This story was produced in partnership withReporting Democracy, a cross-border journalism platform run by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network.
He created a fake Gmail account and wrote to a general email address of a popular Slovak disinformation website. “I am a fan and would like to write some stories, too,” he told them.
Robert Sopko, editor-in-chief of Hlavné Správy (Top Stories), one of the websites flooding the Slovak online space with disinformation, responded by saying he would decide on whether to cooperate after the contributor had written his first piece.
Sopko did not do a background check into this aspiring writer Marek Bakeš, nor did he ask for his CV or clippings of his previous work. If he had bothered to google Bakeš, he would have found no digital trace of him, which might have led him to realise that Bakeš was not a real person.
Because Marek Bakeš was an alias of Jakub Goda, the now 31-year-old Slovak writer who became famous in Slovakia for writing about hoaxes and disinformation. That was in early 2018; today, he works with the Slovak Health Ministry on its communication strategies to counter the mass of disinformation that has spread around the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was about having hands-on experience. I can say that Hlavné Správy spread nonsense, so I know what I am talking about,” Goda said in an interview with The Slovak Spectator.
Satire presented as truth
Goda wrote about ten stories for Hlavné Správy. To be fair, Goda admitted, they were not satisfied with all those stories, since two were not published. But he did succeed in having a story run about a Muslim mayor of New Jersey who wanted to ban the word “Christmas”. This was a story taken from a satirical website, completely made up and even badly translated into Slovak.
“That I was able to write such nonsense [and they published it] is a sign that they work very poorly,” Goda noted. “This has nothing in common with how serious media should function.”