During the Serbian Presidential inauguration of Aleksandar Vučić, until yesterday the country’s prime minister, supporters of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) gathered in the streets of Belgrade to support the new president, and to physically attack and threaten journalists.
First of all a conflict broke out in the city centre between Vučić’s supporters and opponents, who pushed a Radio Belgrade journalist, causing her to drop her voice recorder.
In front of the National Assembly, where SNS supporters gathered while Vučić took his oath, there were another five attacks on journalists.
Two members of the rally’s security team attempted to confiscate the telephone of a journalist from daily Danas, after which one of them shoved and escorted the journalist from the gathering to a nearby park.
Journalists of portals Insider and VICE were surrounded by SNS supporters, who threatened that “nothing must be made public”, addressing them with profanities and threatening them. When warning that they are only journalists doing their job and that they will call the police, the attackers replied that “the police cannot help”.
One participant in the rally used profane language and threatened an Insajder journalist, telling him that he had been remembered and would be arrested, while one supporter placed his hand on the shoulder of a journalist from portal Espreso.rs and asked her: “do you want me to slap you in the face?”
The police in attendance did not respond to any of these incidents, while in some cases following incidents the police demanded to see the documentation of the journalists involved and not the attackers.
Unanimous condemnation of attacks against journalists
Journalists’ and media associations and organisations in Serbia have unanimously condemned the attacks on journalists during the Serbian Presidential inauguration of Aleksandar Vučić.
The Association of Journalists of Serbia (UNS) stated that these attacks are unacceptable, calling on the authorities to determine the identities of the perpetrators.
The Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia (NUNS) noted that it is worrying that the police did not react, while NUNS President Slaviša Lekić sent an open letter to Culture and Information Minister Vladan Vukosavljević, urging him to speak up about these events and to protect journalists.
The inaction of the police and the state is also considered horrifying by the Slavko Ćuruvija Foundation, which also issued the strongest condemnation of the attack.
Interior Ministry officials stated that nobody had complained about the conduct of the police during the rally and that none of these attacks have been reported, despite witnesses stating that the police were in attendance during most attacks.
Representatives of NUNS and the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina agree that the supporters of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party who attacked journalists yesterday were inspired by the behaviour of the party’s own top officials towards journalists in recent years, characterised by name-calling, insults and humiliation.
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