The most recent issue of weekly publication ‘Illustrated Politika’ included an article under the headline “The hounds have been released…” in which certain independent media outlets were threatened in response to their for critical reporting of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić.
The same headline, accompanied by a photograph of a dog’s head with exposed canine teeth and copies of the rare media sources that criticise the work of the government and the president, also appears on the cover page of that weekly, which is published by Politika AD (JSC) – a company that’s partly owned by the State of Serbia.
Apart from interpreting the article as a call for the lynching of journalists, Journalists’ associations were also disturbed by the fact that the article was authored by Đorđe Martić, a former editor-in-chief of daily government newspaper ‘Express Politika’. In April 1999, while Martić was heading the editorial staff and NATO was bombing Serbia, this newspaper published an article under the headlne “Ćuruvija welcomed the bombs”. That article was also read aloud on Television Serbia’s most watched news broadcast, and it was only five days later when journalist Slavko Ćuruvija, a critic of the Milošević regime, was gunned down in Belgrade.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić condemned the weekly’s cover page and expressed his expectation that this will not reoccur, “at least in media in which the state has an ownership stake”. His media advisor, Suzana Vasiljević, tendered her resignation from the Supervisory Board of Politika AD, although she noted that this body has no influence over the weekly’s editorial policy.
This ‘Illustrated Politika’ article and cover page were also condemned by Reporters Without Borders and the Commission for the Investigation of Murders of Journalists, while the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade also responded critically.
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