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Analysis 08 Jul 16

Media Campaign Against Govt. Critics Restarts in Serbia

Media outlets close to the Serbian government have started another round of attacks on civic movements and independent journalists, the latter say.

Milivoje Pantovic
BIRN
Belgrade
Protest of the “Let’s not drown Belgrade”. Photo: Facebook

Opponents of the Serbian government say the pro-government media have stepped up their  attacks on independent campaigners and journalists.

The latest campaign started at TV Pink and in the tabloid Informer on Thursday, which accused journalists from the independent network, KRIK, and members of the civic initiative "Let's not drown Belgrade" - which is protesting against the redevelopment of the riverbank in Belgrade - of trying to destabilize the country and of working for Western interests.

“At the beginning the smearing would happen once in every 20 days and now [it happens] every week. They are led by the idea that if they repeat lies enough times it will become the truth,” Stevan Dojcinovic, editor-in-chief of Crime and Corruption Reporting Network, said.

“What worries me is not the writing of tabloids but the fact that even representatives of the ruling [Serbian Progressive] party talk about us as spies. That is leading to targeting and the result is that last week, we [at KRIK] received two death threats,” Dojcinovic said.

He said that journalists working for KRIK receive insults and even death threats every time they publish some new research that the authorities do not like.

“Let’s not drown Belgrade” has routinely been targeted in media campaigns. They organisation is protesting against the deal reached between Serbia's government and the UAE-based company Eagle Hill for the redevelopment of the Sava riverside known as the Belgrade Waterfront.

“First the government labeled us as pro-Israeli since their partners for the Belgrade Waterfront are from Arab country, and then as supporters of oligarchs. They connect us with everyone with whom they have problem,” Radomir Lazovic, from the campaigning organisation, told BIRN.

Lazovic insists the movement never received money from anyone besides the citizens of Belgrade and Serbia.

“Media outlets like TV Pink, the newspaper Informer and TV Studio B have an assignment to promote the government - and to retaliate against those who are seen as opponents of the government," the program director of the Bureau for Social Research, Zoran Gavrilovic, said.

He told BIRN that media monitoring bodies are turning a blind eye to their abuses of the profession. “The prosecution is not doing its job. The Regulatory Authority for the Electronic Media, REM, is also not monitoring or regulating,” Gavrilovic said.

On Thursday, Informer ran a statement by the spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, who claimed that “Let’s not drown Belgrade” is financed by the West and that its purpose was to destabilize Serbia.

“Russians are playing with the weakness of the Prime Minister-designate who always thinks that someone is against him. That is why they are claiming that someone is preparing his downfall in Serbia,” Dojcinovic said.

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