survey by Ipsos, the internet reaches up to 4.9 million people, radio up to 3.6, magazines 2.5 and daily newspapers reach up to 1.3 million. However, Serbian citizens are following the trends when it comes to online information, which is constantly growing as a source of information.
The European Union is solving the problems of misinformation and propaganda, but mostly in the sphere of social media dissemination. Thus, one study commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs at the request of the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs was “Disinformation and Propaganda – impact on the functioning of the rule of law in the EU and its Member States”. This study examines the effects on the functioning of the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights.
THE ELEMENTS OF DISINFORMATION
According to the Study, elements of disinformation and propaganda are information that is designed to be wholly or partially false, manipulative or misleading, or is using unethical retelling techniques; deal with an issue of public interest; are intended to create insecurity, hostility or polarization in society, or is attempting to disrupt democratic processes. They are spread and / or amplified by automated and aggressive techniques, such as social bots, artificial intelligence, micro-targeting, or paid human “trolls”, which are often used to increase public visibility.
Additional manipulation of the domestic public is the misrepresentation of data on global trends advocated by some agencies and individuals in the PR sector as if things had already been resolved and that the whole world, including the media, was engaged in creating this PR content and marketing. However, the world media such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Guardian have reformed and strengthened their online sphere due to the decline in print sales, but have returned primarily because of their insistence on the credibility and reliability of information. When you read the text online at The Guardian, you get a window asking: “We have chosen a different approach. Will you support it? Unlike many news organizations, we have decided to keep all our independent, research texts and reporting free and accessible to everyone. We believe that each of us, worldwide, has access to accurate information with integrity at its core. At a time when factual reporting is necessary, the support of our readers is crucial to preserving the editorial independence of the Guardian. This is our model of open and independent journalism. If you can, support Guardian today with at least 1 euro.”
On the other hand, the fight for the status of online platforms like Facebook is well underway and the outcome is uncertain. So after many years of resistance, the company had to defend its position before the US Congress last year, and only two weeks ago had to announce on its blog that it would still be removing videos that were modified by artificial intelligence known as deepfakes. “Deepfakes” are computer-generated clips designed to look real. Facebook will remove videos if it realizes that they have been edited so that they are not clear to average person, or if they have misled the viewer into thinking that the person in the video said words that they did not actually
INFORMATION WAR
At the same time, Richard Stengel, a former editor of The Time magazine and secretary of state for the Obama administration, in his latest book, Information Wars, describing his experiences with propaganda and misinformation on the internet, believes that Facebook, like other social media, should bear the responsibility for publishing content and it is not enough to remove content that promotes violence. According to him, recently reported on CNN, online platforms, although they do not provide professional content as media, it does not mean that they are not the publishers of that content and that Facebook is the largest publisher in the history of mankind and it has an obligation to remove fake content, hate speech, deepfakes, and speech that incites violence. In his view, this implies a change to Part V of the Telecommunications Act passed in America in 1996, or Section 230 (Communication Decency Act), which grants immunity from liability to providers and users of “interactive computer services” who publish information from third parties.
Also, according to Stengel, companies should say whether someone is a “bot” or a human, who is buying information from them and for what purposes, and all political ads should be completely transparent. In his book, he distinguishes between “disinformation” and “misinformation” and “fake news”.
He considers disinformation to be intentional fraudulent content used to deceive someone. He considers misinformation an inadvertent mistake, while fake news is somewhere between the two terms. What is really worrying is misinformation.
Stengel links the emergence of authoritarian leaders to the development of the internet, but also to the sophisticated use of media and information. Leaders in these situations limit the dissemination of information they do not want, while promoting the information they want. It is, according to him, a very dangerous combination. This has not been done before and it is very scary. Every society must deal with it and combat these phenomena.
Countries in the world are currently the most serious creators of fake news and propaganda content.
ROLE OF PR
There are laws and codes in European countries that regulate the media and therefore the boundaries within which all those who cooperate within them move. This includes political parties and politicians, companies, civil society organizations, including individuals engaged in PR, agencies and PR services.
All the postulates that are valid in the world, especially in Europe, apply very little here in Serbia, probably until the European Union forces us.
Working in the communications sector in Serbia relies on good contacts with the media, placing marketing news for clients with advertising, and avoiding confrontation with the political actors currently in power. This is crucial in order to obtain jobs and to achieve permitted, or illicit, goals for bosses, clients, and to sell services (ads) at any cost. This model has worked in Serbia for decades, with an increasingly brutal character. The basic postulates of the PR profession, as well as the codes, do not exist at all, even though we have a formally domestic code of profession, with the ICCO (International Communication Consultancy Organization) Helsinki Declaration of more than 3,000 PR agencies from 66 countries.
According to the Sector-wide Declaration, all professionals are required, among other things, to adhere to the highest professional standards in public relations and communications practices and to never engage in the creation and dissemination of fake news. Also, professionals are obliged to respect the truth, to treat employees, colleagues, clients, media, government and the public in a fair and transparent manner and to always show who are the true sponsors and advocates of particular interests. They should never engage in troubling activities such as bot-ing, and should use social media responsibly.
SANCTIONS FOR UNETHICAL PR BEHAVIOR
Although it is not obvious to us that there are sanctions for non-compliance with these standards, around the world there is an increase in sanctioning for violating the basic postulates of the profession. Thus, due to unethical behavior and the so-called “black PR”, ICCO has expelled from its membership one of the most influential and powerful PR agencies in the world, the British multinational PR firm Bell Pottinger, which went bankrupt in 2017. The company, according to BBC and Guardian reports, has been accused of spreading racial hatred in South Africa and producing fake news, including running false Twitter accounts, when working for a client (a private company).
It is the duty of the PR to point out to clients where the boundaries of media collaboration are and to always reject clients who demand unethical behavior. Both local and international codes of conduct are bound by this premise. In Serbia, we also have Article 51 of the Constitution which states:
Everyone has the right to be truthfully, fully and timely informed about matters of public importance and the media are required to respect that right.
The fact is that the media should work in the public interest, and that PR should work in the interest of its clients. Where these interests overlap, cooperation is both necessary and possible. However, it is often the case that our profession is only an instrument in the hands of those who have certain goals and do choose any means to achieve them. As a rule, those who knowingly agree to be an instrument, without following the code, are abused and eventually victimized by their clients.
The PR sector, if it does its job properly, is an ally of the media, contributing to the safeguarding of the public interest and the development of society as a whole.
The text is part of the “Propaganda as Enemy, Communication as Media Ally” Project, where the New Magazine seeks to promote the importance of implementing media laws and codes, as well as the need to apply international standards in media-PR relations, whether from political parties or from businesses. The project is funded by the US Embassy in Belgrade.

Mineco Group has fulfilled its Plans for 2019

Posted by Aleksandra Hristov on January 16th, 2020 under Events | No Comments »

The British company Mineco Group, one of the largest mining investors in Serbia and the Western Balkans, is pleased with the results achieved in 2019, as it fulfilled its investment plans and the mines in the Group had certain sales of products.
“In terms of Mineco results in this region during 2019, this was a year of great and many small challenges. First of all, it was successful because we managed to provide certain sales of the products from our mines and to maintain the level of planned investments, although the situation on the market for the metals we deal with, became even more complex due to disruptions in the US-China trade relations”, said Mineco Group Director Bojan Popovic in Belgrade today.
Popović reminded that Mineco achieved the best results in 2017 since its establishment, while in the second half of 2018, prices on the international market of non-ferrous metals decreased, which directly affected the mines resulting in lower revenues. “This trend continued into 2019, but it did not slow Mineco’s development programme,” he added.
The mines operating within Mineco Group at full capacity – Rudnik Mine and Flotation near Gornji Milanovac, Veliki Majdan near Ljubovija and Gross Mine near Srebrenica, have continued a number of successful years – having fulfilled their production plans, continued exploration works and confirmed mine reserves.
Popović pointed out that Rudnik Mine on the Mountain of Rudnik achieved a special success because it managed to discover and confirm new mineral resources. “Four years ago, geological services followed with concern the diminishing reserves in ore bodies, but with great effort and millions of investments, new mineral resources have been found and now they are already being exploited. Now, this old mine has reserves confirmed for at least another ten years of production of lead, zinc and, to a lesser extent, copper concentrates, while future explorations will be focused on verifying the existence of other ore bodies based on new indications”, said Popović.
According to him, the impetus in the mineral exploration activity has inspired Mineco to include this activity in its regular business operations over the past two years – by purchasing sophisticated rigs for drilling at depths up to 500 meters, but also by engaging expert staff and retraining new personnel to perform these site work activities.
These expert teams have facilitated accelerated explorations on the Rudnik Mountain and at other sites, primarily near Foča in the Republic of Srpska, where Mineco has a concession for exploration and mining of lead, zinc and copper ores.
Mineco Director also said that he was particularly pleased that the construction of a brand new cerussite mine, lead oxide mineral, in Olovo, north of Sarajevo and a Plant for processing of that ore into lead concentrate was completed.
The first new mine with underground exploitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the last 30 years was opened almost two years ago, but for the processing of ore in that mine it was necessary to construct a completely new gravity separation plant, which was purchased in South Africa. The delivery of this equipment to the mine was very complex and kilometres of forest roads were built. “Now all of the individual systems are installed in one technological unit at the mine site, and the production of concentrate has been commissioned and our experts are currently optimizing production parameters and the further training of operational personnel is underway“, said Popović.
As for another mine in this region that Mineco is developing, the Bosil-Metal mine in the Municipality of Bosilegrad, Popović recalled that a year and a half ago, a pilot project for flotation ore processing was commissioned, and a Feasibility Study Concerning the Construction of Commercial Lead, Zinc and Copper Ore Flotation Process was ordered and prepared during the last year.
“During this year, the Main Mining Project for the Bosil-Metal mine and the Environmental Impact Study will be prepared and all necessary approvals of the competent ministries of the Republic of Serbia for the construction of a commercial plant will be provided”, said Popovic, noting that the construction work has been planned for the third or fourth quarter of this year, in order that the commercial operation of the Mine could commence during 2021.
Mineco Director also estimated that 2020 might not bring a significant rise in metal prices on the world markets, but it is important for this company to successfully control the development of its projects. “This will give us an opportunity for two major capital projects to move into the revenue phase, which is an excellent basis for further development of other projects in the coming years,” said Popović.

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