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NEWS 21 Mar 17

Drug Claim Sparks Outrage in Serbia Poll Campaign

Journalists came to the defence of colleague Natasa Jeremic, wife of opposition presidential candidate Vuk Jeremic, after a ruling Progressive Party official accused her of being Serbia’s major drug supplier.

Maja Zivanovic
BIRN
Belgrade

Vuk and Natasa Jeremic campaigning in Nis. Photo: Beta/Sasa Djordjevic.

Presidential candidate’s wife Natasa Jeremic told a press conference on Tuesday that she was appalled and scared after the ruling Progressive Party’s vice-president Milenko Jovanov accused her the previous day of being the “chief of the Serbian drug market”.

“Last night’s press release showed they [the Progressives] are ready to do anything,” said Jeremic, who until recently worked as a journalist for Serbian public broadcaster RTS, looking visibly shaken.

“I do not think this will stop here, I am afraid that someone will plant drugs on me. I do not know what is [coming] next, I am honestly scared,” she added.

Fellow journalists came out in support of Jeremic on social media on Monday evening, while the Serbian Journalists’ Association, UNS, called on Progressives to apologise to her and the public over the allegation.

Jovanov and the Progressives issued a press release on Monday claiming that Vuk Jeremic, a former Serbian foreign minister and former president of the UN General Assembly who is running for the country’s presidency in the April 2 elections, is surrounded by “the biggest criminal gang in Serbia”

“The entire drug market in Serbia is managed by his wife, Natasa Jeremic,” it alleged.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, the leader of the Progressives and the party’s candidate for the presidency, apologised on Tuesday for Jovanov’s statement.

“I ask all citizens of Serbia to accept my apology for the incorrect statement, which was not mine,” Vucic said in a statement.

Natasa Jeremic however rebuffed the apology, insisting that Vucic controls every word that comes out of his party.

“Vucic apologised to the citizens of Serbia this morning. I, as a citizen of Serbia, do not accept his apology, and he should be ashamed because he stands behind that statement,” Jeremic said, adding she will consult lawyers and file charges.

Meanwhile television journalists Suzana Trninic, Natasa Miljkovic and Tanja Jordovic posted message of support for Jeremic on their Twitter accounts, saying “It’s not Natasa, it’s me”, claiming ironically they were also “narco bosses and criminals”.

 

Other journalists also expressed support for Jeremic and criticised Jovanov for his statement.

Maja Nikolic from Prva television wrote on Twitter: “So [now] you can say anything about anyone.”

Jelena Bulajic from B92 television wrote: “There is no bottom [to this], it can always be worse.”

This is not the first time during the campaign that Progressive Party has taken aim at Vucic’s rivals in the presidential race.

The party called opposition candidates Sasa Jankovic, Vuk Jeremic and Sasa Radulovic “crooks and liars” in a press release on March 20, and claimed that Jankovic was “calling for chaos and violence” on March 17.

A senior Progressive Party official, Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, also said on March 2 that Jankovic, Jeremic, Radulovic and another opposition candidate, Bosko Obradovic, want “Vucic’s head”.

Some opposition candidates have claimed meanwhile that state officials are corrupt or engaged in crime.

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