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News 06 Aug 14

Serbia Media Union Slates Editor's Anti-Croat Rant

Independent journalists' association has condemned the editor of Informer for tweeting that Serbs who holiday in Croatia deserve death.

Gordana Andric
BIRN
Belgrade
Dragan Vucicevic, editor in chief of daily Informer. | Photo by Beta

Serbia's Independent Journalists' Association, NUNS, has accused the editor of a pro-government newspaper of stirring up hatred against neighbouring Croatia.

It said Dragan Vucicevic, the editor-in-chief of the daily Informer, should be held accountable for spreading hate speech on both his Twitter account and his newspaper.

While Croatia celebrated its military defeat of Serbian rebels in 1995, in Operation Storm, on August 4, Vucicevic posted a tweet saying Serbs who holidayed in Croatia deserved to be killed.

“A Serb who after all that happened spends his summers in Croatia, buys in Idea and drinks Jana water deserves to be slaughtered again,” wrote Vucicevic, referring to two Croatian-owned companies.

After dozens of respondents condemned his words, Vucicevic posted another Tweet saying that he was not actually calling for murder, as “it was a metaphor”.

A far from impressed NUNS said the author of this “chilling message” had broken Serbian laws against hate speech and that Vucicevic deserved to be treated with contempt.

“Serbian laws strictly forbid hate speech. Vucicevic’s scandalous message has particular strength precisely because he is a journalist and a responsible person in a newspaper that must be aware of great responsibility when it comes to propagating discrimination and intolerance," the union said.

“Regarding its position and importance for a democratic society, the media must make a clear and unambiguous distinction between free speech and hate speech,” NUNS added.

The association also stated that Serbia's constitution forbids incitement to racial, ethnic, religious or other hatred and intolerance.

Under the criminal code, the punishment for causing or inciting ethnic or religious hatred or intolerance is between six months and five years in prison.

NUNS also cited an Anti-Discrimination Act that prohibits “ideas, information and opinions that incite discrimination, hatred or violence against persons or groups because of their personal characteristics, in newspapers and other publications, and places accessible to the public.”

Vucicevic later denied using hate speech, stating that his words had been “intentionally, maliciously interpreted literally and out of context.

“This is my own opinion, not an editorial, about Serbian-Croatian relations, in which one side has been paying for decades in order to be a victim of heinous crimes again and again,” Vucicevic wrote.

“If it is worth explaining at all, I'm not so crazy as to actually call for the murder of anyone. This is a metaphor inspired by Serbia's national economic stupidity,” Vucicevic added.

Despite claiming that the Tweet was his personal opinion, Informer yesterday published a front-page story on the same theme, accusing Serbs of “national idiotism” for going on holiday there in such large numbers.

“Croats are celebrating slaughter [in 1995], while Serbs are paying them millions [for their vacations and products],” the newspaper lamented. The headline for the story asks “Brother Serbs, are we normal?”

Dragan Janjic, from NUNS, told BIRN that the editor's Tweet and Informer's front-page story were both pushing much the same message.

“It is the same form of incitement, which we believe is against Serbian laws. One should not encourage hate and intolerance," he said.

“NUNS believes this approach is inappropriate and far from the limits of professional journalism,” says Janjic.

Following the statement from NUNS, Vucicevic again turned to his Twitter account, saying it was NUNS that deserved contempt, as the members in it, on their various outlets, “do not sell as many newspapers in a year as 'Informer' sells in a month”.

 

 

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