Why all should support ‘Serbia Against Violence’

Last month, Serbia was in mourning after two events that count amongst the worst tragedies in the country's modern history. Over two consecutive days, the country experienced a pair of mass shootings that claimed the lives of 18 people. The first shooting occurred in an elementary school in downtown Belgrade, when a 13-year-old student opened fire on his classmates and teachers. The second was a drive-by shooting in a small city called Mladenovac, and the perpetrator was a 21-year-old who opened fire indiscriminately at a nearby crowd of people - seemingly without cause. 

In a matter of days, an anti-violence march (“Serbia Against Violence”) was organized in Belgrade. The protesters gathered outside of the Serbian Parliament, where they presented various demands before continuing their march through the city. The protesters demands were as follows:

  • An urgent and immediate end to the promotion of violence in media and in the public space;
  • The dismissal of the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Media Council members;
  • A shutdown of printed media and tabloids which promote hatred and violence;
  • The revoking of national broadcasting licenses for television stations that promote violence;
  • The cancellation of programs that promote violence, immorality, and aggression on television with a national frequency, such as reality TV shows;
  • The resignation of the Minister of Education Branko Ruzic (who has since resigned), the Minister of Internal Affairs, Bratislav Gasic, and the Director of the Security Information Agency (BIA), Aleksandar Vulin;
  • A special parliament session to discuss the responsibility of the Serbian Government and the security situation in the country, as well as long-term solutions necessitating implementation so that such horrific and unprecedented events never occur again.

The reaction of the government was, in my opinion (shared, no doubt, by many) disgraceful. MPs from the ruling party - the Serbian Progressive Party/SNS - called the protestors ‘hyenas’ and ‘rascals’. They accused them of using these inhumane tragedies for political purposes. Famous and beloved actors who were in support of the protests were accused of being enemies of the state. By publicly presenting their thoughts and opinions - and exercising their liberty of self-expression - they appear now to have endangered their safety. One of the actors, Marko Janketić, was attacked on the street a few days after the protest, a group of people approached him, provoked and verbally attacked him because of his earlier statements in the media.

In response to the anti-violence march, the SNS organized a counter rally in support of President Vučić. The sole aim of this measure was to show the people how many remained by the President’s side - and in a megalomaniac media stunt, the SNS ferried its party's members (by bus) to the site of the march, in order to try to exceed the number of people who attended the anti-violence march. People were blackmailed, some were threatened with dismissal from their jobs, and some were given money to attend the meeting. It is worth mentioning that the money offered was a sum of around a mere 20 euros. The funds to finance this event were all taken from the national budget of Serbia. 

This situation in Serbia is unsustainable, and the government is failing the core values of democracy every single day. This government publicly demonizes citizens who have opposing views, and resorts to distorting the truth aimed at discrediting them. Further, it feeds off of one-sided truths and presents anyone who does not agree as evil people who, together with the EU, NATO, and the USA, are trying to destabilize Serbia. They also lambasts anybody who fails to adhere to the worldview it presents through its own media.

People who fight for the truth do not just need help. People who fight for the truth need for the truth to be heard. This truth is known within our borders, but we need it to be heard outside of them. We need to be heard. Serbians need Europe to listen to them. 

Europe may be aware of Erdoğan. Europe may be aware of Orbán. Europe now needs to be aware of Aleksandar Vučić. The leader of the Serbian people - who he claims to be the savior of - is the leader of a country which does not want to be a part of a cult. Vučić is the leader of a country whose people want better - for themselves, for their children, and for their collective future.

This is why I invite you to follow and support the struggle of my people, the people of Serbia, against violence in all forms. The consequences of the herein-discussed policy lead to the fact that the citizens of Serbia live in a state where human rights and media freedom are threatened, a state recognised by Freedom House rated as ‘partially free’.

Everyone should have their human rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed and protected. We as liberals must always - and uncompromisingly - oppose all regimes that try to threaten our freedom and basic rights.

 

 

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