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News 03 Oct 16

Serbian Cartoonist's Sacking 'Reveals Govt's Ties to Media'

After the Serbian daily Politika said it would reinstate its sacked caricaturist, Dusan Petricic, following the PM's intervention, a media union says this only highlights the government's close relationship to the media.

Milivoje Pantovic
BIRN
Belgrade
Cartoonist Dusan Petricic. Photo: Courtesy of Mr. Petricic

Serbian daily newspaper Politika has vowed to reinstate its sacked caricaturist, Dusan Petricic, after the Prime Minister advised it not to sack him.

Petricic told BIRN he had not been notified of the decision, however. “Since the acting editor-in-chief of Politika, Zarko Rakic, notified me about the cancellation of our collaboration, I have had no contact with management," he said.

“Now I follow communications between Rakic and the cabinet of the Prime Minister [Aleksandar] Vucic through the media. However, nobody notified me about anything,” Petricic told BIRN.

The cartoonist remains convinced he was axed for his sharp depictions of Prime Minister Vucic.

“The only real reason for my layoff is because they asked me to 'tone down' my caricatures of PM Vucic. Since I declined, this is the result,” Petricic said.

He also added that as far as he was concerned, Vucic’s actions and statements were an absolute gift for a caricaturist.

Petricic was fired on Friday, but after the story broke that he had blamed his removal on pressure linked to the Vucic caricatures, Vucic himself stepped in to advise Politika to continue working with the cartoonist.

“People who do not accept change, have an anti-government attitude and a personal hatred towards the PM should have their space in the media,” Vucic said on Sunday.

Soon after, Politka editor Rakic issued a statement saying that the daily had decided to continue collaboration with Peticic although he was “expensive and breaks deadlines”.

Petricic told BIRN the accusations were groundless. "No one from Politika ever had any complaint about that, since I never broke deadlines. I wont comment about me being expensive since it is absurd,” he said.

Vukasin Obradovic, head of the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia, NUNS, told BIRN that Vucic's intervention in the Petricic layoff affair was far from reassuring.

“The statement from the cabinet of the Prime Minister in which he advises Politika to continue collaboration with Petricic and Rakic’s reply, in which he accepts it, show the direct link between the government and the media,” Obradovic said.

“Censorship is in the rise in Serbia and this shows the relationship of the government with the media and its attitude towards society in general,” Obradovic added.

The Prime Minister has often mentioned Petricic’s caricatures as proof that there is no censorship in the Serbian media.

His work was also featured in a controversial exhibition “Uncensored lies”, organised in mid-July by Vucic's ruling Serbian Progressive Party, SNS.

After the organisers showcased Petricic’s work, along with those of two other caricaturists, without their permission, the three artists mulled whether to file lawsuit.

But Petricic told BIRN that they had eventually decided not to, partly because they lacked faith in the independence of the Serbian judiciary.

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