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05 Sep 17

Serbian Watersports and 'Death Threats'

Dejan Anastasijevic

What links Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and his US counterpart Donald Trump? The answer is bizarre media scandals involving allegations about urination.

Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic. Photo: Beta.

One of the more bizarre unsubstantiated allegations about US President Donald Trump involves him hiring prostitutes to urinate on a hotel bed in Moscow where Barrack Obama once slept.

Although never proven, the allegation proved to be a godsend for satirists and late-night TV show hosts who roasted Trump for weeks and weeks.

Now Serbia has its own scandal involving urination and its own president, Aleksandar Vucic, but it’s not at all funny.

Some weeks ago Sergej Trifunovic, an actor, was so angry that the ruling party rejected a draft law aimed at protecting minors from school bullying that he tweeted:
“I’ll piss on your graves.”

The tweet caused an uproar on social media, triggering a fight between government supporters and those siding with Trifunovic.

This week, however, the affair invaded the mainstream press with a new, sinister twist.

In the version promoted by pro-government media, the tweet was aimed directly at Vucic, although Trifunovic never mentioned the Serbian president by name, and clearly used the plural “graves”, not “grave”.

Then - as Trifunovic is a vocal supporter of opposition leader Sasa Jankovic - a devilish plot was revealed: Trifunovic and Jankovic were, in fact, planning to assassinate Vucic and then urinate on his grave.

As Dragan J. Vucicevic, the owner and editor-in-chief of high-circulation daily newspaper Informer explained: “In order to piss on someone’s grave, that person needs to be dead. Since Vucic is still alive, it’s obvious that these monsters [Trifunovic and Jankovic] plan to kill the president in order to fulfill their sick fantasies.”

Vucicevic is, by the way, a close friend of Vucic, and the president often praises him as one of Serbia’s top journalists.

Most people would find this allegation too far-fetched and bizarre to be taken seriously, but it looked serious enough for pro-government tabloids and television stations to repeat it so often that many people now think it’s true.

One of these people is Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic, who publicly asked the Serbian Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the threat against the president’s life.

Another is Milenko Jovanov, the vice-chairman of Vucic’s ruling Serbian Progressive Party, who went a step further and said that Trifunovic and Jankovic should be “removed from the streets and forcefully placed in a mental institution for life”.

Throughout all this, Vucic remained conspicuously quiet – he was in Brussels, talking to Kosovo’s president Hashim Thaci and the EU’s chief diplomat Federica Mogherini.

But on Monday night, he went live on a national television channel (Happy TV) to talk at length about many things, including the affair.

“I am not afraid of these people and their militant urination policies,” Vucic said repeatedly, adding that he was “proud that there were no political assassinations” since he came to power.

And while this may sound mild compared with the allegations made by Vucicevic, Stefanovic and others, Vucic did not dismiss the claim that Trifunovic and Jankovic were plotting his death; on the contrary, he indirectly supported it by mentioning political assassinations in the same breath.

And then, to prove that he is the one being bullied, he produced a series of enlarged screenshots of nasty stuff that some people have been saying about him on Twitter lately.

In the same interview, Vucic also spoke of Trump, and his admiration for the American president.

He stressed that the two have something in common: they are both victims of vicious harassment by the media.

“I have great respect for him,” Vucic said, “because it’s hard to endure the pathological lies spread by CNN and others… They blame him for everything, but he heroically ignores them, because he only cares about common people.”

The comparison, of course, does not stand.

While it’s true that Trump, viciously criticised by mainstream media, resorts to tweets in order to communicate with voters, in Serbia the opposite is true: almost all media are shamelessly sycophantic towards Vucic, and Twitter is one of few places he can be criticised, or even mocked.

But that, apparently, may soon change, as those who engage in such activities may find themselves exposed on national television by the president himself.

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