The media campaign on the alleged existence of censorship, which is insinuated to be implemented by the Government of Serbia, notably lasts for more than a year. During all that time, not in a single case, and there have been many, was evidence found that it was a case of censorship, let alone that someone from the Government was involved in it. Regardless of that fact, for almost incomprehensible reasons, the campaign that emerged in the media still persists as the most important strategy for attack, disqualification and destruction of national and international reputation of the current Government.
Its main feature relies on the fact that some media members, majority, according to the number of them, paradoxically, claim that a small number of other, but apparently influential media, censor their content and do not deal with specific topics, or, at least, not in a "critical" manner. At the same time, the topics that the attacked group deals with, are regularly exposed to contempt and called tabloid and fabricated. To be precise: encouraged by the support of political and para-media organizations NDNV and NUNS, media such as Danas, Blic, Vreme, NIN, Peščanik, Nova srpska politička misao, B92, Radio Slobodna Evropa, Deutsche Welle, Autonomija, Pečat, Novi standard, Novi magazin, Alo, Nedeljnik, Naše novine, Al Jazeera Balkans, Akter, Tabloid, agencies Beta and Fonet and many other lesser-known media accuse, insinuate or work to popularize the topic of alleged Government censorship in the media Kurir, Informer, E-novine portal, Pink television, Public service, state agency Tanjug, or in the media with partial state ownership, such as Politika and Večernje novosti. The entire former group of media claims that there is censorship, however, not in their media but in the latter group, while the other group denies the existence of any kind of censorship. Over time, associations such as CINS, BIRN, parts of OSCE, SHARE foundation, Ombudsman got actively involved in the campaign which advocates the existence of censorship, as well as the Data protection commissioner, various NGOs led by the Human rights house (Kuća ljudskih prava), single-use advertising websites and low attendance quasi-portals with the aim of inventing and spreading affairs against the Government, as well as many private blogs.
That's why the first accusations of censorship occurred indirectly, without any immediate insight, just as a reaction to positive attitudes of individual media towards political climate that occurred after the elections in May 2012. These positive attitudes primarily referred to the announcement of the end of monopoly that the system of companies owned by Dragan Đilas held in the sphere of advertising, thus significantly affecting financial and informative dependence of media. The optimism was coming precisely from the media which suffered the largest lynch, because they did not want to obey the censorship of information, which was demonstrated by the former Serbian President Boris Tadić, supported by such levers, over the eight years of his rule.
To what extent the fact about the pressure to the media made by a Democratic Party had to be kept as top secret, testifies exactly the fact that these findings emerged in regular flows of media only after the time when it was welcome to be served for the attacks on the same model, only this time against the SNS (Serbian Progressive Party), i.e. against the Government of Serbia, and by those who had to respect this "crawling censorship" secretly all these years. These journalists and editors have equally participated in it and accepted it as a completely normal thing since it came from their political mentors and key funders. For this particular purpose, BIRN published the research, only at the end of March this year, but, accidentally, just before the period when the campaign about the existence of censorship reached its climax, thereby confirming everything that only E-novine wrote about a few years ago. This time they tried this with a clear tendency to displace not only focus, but also the role that "Direct Media", the company of Đilas, had in the time before the May elections, to some other circles of people close to SNS and Aleksandar Vučić, unsuccessfully trying to prove the thesis preset to the basis of political insinuations and not-so-credible rumours.
Insofar it becomes clearer and more fascinating with what precision today's advocates of censorship are able to describe the ways in which it is implemented, publicly auto-projecting their own experiences to some other media, i.e. that time of corruption and censorship mechanisms which they were silent about in principle for years. Gordana Suša from RRA, in that sense, tries to remember the time of cohabitation with censorship: "Through an informal discussion at a luncheon or coffee, a Government representative, always in the name of the principal, 'recommends' what should be published or not, mentions the desirable topic, announces a piece of exclusive information, that is, oddly enough, published by all, quoting each other."
This is how Vukašin Obradović, president of the NUNS for BIRN, describes the procedure of exerting pressure on the media: “Instead of fighting against corruption, the media became part of the corruption chain - a public company concludes a contract with a marketing agency, and they buy space on the media, and that is how you protect your interests in this media, these are political, not economic interests. The room for abuse is much larger in public enterprises, but the agency can manipulate private market as well. According to research, an agency offers space and time on various TV stations, and when you have dozens of similar media, only nuances decide. That's what scares editors, because they know that when they write against the Democratic party, Đilas will opt for some other media.”
Bojana Lekić also says something about the hypocrisy here: "I can speak about the pressure on the media from the time of Boris Tadić only according to what I can hear in the media, now that he is no longer in power. In his time, no one dared to make a comment about it. And, to tell you the truth, when I hear who was in charge of that pressure, I think that everyone who was “oppressed” should hang their heads in shame, instead of whining today.
Today, these things are finally allowed to be spoken about, but only if the scenario is used as a general rule that, despite the fact that it marked another period from the past, it regularly criticizes the current Government. However, if it is the same now as it was before, how is it possible that this whole campaign is based on the charges of a formerly privileged group of media at the expense of others, thereby not testifying about any trace of censorship in their own newsrooms, despite its generally known status of the favourite of the authorities at the time of Boris Tadić? Why are oran Panović, Dragoljub Žarković, Milan Ćulibrk, Svetlana Lukić, Veljko Lalić, Milorad Vučelić, Veran Matić, Nadežda Gaće, Đorđe Vukadinović, Nedim Sejdinović, Željko Cvijanović and other editors in chief in the media from the latter group today ready to dismiss the presence of all forms of censorship in their newsrooms in no time, while, at the same time, they are convinced that it smoothly survives for "certain reasons" in some other media? How is it possible that none of those from the first group of media mentions a single case when they were denied an arrangement related to advertising space due to specific topics they had written about from the change of Government in 2012 onwards?
Since it is considered that editors, but only those of the latter group of media, act by inertia, the term borrowed for the needs of this article to describe the phenomenon, that is nothing but a mere auto-projected assumption, is self-censorship and it refers to what Obradović described - at least to the fear of disrespecting unwritten rules. At the same time, self-censorship as such establishes a multipractic purpose for the existence of which it is not possible, and thus not needed, to establish any solid proof. Because of their own pedigree, it is simply understood for a group of media professionals who now accuse the Government of the pressure, and its presence is generally established as a common occurrence. That common occurrence anticipates a constant endangerment of journalists from "perfidious pressures" of Government. However, since the journalists aimed at, do not declare themselves threatened, but the ones provoked to speak about their alleged endangerment are those who claim that such a thing happens to others, the question arises: what, since the beginning, causes such a compulsive gesture, or, in other words, who is actually threatened in this case and why?
The answer to this question was given by Dinko Gruhonjić, president of NDNV and the producer of the website Autonomija (Autonomy) in July last year, when he spoke to Petar Luković, editor in chief of E-novine and former Belgrade correspondent of the Croatian journal Feral Tribune, in the following way: “At least the Croats were lucky, Feral fell into ruin honourably, and Dežul, Viktor and Lučić didn’t whore with the ghosts from the past in order to allegedly provide the existence of the lists. It is better to go out in a blaze of glory than to last this way, the way certain former 'Beacons of freedom of the media' last in Serbia”.
The reason that makes Gruhonjić express himself this way can be found in the paragraph above, where he calls the other media, that he accuses of censorship, the media that “spin and perform lobotomy of the local 'public opinion' (...) in order to establish oblivion as the ultimate principle of local politics”. That is the true source of frustration – the awareness that, due to the attitude he took towards the May 2012 events, the attitude of overt denial and non acceptance, he inevitably reaches to the margins of public opinion again, therefore automatically creating a sense of being endangered: “Anyone who does not fit into that model of being, writing and reporting, becomes immediately labelled as a new kind of traitor. Anyone who dares to criticize statements of our current “leading figures”, instead of just report them like a megaphone, gets excommunicated. Anyone who is disgusted when Vučić quotes Weber, and especially Konstantinović, is immediately labelled as a supporter of poor Boris Tadić and his rotten Democratic Party.”
In order to take any kind of position in this fatalistic margin, it is necessary to proclaim themselves and their attitudes “critical”, and everything else – non-critical, toady, or, in this case, “whorish”. Nowadays, critical means “write and speak against the Government” or, popularly speaking, “criticize the Government”. However, this doesn’t even remotely cover the meaning of the word critique, at least not the meaning familiar from Kant onwards. Actually, true critique does not refer to the attitude whether we are all for or against something, but it depends on its mere content. If our attitude towards certain phenomena, prepared in advance and nourished in time, starts determining each future content of our expression, critique gradually fades away, whether we are for or against it, or turns into what we call pamphleting or caustic criticizing. But if, from time to time, we allow the content to crystallize and build our attitude towards certain occurrence in time, where the attitude of being for or against becomes completely irrelevant, then it is the field where people strive to critique.
Therefore, Gruhonjić, whose statements and texts from the change of the Government two years ago onwards have never managed to transfer the ballast to the content, but are premised instead on frozen attitudes and living stereotypes, immune to the events in the outside world, has very strong reasons to feel threatened. He becomes a figure who constantly has a problem understanding what, he notices, majority of people easily master. In order to virtually eliminate this internal conflict and understand people outside their own narrow circle of like-minded people, it is necessary to say that the latter group is under self-censorship, i.e. that they do not act according to their own attitudes and convictions, but because they are forced to and have no other choice. That is the way out which makes everything clear and simple. It is for these reasons that it’s more important today than ever to declare journalists endangered species and to alarm the general state of censorship caused by financial dependence, regardless of the fact that such a situation dates back to another period of time. For, that is the only thing that prevents the ever growing laments for the 'right to freedom of expression' to be presented as mere excuses for the lack of professionalism, primitivism and perennial degradation of their own profession. Because, really, what happens with Gruhonjić and others like him if Luković and E-novine do not write what they do, and do not publish what they do, because they have to, but, instead, because that is exactly what they think and want to? The answer is clear: That’s when the whole defence system falls to the ground.
Relying on this logic, Danica Vučenić presents journalists as innocent "advocates of their audience" who ask questions "on behalf of the public" and thus protect the public interest – in fact clearly building up their own stamp of being endangered and fear of how valid her present and past journalistic activities have been to the time she is living in today. While, unlike her, Gordana Suša recognized that journalists are the creators of public opinion, and thus that each processing and presentation of data already contains a dose of manipulation that is at the core of this profession, therefore there is no immanent condition of objective journalism, Vučenić finds excuse in a completely invert principle. She sees the role of the journalist as a mere 'voice of the people', which, supposedly beyond the influence of everything that is received from the media, ideally exists somewhere among the citizens. On the other hand, she sees journalists as simple media, whose job it is to simply pick up what is already there, thus making them just innocent purveyors of what they hear among 'the people' and to be able to spread that freely into the ether. According to that conviction, journalists are neither responsible for accuracy of information, nor do they have anything to do with the way of presenting it, all the while believing that they are being journalists.
However, in this particular attitude lies the main cause of journalism degradation in Serbia and a paravane hiding the false threat, professional weakness and general disorientation in time and space. Aware of the manipulative power of journalists, rather than confront it, and tame it, she balances it, trying to preserve a professional attitude towards work, Vučenić, as well as many others with her, not by accident, strives at any cost to disguise that power in public. Thus she is forced to further manipulate the role of endangered and abuse the power of a journalist, which, at first, she was trying to hide. All this, as well as with Gruhonjić, is caused by pure hypocrisy, with general lack of understanding for the situation around them, which constantly light upon the blind spot of alleged “grand journalists”.
Hereupon, a dominant trend has been formed in Serbian journalism which includes stylish adulation to the same "publicum", so the most popular and favourite journalists and columnists have become the ones who know how to write in the 'language of the people', which, consequently, fostered the gossip and street-style “quality”. The valued characteristics of such articles are word games, wit, cynicism, simple-mindedness, gossip, rumours, who can “mess around” better, who can trick the other better, while the serious tone and the amount of actual arguments is completely bypassed and considered "boring". That’s why they most commonly resort to attacking the Serbian Government through such articles, because not only do they provide an elegant way of calling condescending patronising a “critique”, but they are also very well accepted among the people, who are expected to do what they always do – follow their own characteristics, habits and affinities according to what already sounds plausible, and stands against the common enemy. Some of the representatives of such a style of public communication are the following journalists: Dragoljub Petrović (Danas), Dragan Todorović (Vreme and Blic), Dragoljub Žarković, Miloš Vasić, Stojan Drčelić (Nedeljnik), Mihajlo Medenica (Nedeljnik), but also some prominent intellectuals of the last century, such as Svetislav Basara and Vesna Pešić. It should be noted that all of them at the same time despise what they call "tabloidisation", believing that they are above it.
That’s how Miloš Vasić justifies the reasons for his professional existence and acting, with an unbelievable claim that the very fact that the Government has “much more power than it reasonably should”, that it has “more than sufficient parliamentary majority”, that it has “growing number of uncontested local authorities”, requires something like that. Dragoljub Petrović, without any hesitation at all, puts a sign of equality between the meaning of the word "criticize" and "mock", thus grow into a paradigm of the whole “critical” public, whether he is a guest of Milomir Marić in the TV show “Ćirilica” or Zoran Kesić in “24 minuta”. Critique in Serbia today means nothing other than a farce - a quasi-satirical, vulgar, mocking, caricatured, malicious, envious, obscene, low, whatever - just to camouflage the fact that there are no clear arguments and to foster the illusion that stupidity is less visible than the "humour".
However, since it is based solely on such literary "values", this form inevitably eventually results in an underestimation of their "publicum". Instead of "stupid people" accepting the discouragement which they are served in the form of their integral preferences, what happens is that it is precisely those journalists who, by all means, send such a message, very quickly become exposed as self-decadent, self-destructive and ideologically impotent. It seems as if they are more pathetic than the “people” they address, because journalists are not expected to pander to them by insulting their intelligence and pretend that in their “advocating”, that Danica Vučenić speaks about, they do not manipulate, but that they only innocently speak the "will of the people".
Although Vučenić generally encourages the criticism of journalists’ work and considers it necessary, in practice it appears that the entire journalistic structure and their political-patronage associations react very violently to any criticism when targeted at a journalist. Then the critique is promptly called the attack on the ‘freedom of expression' and, instead of being understood as critique, it is labelled as the “attack”. It turns out that this "attack", in the sense of vanity, is the worst thing that can be done to a journalist (or a quasi-intellectual), so, in defence, the umbrellas from the ‘90s are immediately opened, and the very next moment the “attack” becomes persecution, and the names of the journalists – lists. The frontline of fight against the Government must belong to them, while the line in the back, from which their approach would be criticized in this fight, is not allowed, and is automatically interpreted as a response of the authorities through a bribed individual. This form of panic, resorted to by fraternal associations connected by "blood and honour" in the nineties, NDNV, NUNS and their members, is the best evidence that these structures are now in fierce identity crisis. The reason for their sense of being threatened is not a danger of censorship, but the concern of each individual journalist on the question above all questions: What is my journalistic profession based on, if everything I can give is, most often, mere criticism and mockery?
The issue of censorship in the media today is, in fact, used to avoid the issue of professionalism of journalists in any the possible way, to preserve, at all costs, irresponsible journalistic practice and exempt it from the process of the reform of the society. Every instance of journalism which has a goal to criticize the process of the reform, while seeking to build a wall of isolation around themselves, is not journalism at all. Since the processes of media reforms have taken hold and caused the surface tension on isolation to become critical, the wall has suddenly turned into a soap bubble. Therefore, it is necessary to take measures, more drastic than ever before, under the guise of even greater spread of the media project of the existence of censorship.
Increased vulnerability of current working methods in journalism has caused media, who felt under attack in that sense, to go to even greater extreme. At one point it became noticeably scarce and barren to talk, without firm grounds, about censorship in some other media, and reduce the whole lament to one’s own experiences from the previous political period. They shifted from empty talks to active fabrication of lies and half-truths, technically, in the following way:
Certain representative of the media publishes, transfers from social networks, or creates a piece of information of questionable credibility - usually in relation to a Government officer or a party member, to accuse him, or someone from the NGO sector, in order to present him as a victim of state terror. Then the same media representative complains because no media, or only few of them, reported that fabricated and clearly tendentious piece of information and the reason for that is respect of the profession, only to gain an "argument" to attack them and accuse them of censorship. Those media, however, who were happy to report this fabricated lie or half-truth, and who, at the same time, accuse others of merely passing on "non-critical" agency news, or intellectuals, who draw their recourse from such media, receive a bonus topic to speculate on the reasons why the news couldn’t reach others. That’s how the opening "news" turns into something quite different and gets its spiral life cycle in which it resides, and, with a cumulative effect, like a snowball, starts rolling down and exploit, together with many other, similarly incurred, cases.
Since each such report is, almost by the rule, directed against the current Government and the State, its failure to be published in another medium becomes the only important fact, so every possible reason why is not published contributes to the "proof" that the Government is behind everything, that it implements censorship, or, at least, that it is responsible for the editorial, "soft" self-censorship. As can be clearly seen, this meaning of the word self-censorship is created to completely coincide and prevent the issue of autonomy of editor’s decisions and editorial policy of the media, aiming to distract from the complete content and unprofessional quality of the reports. In this way today, through the expropriation of memory to the period of the nineties, a false image is created about some small and feeble, but "free" democratic media, portals and blogs that are fighting against the evil forces of the state and its authoritarian rulers.
Another way of diversion is even more aggressive and it doesn’t stop at the fabrication of reports, instead it fabricates the whole case of “censorship” around it, in the following manner: the report first appears, then its mysterious disappearance is reported from the website which published it, or from the website which reported it. That’s how the attack becomes less dependent on the reaction of other media, because the reasonable suspicion of censorship is now in their own hands and it is being manipulated with. The "mysterious disappearance" is more related to the already warmed atmosphere of censorship in public that is allegedly performed by the authorities, and it is enough for the report to disappear for "technical reasons" to nevertheless create an effect equal to that if someone would intentionally remove it on command of the authorities. After that, the report spreads without control, and, without special coordination, it is honoured all over the Internet with the label "censored text", thus becoming "the most direct evidence" that the authorities are losing the battle against cyber community that thwarted their intentions. The danger of such diversions lies precisely in the fact that they do not even have to be carefully planned, or specially organised and synchronised, since there is a large piece of media and web logistics which is in exactly the same mood and can’t wait to follow up. Moreover, their effect is the greater the more people really believe without thinking that it is all about a report censored by the Government, and with such an impression, they contribute to spreading it, by sharing it through social networks.
This avalanche is finally profiled as a chase against the Government of Serbia, the so-called dictatorial regime, because the mob is convinced they have compelling arguments for the overthrow of the regime. Since the least important thing is the content of the report, and the purpose of its existence is nothing but functional demonstration of “censorship”, ideologically totally incompatible groups have been called to the chase, thus becoming mutual partners in this activity and helpers of mutual benefit. In this broad front, sworn "civil right supporters" tend to distort the current Government's international reputation and announce it non-democratic on the grounds of alleged censorship. That is how they try to make the atmosphere that the Government has no credibility to lead negotiations for joining the EU, and that it is necessary for the accomplishment of that goal to elect another, more suitable Government. Diehard "nationalists" also prefer such delay, sabotage and, finally, total cancellation of negotiations with the same goal to overthrow the Government. For both of them it is imperative, therefore, that the Government must fall, and thereafter they will all go separate ways.
In this unseen political struggle, the manipulation of the concept of censorship has proved to be very cosy means to create a simulacrum, because, using a method of not so free associations, it ideally fits the instrument of the Minister of Information from the end of the nineties, who is now at the head of the Government. What we are witnessing is a kind of perfect revenge due to the character of his past, with also clear agitator note – the need for retaliation and emotional satisfying needs to come across the back and patience of all citizens of Serbia again. What is considered not to have been successful to certain groups didn’t go wrong because of their failure to implement the law on lustration, now they are trying to make up for it in a form very similar to Baudrillard's Perfect Crime.
However, majority of diversions return like a boomerang back to those who launched them, which inflames the margin even more, making it go more extreme, and less choosing the means to reach the goal. We will show the most relevant episodes of this progression, together with its participants; from the first node that is mainly made of diversions of the first type, i.e. cases of the wedding of Vučić, termination of broadcasting the radio emission „Mentalno razgibavanje“ on the B92, daughter of the Governor of NBS Jorgovanka Tabaković, journalist from the website Balkanist, and everything related to the episode “Feketić”, through the permanent media stirring up the atmosphere in the public, and the case “Škoro”, ending with the second node, in which diversion of another type is dominant, such as the cases of "removed" texts during emergency situation due to flooding.
The first node of extremely high concentration of diversions begins about December 2013 and lasts until February 2014. In the show "Mentalno razgibavanje" from October 4, whose authors Darko Mitrović and Marko Stepanović promote themselves as "naughty" announcers who faithfully report what is "spoken in the streets of Belgrade", pre-mounted news from RTS were broadcast, including the news that the Government of Serbia "at today's meeting, dismissed President Nikolić, who was pimping boys to former Bishop Vasilije Kačavenda". In early December RRA reacted to that issue, explaining that this situation can in no case be considered irony, humour or satire. Then NUNS speaks out, and accuses RRA of having "censorship ambitions", defending the editorial policy of the authors of the show, stating that this association is surprised that this authority reacted in this particular case, unlike many other cases, where they remained silent. Dinko Gruhonjić, who is always more aggressive than Vukašin Obradović, also repeats the latest "argument" on behalf of NUNS, and comments on the possible lack of professionalism of the author, and accuses the RRA that they are "courting the authorities" with this announcement.
With all the more tactless jokes and nastier cracks by the authors of the show on account of individuals from the Government, but also open racist outbursts, “Mentalno razgibavanje” is first suspended in the end of December for the holiday season, and a month later an announcement was made that the authors amicably parted ways with B92. Meanwhile, since they affirm town rumour mentality, the authors accuse the Government for this outcome, just to finally come to a decision that B92 is to blame for self-censorship, convinced that it did not resist political pressures. Immediately, numerous audio clips appear on the Internet titled “the show because of which SNS party cancelled ‘Mentalno razgibavanje'“, NUNS and NDNV proclaim censorship at work, all the while ignoring the announcement of B92, who denied any Government influence, adding that they were reasons of internal nature and professional decisions of B92: „The contents of our shows is not for public debate.“ Double standards of journalists' associations have surfaced: editorial freedom? – yes, but in this case for authors only, and not for the media. At the same time, a trend is created more clearly than ever before justifying the unprofessionalism, irresponsibility, indecency, kitsch and bad taste, if they are aimed to attack the Government; such reports are beginning to be called "critical", what is really in their content becomes less important, and the main activity of civic journalism becomes spreading rumours, instead of verifiable information. The authors of “Mentalno razgibavanje” – who, among other things, in one of their shows joked at the expense of the health status of Ksenija Vučić – in their farewell letter called their show "voice of the people", believing that thus they are justifying their own characteristics and performance.
Somewhere in that period, an item of news appears on social networks that Vučić got divorced, and shortly, got remarried, the information that “Mentalno razgibavanje” exploited heavily. In the months to come this became a favourite topic and crucial evidence for the existence of censorship in Serbia to Dragoljub Žarković, editor of the weekly magazine Vreme: “Self-censorship is hard to prove, but there's a bunch of examples, such as an example when Aleksandar Vučić married and that no one dared to publish, nobody estimated that news was of the public interest”. Žarkovic did not want to clarify what "public interest" that information had and to whom it would have meant so much, including the fact why he, a passionate fighter against tabloids, is suddenly so eager to publish information that clearly belongs to the tabloid, and to the domain of serious media. Dragan J. Vučićević replied to this hypocritical insinuation about censorship: “To explain, once and for all – why the Informer didn’t reveal that Vučić divorced and remarried? For the same reason that we didn’t write about the extremely rich extra-marital life of Boris Tadić. And, for the same reason that we didn’t write about the socio-political changes in the bed of Olivera Kovačević... Gentlemen, self-appointed moral-political journalistic judges, that is not self-censorship. That is a decision, it is a principle that applies to everything and everyone. But you, so full of malice, envy and hatred, so exasperated by the collapse of the system in which you have been accomplices in crime for over a decade, cannot understand that.”
In Google search, upon the query "politician got married", it can be seen that the news of this kind is not so common, unlike weddings of persons from the show business; the latest evidence dates from 2011 and is related to the marriage of senior official of DSS party, Miloš Aligrudić, with a former journalist, which was published by the tabloid Blic. Regardless of that, being a prototype of the newly formed "civic" journalists hungry for bad taste, Žarković, based on the fact that the "news" could not be read anywhere except on social networks, finds it enough to conclude the following: „What happened is that a censoring hand made an order that it shouldn’t be written, or the media estimated that Vučić wouldn't have liked it.“ During the series of lectures called "The Blic School of Journalism" („Blicova škola novinarstva“), which were aimed at the establishment of propaganda about the existence of censorship and so-called tabloidization of Serbia, Gordana Suša also said she was convinced that there was no such company or institution in which Aleksandar Vučić didn’t have at least one informant. “His long-stretching arm has fingers in everything”, she said, using the new radical language of Vesna Pešić. To please Žarković, this magazine, which has been trying for a long time to present itself as an alternative to the tabloids, although it is an open secret that is an exact copy of the British tabloid Daily Mail, on April 29, published the news of the death of Vučić’s baby and they listed under the column “politics”. What does this item of "news" have to do with the public interest or the "politics", Blic, just like Žarković, never explained - but it made clear to the readership which level of bizarre pollution is at a price, so that media in Serbia would never be accused of standing in the way of the “freedom of speech”.
On that same December, the Blic fabricates a flash of partial information, the level of which will signify typical food for all those high intellectuals who call themselves the greatest "critics of the Government" - the famous case of Vučić’s breaking the lock. The "authentic" foundation for the entire text is the following sentence: “A journalist of Blic monitored this event from the neighbouring office, when his attention was drawn to a large charivari on the second floor of the Government of Serbia.” The portal Peščanik, which has been for a long time deprived of highly intellectual topics, specializes in a series of articles where it tries, through intellectualism, to make serious threat to democracy out of these and similar tabloid news. The temperament of the future prime minister becomes a major argument for what will be called on this, and similar sites with the extremist vision, Šešeljism, and even Hitlerism (Vesna Pešić), addressing, at the same time, those who do not vote in elections for anybody’s policy but for personal characteristics of individuals. The Peščanik becomes a blind leech of everything suitable to be used against Vučić, produced by the Danas, Blic, Vreme, NIN, and various anonymous blogs eager for affirmation, and begins to serve for alarming opinion polls by tacitly tabloid basis. A direct connection from this portal to the Parliament is the New party (Nova stranka) of Zoran Živković, which represents the most extreme group in the legislative authority according to its rhetoric and methods of political action, and which, with the blessing of the Democratic Party, is in charge of pompously presenting all unverified "small talk" from social networks as big and important.
One example of such "small talk" came from the blog the Balkanist, founded by an American journalist, Lily Lynch, and Srećko Šekeljić, a former officer in the office of Boris Tadić, and fiery advocate of the existence of censorship on the blog B92. The Balkanist insinuated a case of repression aimed to present Lynch to the local public, and, above all, to international organisations, as a victim of police torture, i.e. dictatorial regime of the former Minister of Information, who persecutes and threatens "free" journalists. On the night of the 20th of January this year, the journalist wrote on her Twitter account that two policemen had broken into her bedroom and asked her what she was looking for in Serbia. The next morning, realizing that she hit the core of anti-Vučić’s part of the public, she made a text about this whole event. On the other hand, the police denied having entered into the apartment of the journalist, and they explained that they received a call from a concerned neighbour, Zlatimir Čale, that the door to the apartment of Lily Lynch was open. When they arrived at the scene, the police saw the closed door, and, before leaving, knocked to ask if everything was all right, when, according to the report, someone from the apartment answered positively.
It is interesting that, in the text about the alleged police raid, the journalist immediately connected that event with the content of the blog the Balkanist and "critical" texts on it, with special reference to published hacked e-mails about non-transparent money flows, which were sent by SIEPA agency on November 11 to this and several other editorial offices, as well as to the Anti-Corruption Council and the Ministry of Economy. Shortly after returning to Belgrade, in an interview for the portal Kosovo 2.0, Lynch argued in May this year that the Balkanist had been "chosen" to receive the leaked correspondence from this agency and that it was a test by the Government, probably by the current Minister of Economy, which is the reason why the journalist believed the police came to her apartment, probably sent by Vučić, who had methodological disagreement with Sasa Radulović at that time. In this interview, Vučić is portrayed as someone who controls all media, the example of failure to publish information about his wedding is again used as evidence of ever present censorship, and the American journalist is said to have been "expelled" from Serbia. On January 21, the neighbour, Čale, said he felt embarrassed and ashamed when he saw what this event turned into. The director of SIEPA at the time, Božidar Laganin, was arrested along with three more suspects on March 26 this year. The main agenda of the blog the Balkanist is still the equalization of Serbia from the time of Milošević and of Vučić in the eyes of various international organizations.
However, among the first scenarios there was a case in which, more or less, all the elements for future attacks and accusations of censorship were present. On December 9, the portal Radio 021 publishes a tabloid article titled "Favouritism for the daughter of Jorgovanka Tabaković in the National Health Insurance Fund", by the journalist and founder of the portal, Miodrag Sovilj, in which the goal is to present Milena Tabaković, a Doctor of Dental Medicine, primarily as a daughter of the current governor of NBS, and not as a regularly employed expert in Novi Sad Branch of the National Health Insurance Fund. The first indication that Milena is employed in the National Health Insurance Fund is given only later and beside the point, and not before the third paragraph. It is also left out from the text that the reason for the use of official vehicle for her lectures at the faculty is professional development that the National Health Insurance Fund funds partially, while travel and accommodation costs are covered in full. In the absence of complete information, the average reader finds that a certain person is authorised to use an official vehicle for some private purposes only because she is the daughter of Jorgovanka Tabaković, although it can be clearly seen in the document attached to the article that this is a completely normal procedure for all employees in branches who were referred to professional development. In such a situation full of spins and placed half-truths, three hours from of the publication of the article, the editorial team of Radio 021 suddenly decides to withdraw it from the portal, and, precisely with this move, it makes a transition from the diversions of the first type, to the that of the second type, by means of which the "censorship" case is fabricated. At the same time, the tabloid Alo!, which already quoted the text, does the same thing.
News quickly spread through social networks, identical text, which is labelled as "censored" is published by Naše novine, quasi-portals eIzbori and Kontrapres, the extremist site Autonomija and others. Agency news about the withdrawal of the report appears, reported by all important media. NUNS and NDNV express their concerns because they feel that the text was cancelled due to "political pressures", and the very next day, on December 10, on the occasion of International Human Rights Day, NDNV awards journalists recognition to same author of the tabloid article, Miodrag Sovilj, for "investigative journalism that follows high professional standards." The CINS website, which is included in propaganda on state censorship as of this case, demonstrating what its "investigative journalism" is based upon, and the website Autonomija, from the moment they published the reports, start claiming that they are under constant hacking attacks, and at one point the reports finally disappeared from their websites. None of these media has ever filed criminal charges about it. The first of these sites is produced by NUNS, while the latter - by the NDNV.
Meanwhile, the director of the National Health Insurance Fund, Momčilo Babić, made an announcement and explained the standard procedure of the Fund when it comes to professional development, pointing out that Milena Tabaković was only one of the 22 persons who were provided equal rights listed in Sovilj’s report. Nedim Sejdinović, editor in chief of the Autonomija, in his response to the appeal of Jorgovanka Tabaković, who claimed that her child was under attack just because of who she is, compared this case reminiscing former privileges of the children of Slobodan Milošević. The appeal was dismissed, OEBS and SHARE Foundation immediately stood in defence of the “freedom of expression” and texts "critical of the Government", thus defending a truly unprofessional and malicious report, while journalists with similar tendencies to Sovilj’s, such as Ratko Femić (Novi magazin, Al Jazeera Balkans), who demonstrate their professional achievements in argumentation by quoting tweets of anonymous Twitter users, continue to manipulate this case every time when it is welcome to be used against the current Government. The editor in chief of Radio 021, Slobodan Krajnović, later also said that he was sorry the editorial team had decided to withdraw the report. However, what Krajnović realized a little late was even better realised by all those who agreed that the full effect would not have been reached at that particular moment had there been no withdrawal.
A similar "error" with the withdrawal of a report happened in so-called "Feketić" case on February 1, at the time of avalanches in Vojvodina, related to a video clip made by a performing artist, Srđan Miletić, as mockery of Aleksandar Vučić. The clip was posted on websites like YouTube, only to be successively removed not much later from each link where it appeared. After numerous reports, certain other accounts on social networks were suspended due to unauthorized material or infringement of the copyright of RTS, for, it was their report that the mocking subtitling was created. When asked how he manages to remove inappropriate content so soon after the report, Mario Maletić, former web activist and a prominent member of the SNS party, answered as on the Tweeter network: “Mind triumphs, but the crowd comes in handy:-)” Later on, it turned out that Maletić, now a former coordinator of the party's internet team, overestimated the effects of activities he was thinking of, although it didn’t help prevent his statement from being used as an ultimate proof for some sophisticated SNS web tyranny every time in the following cases.
Two days after this event the editor of the website of RTS, Ljubiša Obradović, stated that the deletion of the clip was done by a Bulgarian company software "KVZ music", which was installed by a public service the previous week in order to protect their copyrights. It wasn’t only mockery that was deleted, but the original footage as well, without, subtitles, and from all the sites that did not lead to a formal RTS channel. According to him, the software is configured to recognize the digital signature of the RTS, block duplicates and only from those sites which have "taken it without authorization" and only if the report is on YouTube. However, if the clip was downloaded from YouTube to a computer, and then posted to another service, which also distributes video materials, such as Vimeo, Daily Motion, and even Facebook, the RTS cannot remove it. This fact will be suppressed as unsuitable for the sake of formation of the new, powerful and, this time, high-tech enemy, by all those who, only yesterday, represented it as a group of crude, the simple people trying to climb the escalator in the opposite direction.
One of the texts, which properly demonstrated intellectual misery and disorientation of all those whose scorn and mockery towards the SNS party stand up against professional standards, is the text by a controversial journalist Milica Jovanović from February 6 on the Peščanik website, whose media agenda defines the State as the eternal enemy, and thus requires discomposed and frustrated state of speech and writing. Believing that nihilism doesn’t carry stereotypes and prejudices, the author faces major problems how hold liable the target group of "party soldiers" for highly sophisticated attacks on individual websites, and to simultaneously preserve the primitive character that must adorn "former radicals".
This is how, when necessary, members of the Serbian progressive party are "unofficially" blamed for attacks on the websites Autonomy and CINS on the case of the Governor Jorgovanka Tabaković's daughter, a the second time for a mere clicking on the "report" button within the web services or social networks in order to remove inappropriate content. In the first case, members of the Serbian progressive party are highly skilled hackers who are "difficult to trace" and more powerful than one can imagine, like a phantom limb of the authoritarian Government. In the second case, they're just some kind of semi-skilled internet radicals who use simple software to change IP addresses, and then senselessly repeat the already performed activity. In the motive of this very repetition, they are deprived of everything that is refined, they get the personification of the software itself and become "human bots"; bodies without organs, ordinary obedient robotic army that does not need to know anything about the internet or about the escalator. In the colloquial speech the use of the word "bot" is established, which now refers to every commentator on the Internet who wants to speak affirmatively about the Government, which means that everyone who dares think this was is disqualified, both as a party member of some kind of force that goes beyond our comprehension, and as an ordinary soldier who turned off his brain and does not really believe in what he is saying. Contempt and mockery, as the most important elements of the journalism on Peščanik, survive in conjunction of the "smart" and the "dumb", in order to point out a hero on the other side, who is actually rammish even when he is under the greatest threat. From this panic perspective, each party web activist is actually an SNS activists, and everything else is unstoppable 'freedom of speech' on the Internet.
This idea of the Internet which should function as a correlate for a perfect leftist utopia, cyber-security and shelter from the real and "progressive" unbearable world in the name of so-called "netizens" is supported by the SHARE foundation. This organization, which is a parasite in the absence of precise legislation concerning the web space in Serbia, founded an outpost called SHARE Defence in early October 2013, with "the expert assistance of lawyers, analysts, activists, artists, computer experts" and more than indicative mission to "stop the oppression, censorship and surveillance". On this occasion, on 2 February the SHARE is openly advertised together with NDNV and NUNS, to comrades in the same propaganda, and declares cases of copyright infringement of the RTS "attempts of censorship and restricting the freedom of exchange of content on the Internet." This controversial hybrid organization will also use the sentence by the SNS activist in its press release on his alleged merits to the reports of inappropriate content, while there is not a single word on the rights of RTS, since it doesn’t fit the leftist-anarchist code. Although the announcement of the RTS followed the next day, the signed organizations who accuse of censorship never corrected their statements. Moreover, international organizations such as the OSCE were given a false picture of the events in Serbia, so the goal is reached.
SHARE describes the subtitled clip, in which the child, who is carried by Vučić during the rescue from a snow blizzard, is called "degenerate", as "irony" and "parody", while the journalist Iva Martinović, in the report for the Radio Free Europe, titled "Censorship of the Superman and the rise of a leader" sees it only as a "humorous video". However, the reason why this particular way of mocking noticeably touched the hearts of many so-called human rights activists and "journalistic grandures", is that their unprofessional character and the character that only draws pleasure from extreme exaggeration is in this situation fully matches the character of the author of this self-destructive "joke" – an actor, whose impressively narrow range of roles on the small screen is reduced to that of a typical street chuff. The reason for ridicule is the assumption that Vučić rescuing the child from the avalanche is only a staged abuse of somebody’s misfortune during the election campaign, or, as the editorial board of the daily newspaper Danas put it – a show.
In the manner of what the public could expect in cases of flooding in May, and with the aim of reinforcing the argument that the action of rescuing the child was premeditated, certain Jasminka Kocian, "journalist of the Tanjug on a sick leave" posted a the message on the social networking site the Facebook, which immediately spread over the Internet and "was Liked " by comic parliamentary parties and their, even more comic, individuals. In her post in which she mimics a witness a massive fraud, Kocian, smitten with the general wave of mockery, argued, among other things, that "everything is even worse than people think", that the whole set which included the appearance of the RTS footage was staged and that, at the expense of security of the endangered people, the Red Cross patrols had to wait Vučić to come and record the rescue of the child: "During the night, the volunteers from the Red Cross, however, illegally started digging and rescued a child with diabetes and many others, without the consent of the Staff. When Vučić arrived by helicopter, he didn’t know what to do and how to do it, so the people from the Red Cross, who are trained for this, guided him how and where to land...” The next day, as an "informed citizen who writes the truth on her private profile", she added that the cabinet of Vučić asked the Red Cross in the meantime to deny her allegations and claimed that there are photos on the website of the organization that confirm her allegations. "I personally saw the footage of the Red Cross people, what they were doing and how they were doing it," the reporter swore.
Ranko Demirović, a member of the National Red Cross team and Coordinator of the development of the preparation program, showed in his denial that if it was a sheer fabrication of lies, requesting Kocian to stop connecting the "response of the Red Cross and their volunteers with media campaigns, since there are no objective reasons and assumptions for it". Demirović pointed out that no one prevented the Red Cross to act in the field, but that they had effective coordination with Government agencies in charge of the occurrence of such disasters at all the times. "The Red Cross teams had absolutely nothing to do with the landing of the helicopter that transported the First Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia, nor have been informed about it, nor were they at the place where the helicopter landed. The confirmation of what I have written is in the photo and video archive of the Red Cross of Serbia.“, he said in his response. He also added that the case of the rescue of a child who suffers from diabetes occurred during the day, not at night, while the Army of Serbia was already exercising their capacities during the evacuation. "I personally performed the evacuation of this child to the helicopter of the Serbian army," the disclaimer said.
Since, to the great disappointment of The New Party (Serbian: Nova stranka), this new insinuation also failed, Teofil Pančić also felt a need to speak out on February 6 in the weekly Vreme, stating that, after all, it isn’t so important whether a scene included in the recording was made accidentally or not, "even if that it was guided only, solely and exclusively by the best possible intentions, the Vučić’s 'rescue' gesture is irreversible and irreparable profaned and degraded the moment it was distributed on television." Looking for some sort of philosophical expression, Pančić is convinced that, from that moment on, the act of the rescue loses all its potential, no matter how inherently "good and noble" it was. In other words, the well-known journalist concluded that the very fact that it was recorded, for whatever reason, before any explanation, this video "by itself" is contemptuous and therefore deserves mockery from the "publicum". However, what he forgot to take into account, believing that this way he defends from the stereotype of an "eternal philistine", which he is known to have criticised in his literary works, is the fact that, no matter how disgusted someone was when watching the video of Vučić in the role of the "Superman", and no matter how low and lame it seemed, the mockery of a life-threatening situation, such as saving a child from the avalanche, turns out even more repugnant and lower, whoever was involved in this rescue, so the original intention of ridicule returns as a boomerang to the one whose journalistic profession is now revealed as mere waiting for an opportunity to give vent to this seemingly small but destructive whim of a true philistine.
The author of the ingenious title was caught into the same trap, because the need for mocking and spitting at a specific person suddenly mass-hysterically overcame any control of common sense, decency and moral. The same thing also wasn’t understood by the blogger Dario Hajrić, who, in his attempt to criticise, equalized Vučić’s rescue of the child's with Tadić's concern whether the chickens are cold and if they are under stress after the floods in Trgovište in 2010. Pančić himself also made a similar incoherent and unreasonable comparison in his article, saying that Vučić’s recorded gesture is the same as if the American President took a rifle in his hands during his visit to troops in Iraq, and went into the tank and started a fight against the "terrorists". The entire web community and all the accomplices of the "Feketić" digital disarray, felt all the shame that the listed authors experienced on his own skin, the result in which the ebb of events was much stronger and less favourable for them than it was thought while the tide was coming in. This phenomenon turned out to be the rule in time following the high concentration of diversions – during the emergency due to flooding - where the protagonists from the internet community again dug their own grave, because, as it was proved, they couldn’t take anything for the pathos moves they make, but their own dejection.
The person who understood this best was nobody else but Aleksadar Vučić himself, who, eventually, posted the video clip to his own Facebook profile, and not in order to cover up the alleged illegal "censoring", but for as many people as possible to view it and assess whether the "humorous video" says more about him or about those who made it and abused its removal due to copyright infringement. In just over a month, the party headed by him won the elections by a record number of votes, more than anyone anticipated, despite the aspirations and hopes of those who had been convinced that the "Feketić" case would be the backbone for the political debacle of Vučić.
Cases of "censorship" turn into real "affairs". But their significance is not in their arbitrary and factual bases, but in that first, easiest and seemingly most obvious interpretation, which is given "by itself" and by inertia in order to explain an event. That is how we should understand the explanation by two bloggers, creators of, as it turns out, farcical petition "In the Face of Censorship", Aleksandar Sekulić and Dario Hajrić, who call for a famous methodology principle of the scientific research “Occam's Razor” at the conference titled "If there is no censorship, we want to know: What is this?" Paraphrased and somewhat simplified, it reads: When it comes to scientific phenomena, the simplest explanation should have primacy over other explanations. Indeed, if only texts which speak "critically" about the Government disappear, if the website of Peščanik is hacked only when the doctorate of Nebojsa Stefanovic is accused of plagiarism, but not that of Aleksandar Šapić, what else could an average citizen think?
After all, this is everything that is important and what spears are actually sharpened with in the media star wars; the winner may only be the one whose interpretation prevails over others, if others exist at all. Interpretation is the key concept here, which is able to bypass any arguments and evidence, even if they are not in its favour and if they say that it is unfounded. For, if this interpretation manages to be established as a mainstream, due to the innumerable cases whose number itself raises doubts, and, on the other hand, counter-interpretation cannot break through clearly enough, or is initially repudiated as the Government fraud which causes distrust with the very fact that it is the Government, then it is not necessary to explain anything further – the phenomena is in advance marked. It becomes enough for it to appear to immediately constitute an obvious example of, in this case, censorship exercised by the Government. From that moment on, blamed from all angles, the Government is defeated and no longer has any chance to deal with the situation that suddenly develops exponentially. Any attempt to return to the beginning of the film to a "neutral state" and reinterpret the series of events individually, would be pure madness, considering the fact that, in the end, nothing important would have changed.
The very core of media propaganda, the dream of every spin doctor, is to come to the point where it is no longer necessary to invest any effort to interpret anything the way I would want - the government’s censorship - because the atmosphere that instructs the interpretation has already been created, along with the world where the first association to the removed texts, attacked sites etc. becomes just and only that. Since it is essentially similar to something that has happened already, no extra effort is needed to achieve it. The crucial thing is: Everyone who wants to say anything about it needs only to, even remotely, relate to the things already well-established, without prior examination and knowledge, for “it is clear to everyone”.
In her column “Pogledi” in the Politika, dated July 8, Tatjana Mandić Rigonat insinuates that the B92 media house succumbed to the political pressure because, despite the earlier announcement of the anchor of the TV show “Utisak nedelje”, B92 began with the summer program. It makes one wonder, how could anyone think differently after the case of “Mentalno razgibavanje” (“Mental exercise”)? Is it not convenient that I have that case to guarantee the justification of doubts related to every other case in the future? Doesn’t the said guarantee determine the intentionality of my attitudes towards “censorship”?
The persistence of these conclusions contributes, as it seems, to a surplus, i.e. the “alien” of the very persistence and the need to participate in the activity of the omnipresent circumstances, to act “wisely” and “shrewdly” only because the circumstances are turned against the government, because if by any chance it referred to the opposition, it would be considered uninteresting, “selective” and intellectually unchallenging. The surplus acts as an indivisible remainder of our reasoning when we try to criticize the government of Aleksandar Vučić today, in the same way we used to criticize the government of Boris Tadić, because, by all accounts, we do it far less successfully. The indivisible remainder manifests in the inability to rightfully and exclusively criticize the function Vučić presently holds in the government, because there is always more to add, and the addition, although seemingly harmless, in time metastasizes into the condition of all conditions for performing the act of “criticizing”. Therefore, it has to be seen as an unstoppable need to publish, state, write, add or rewrite anything at all, which almost denies anything of even remotely critical value. It is a surplus that dribbles work, a short circuit in the conception, which sheds a totally different light on the remaining content, and it activates itself just when things look certain, balanced, but also when the attention slips.
In that sense, the actions of intellectuals and journalists are more often caught in a state of unthinkable perversion, pathology, delirious transgression, misstep in all the places where work looks more as a residue of work, as its discarded product, waste. This is why a certain subject who is also a public figure gradually stops being an authority on political opinion, considering that he is not only emphasizing and popularizing the very subject of the transgression but also treats it as the point of his work. This state of decadency in media and intellectual sphere that dominates Serbia represents their basic work condition.
There is no other way to understand, for instance, the theory of Vesna Pešić, the person suddenly prequalified to psychiatrically diagnose the PM of Serbia that the government, i.e. Vučić only fabricates affairs to hide the fact from the public that nothing significant is done about the questions of social and national reforms. Because if we take this statement for serious, it would mean that we believe the government intentionally and for its own benefit causes the cases of “censorship”, crashes sites and removes texts, declares plagiarisms only to dispute them, that for some reason it has a masochistic desire to be accused of censorship in domestic and foreign public, and then falsely defends itself, because it is seemingly politically more useful than simply doing as promised in the expose. What happened to the ‘Occam's Razor’? How come that the principle of the simplest solution is suddenly and without any notice continually replaced by the strained scenery of spiral conspiracy theories? Isn’t that a true example of dribbling? Where all we see becomes only what the public person, the subject does to himself?
Isn’t every text on Saša Radulović’s blog, or whatever the former Minister produces, ended in a similar way, by concluding that Vučić is a fraud, that reforms will never happen, thus negating everything that currently happens in politics, making everything said or written before that, usually important details, just reasons to develop a criticizing conclusion? He does nothing right, but would I have done it all differently? Isn’t it a way to recognize cheap political pamphlets like the amateur ones that Nova stranka makes? Isn’t it a low way to throw away basic expert knowledge into common politicizing?
Although Twitter was designed as a primarily informative social network, not so much for private chatting, prattling and conversing, most of the journalists and intellectuals migrated there and made Twitter accounts their own little territories where everything is allowed – all the things they would gladly present to the public if not for the negative effect on their personal integrity. What is amazing is the number of people who imagine that this social network, where the content can also be viewed without an open account, excludes them from the responsibility for everything written, who got accustomed to a perverse, but fatal pleasure of acting as though they are not public figures, although they are.
Isn’t it a final, true picture of present journalistic aspirations; to endlessly insult, belittle, curse and laugh at anyone while transgressing, without any supervision? To instantly give up every code of ethics, respect, all in an infantile belief that it is being done behind the target’s back hidden from the public eye, that the target cannot see it? Twitter becomes a “handset” that brings to light the worst characteristics of public figures like Svetozar Raković, Dušan Mašić, Boban Karović, Bojan Cvejić, Nikola Tomić, Slaviša Lekić, Vesna Pešić, Ratko Femić, Dragan Janjić, Biljana Srbljanović, Milan Antonijević, Tatjana Vojtehovski, Zoran Živković, Marko Somborac, Bojana Maljević, Dragan Popović, Dimitrije Vojinov, Jelena Milić, Jovana Gligorijević, Darko Mitrović, Slobodan Georgijev and many, many others.
Let us just take a look at the basic work regimes of two renowned B92 anchors – Olja Bećković and Suzana Trninić. Neither of them has been acting as a professional journalist for years now, and there are serious reasons to believe that one of them has never been one. At the same time, in their TV shows, both of them misuse the power of the journalistic position by toying with the regular citizen who just wants his questions answered and sees no other interest in it. The indivisible remainder in this temporary state is their attitude towards the guests in the show, where, depending on the identity of the guest, two types of behaviour can be identified. Both TV shows, “Utisak nedelje” or “Kažiprst” are largely instrumented because the guests are used as means to express previously determined political objectives. Anchors often play the role of a mere medium, opening up guests of suitable interests. However, both of them are primarily selfishly dedicated to underlining and affirming their own prejudice and problems in understanding, which has nothing to do with journalism.
Type A is a guest that will not be interrupted much, that will not enter into any confrontation with the anchor during the show and that will be asked only questions corresponding to the answers he was invited to the show to give. Type B is opposite to type A: it is a guest invited because of a subject that is actually a cover to question the guest about things that would sound unprofessional, pretentious and personal if stated as official reasons for inviting the said guest. It is the guest that is not allowed to reach the point of his answer whenever he disagrees with the opinion of the anchor. Any deviation from the passive role and answering the questions is seen as an act of aggression, an assault upon journalistic freedom of editing and therefore turned into the helplessness of the guest who is laughed at by a suddenly non-regular citizen. There is no type C.
The treatment of Vladimir Popović from June 29 in “Utisak nedelje” is therefore no different from the treatment of Marko Blagojević, the newly appointed director of the Office for Assistance and Rehabilitation of Flooded Areas, dated June 3 in “Kažiprst”, because the only real topic of the show was: ‘How can you work with Vučić? Don’t you find it the least bit shameful?’ This demonstrates that the two “authored” shows are not only instrumented but are also monopolized by false ownership, and the usurping anchors create the program to treat their own personal problems with the current government, while the overused phrase “regular citizen” never really included anyone but themselves alone.
As for the different treatment of guests, it is sufficient to compare the behaviour of Suzana Trninić the previous day, on June 2, during a TV show with ombudsman Saša Janković, the author of the claim that the freedom of media, and not the state, was in an emergency situation. Naming herself as the heir of the propaganda of Tijanić, this sentence will be used by Olja Bećković in a similar switch of themes, when she calls Popovic ”the number 1 censor in this territory” for declaring emergency situation after the murder of the Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić. Trninić will yet demonstrate unprecedented lack of professionalism in the show dated June 18, when she shows her unprovoked judgement in a question to Mile Novaković, former Chief of Criminal Police. “Did you expect the media and the public to take the bait (and accept the statements of Darko Šarić about being blackmailed by Rodoljub Milović)?” she suggested before the guest even managed to formulate any official stand, thus revealing the general character of her show.
Let us make a hypothetical scenario now, although it is almost impossible, that Veran Matić – the very one who considered in 2001 that B92 should get a national frequency without any legal procedure, for services rendered in the fight against Milošević – should stop any cooperation, suspend or at least professionally disqualify the said anchors today. Despite all the efforts to maybe explain the real reasons, would it be possible to interpret such a precedent in any other way except as a censorship, considering the overall public atmosphere? In her column, Tatjana Mandić Rigonat answered this very question.
After the advocates of the return of the nineties – party groups who, during their election campaign, elevated the protest walks and demonstrations to topple Milošević to the status of Kosovo mythomania – had won barely six percent of the total voters, there was a slight calm about 'censorship'. The situation remained the same until the end of April, when the new government with Aleksandar Vučić at its head was formed. What followed during the next month cannot be compared to anything previous, and it resulted in a more than paradoxical situation – that, at the same time, all the media were buzzing about media censorship and freedoms which 'had not been this endangered even in the nineties'. Truthfully, never before in the history of the country had there been more free speech about censorship than in the state led by 'Milošević's head censor'.
The fiercest campaign to capitalize everything that had been spinned by the media, finalized with the 'Feketić' case, will be led in May by the daily newspaper Danas. Together with most of its journalists, the newspaper will share the opinions of NUNS, while Radio Television Vojvodina will do the same by favouring the opinions of even more extreme NDNV. Only in Danas, dozens of articles, interviews and news will be published to show the purpose that all the previous cases had served – to accept media censorship in Serbia, obviously implemented by the government, both locally and abroad, as some kind of a burning issue and thus make it an indubitable thing that no one reasonable enough would question. In an effort to demonstrate that, journalists Boban Karović, Bojan Cvejić, Aleksandar Roknić and Jasmina Lukač, two of which hold positions in the actual executive board of NUNS, will especially excel. They will proceed to do it first through the interviews, by asking suggestive questions, but also through unilateral choice of interviewees. The starting point for re-actualizing 'censorship' was the World Press Freedom Day, May 3rd, which was followed by a week full of a series of activities, guests’ appearances and lectures dealing with this topic.
During that week, the association NUNS and NDNV, with the support and participation of the representatives of the OSCE, organize discussions in Belgrade and Novi Sad, entitled ‘Self-censorship’: The invisible threat to media freedom’, which becomes the leitmotif of what Milica Pešić, the executive director of the London Institute for Media Diversity, in the style of ‘where there's smoke, there's fire’, will soon describe by saying: ’Self-censorship occurs only where there is censorship.’ Since self-censorship is self-explanatory, and it is achieved by doubt-arising cases – that is, by theorization, association and guesswork – then it is in itself the proof for the existence of censorship, which has announced an incomprehensible wave of embarrassment of experts, high officials from international organizations and even some ambassadors.
Danas focuses on the topic of the week entitled 'Self-censorship and censorship', but what starts as a week extends to the whole month. The interlocutors list is more than indicative: Bojana Lekić, Milica Pešić, Gordana Janković (OSCE), Gordana Suša, Danica Vučenić and many others. At the Belgrade discussion, Olivera Kovačević, a journalist of RTS, comes forward claiming that the situation in the media is even worse than it was during the government of democratic party, whereas Radomir Diklić, the executive of the news agency Beta, continues with a platitude about 'a complete lack of the system of values'. Responding to the accusations that he contributed to the spread of the media campaign against the government, Diklić, quite amazingly, gives as a key argument, in denial sent to Politika after the first part of the series Operation Censorship, the fact that his author could not know anything about it as he is not a subscriber to agency Beta!
Similarly to Diklić, Balkan Investigation Network pointed out in its Facebook statement about the first part of the text from this series that it had tried to use its research to ‘prove what everybody already knows but does not want to talk about in public: that people surrounding Aleksandar Vučić have, through the use of agencies for purchasing media advertising space, ‘mastered’ the media in Serbia taking the previously established models.’ However, this research failed to prove the existence of any kind of political blackmail or distributional pressure condition by advertising. On the contrary, the testimonies about such blackmail that Dragan Đilas’s company ‘Direct Media’ has dealt with, along with the fact that several advertisers ended their cooperation with the company immediately after the 2012 election, have been used first to declare the abuse of the new monopoly on the right to advertise in the media, and then to make an allegation that the abuse is done under the direction of the biggest ruling party and the prime minister, as it used to be done during the rule of Boris Tadić.
In defence of the alleged impartiality, this organization claimed that it dealt with the theme of control over media also during the rule of Democratic Party, but the link it provided as evidence does not lead to any text older than October 2012. It is true that BIRN dealt with political media control as a part of the project during the reign of DP, but none of the studies were published at the time. Moreover, on the internet there is only one serious work which involves this organization and deals directly with this topic, and it was published in September 2013. This leads to conclusion that BIRN had a very clear idea of what was going on in the advertising space on the territory of Serbia from 2008 to 2012, but decided to publicly speak about it only after the government had been changed. Rather than face these facts, this organization criticized Politika for not wanting to publish the controversial work by four authors about Vučić’s alleged media levers in March 2014, while characterizing the series Operation Censorship published in the section ‘The Views’, reserved for authors work and different opinions, as ‘editorial comment’.
Two days after the discussion in Belgrade, NUNS presents the award for investigative journalism in the category of printed media precisely to BIRN network for this text. The suspicious criteria of this work will not prevent even Gordana Igrić, the regional executive of BIRN, to reveal, on May 14, also for Danas, her personal animosity, as she has put it, ‘not towards the Government but towards Vučić’, since she sees media’s attempts to build ‘the cult of personality’ out of him as the main source of censorship. By already analyzed principle, the ones who build the cult of personality do it because they have to, not because they want to, so the question is why the need to prove the existence of censorship when it is clear as day. This mixing of ‘business with pleasure’ is also done by Dragoljub Petrović who similarly admits the following on April 28: ‘Some people tell me I am obsessed with Vučić. I have actually spent my whole life waiting for him to come into power. How can I not write about the man who is omnipresent and involved in everything? And it is him who is obsessed with media, he keeps finding faults with everything – from ‘the analysts filled with hatred’ to the journalists who are ‘haters’’, said about himself in third person one of the leading tabloid journalists of ‘civic Serbia’ – once Kurir’s and now Danas’.
The only dissonant opinion in the sea of media decadence and futile aspirations not to change anything in the journalistic milieu has come on May 15 from the editor and author of the show ‘Insider’, Brankica Stanković. In response to her colleague’s question to comment on the censorship climate in Serbia, she will completely unexpectedly say: ’I really cannot say anything else but that I actually do not know what censorship means. No one has ever called me to tell me what can and what cannot go. No one, ever, for all these years since we started doing the ‘Insider’, and I believe it is nonsense.’ Pointing out that journalists who claim there is censorship have to say who it comes from , she added: ’They all somehow claim it and use it as an excuse not to do certain things, but no one comes forward with it in public.’ The most awarded journalist also cut short Suzana Trninić’s false dilemma about whether the journalists do not use the freedom they have or they have to win it by contriving, saying: ‘There is no conquest of freedom there. You just have to do the job you do professionally, whatever job that is.’
In the interview for the May edition of magazine Esquire, Stanković talks about, among other things, how appalled she is by the lack of concern from her colleagues regarding her life which she has been leading under strict supervision for five years now: ‘It is all so disgusting and hypocritical that I could write three more books, but not about myself and what is happening to me, but about all of them. About the representatives of a so-called other Serbia, they are, I guess, representatives of some elite, intellectuals, and human rights activists. Where have they all disappeared? Their silence is so conspicuous that it is more than shameful.’ She has already suggested on multiple occasions that she will withdraw her membership from the association NUNS.
It is striking that this association, despite the increasingly relevant indications of recently ousted UKP chief Rodoljub Milović’s propensity to manipulation, has not yet dared to ask more than a logical question about the appropriateness of that abnormal security treatment. Why? The reason lies, or so it seems, once again in a comfortable inertia: there is no stereotype of an all-endangered journalist to make a larger profit from in the era of propagating censorship and endangered media freedom, to be better exploited and drained from anybody else but Brankica Stanković. Moreover, NUNS and Veran Matić, regarding Luka Bojović’s lawsuit which had not caused the slightest suspicion about the whole case, have spoken only to support the instrumentalization even more. This figure, the precious signifier in the whole chain of other signifiers, is today also perhaps the weakest link which could, if broken – considering how much had been invested in the complete scenario – reveal the darkest core of the levers of power of the Democratic Party.
The "Škoro Case" is happening at the same time, during the first two weeks of May. It all begins on April 27th, on the day that the new Government is being formed, when SNS issues a statement accusing RTS of serving as "an everyday playground for foul attacks" on the party's President. "We have been witnessing in the past few days, and today as well, on the very day that the Serbian Government is being formed, a great number of dismissive remarks by the RTS presenter, with one goal only – to discredit the new Government and reputation of Aleksandar Vučić"– the statement says. Dragoljub Žarković will interpret the more general content of this statement as "shooting an arrow that will make journalists and editors in particular think about what the authorities would and would not like". All the journalists' associations will also agree that it is a matter of intimidation. "If the most powerful political party in Serbia reacts in this manner at the peak of its popularity, to what extent will it be tolerant when it comes to criticism during its term", a statement by UNS says, and in Politika, Ljiljana Smajlović also stresses this connection between the party at the "peak of its power" and its readiness to accept criticism, even though it seems unjust according to her. However, does the fact that a party won the absolute majority in the Parliament means that, because of "justice", it should have less right than others to point out dismissive "criticism", disparagement and depictions?
What is surprisingly completely missing, at once and when necessary, are all the lengthy explanations, stemming from the experience with the previous authorities, about some "perfidious pressures" on the media which are not being made in public, because otherwise they would not be perfidious. How does this party statement then correspond with the assurances by, for example, Olja Bećković and Gordana Suša, about subtle calls from people close to the authorities, secret lunches and mocking because of the sentence 'Have I ever called you?' and such? Wasn't this kind of a statement earlier, to the contrary, an indicator of the credibility of the ruling party's stance that it does not significantly influence the media? Are we today not witnesses of equally impotent statements by NDS and Boris Tadić who has lost all media leverage, whereas in the time when he was in power he would never issue statements in this manner when something in the media bothered him? It is quite obvious, that in the SNS statement there is nothing perfidious, moreover, one of its main characteristic is the remarkable absence of perfidy, subtlety and discretion.
It was not until May 9th, meaning retroactively, that this statement gets utilized in public, because it was then that Ratko Dmitrović, Director and Editor-in-chief of Večernje novosti, dismisses and suspends his Desk Editor Srđan Škoro. This act is immediately interpreted as the effectiveness of the April 27th statement because, on that day, Škoro was a guest on the RTS morning programme and expressed his negative attitude towards the future Government members. He based his opinions on disparagement, discrediting the academic institutions that the Ministers had attended and the extent of anonymity that some of them had. Even though it was not related exclusively to his guest appearance, but also to the conduct of Olivera Kovačević, the host of "Da Možda Ne" which was broadcast on April 24th, and the announcement that Nebojša Spaić was to become the Advisor to the RTS Director, the SNS statement has ever since become irreparably reduced to serve only in the cause-and-effect connection to the dismissal of Srđan Škoro.
In a few hours following the suspension, NUNS gives a statement "Dismissal for criticizing the authorities" in which it is clearly stated that "no matter what the explanation is" the dismissal is caused by Škoro's guest appearance on the morning programme. Despite all professional rules and journalism codes, by giving such statement, this association of unprofessional journalists excludes beforehand any explanation by Ratko Dmitrović with the intention of interpreting the situation on their own as they please. Such an outrageous action by an "independent", and actually politically directed association, similar only to certain media actions in the time of Milošević's reign, cannot be described in any other way than – censorship. An attempt to preemptively disqualify anything that Novosti Editor might say had the goal of not asking the question that would corroborate a completely political motive behind the dismissal: Why would, in the name of God, Dmitrović, known for his nationalistic and Europhobic attitudes, have something political against what Škoro stated in the morning programme and dismiss him because of it?
On the other hand, NUNS attempts to maintain the connection with the SNS statement from the end of April at all costs and thus accuse the ruling party and Prime Minister himself of putting Dmitrović under political pressure to dismiss Škoro. Traditionally, Radio Free Europe, Deutsche Welle, NSPM, Peščanik, Autonomija, Teleprompter and other blog newsletters and journalists like Olja Bećković immediately fall in love with this idyllic picture and aim to depict Srđan Škoro as an innocent victim of censorship, a respectable journalist who "wouldn't hurt a fly". The main offensive was launched by Danas yet again, which published an article of Jasmina Lukač entitled "A Professional" on May 12th, which had no other goal but to give "honourable" biographical data of a completely anonymous person before then, a former Editor in Revija 92 known for satanizing the late Prime Minister Đinđić. In the same issue, the task of strengthening the connection between the SNS statement and the dismissal was given to Aleksandar Roknić, so that these two articles would give readers some kind of a whole idea of the incident.
Four days later, for no apparent reason, a former celebrity Dimitrije Vojinov published an article entitled "ŠkoroLeaks" in Naše novine, claiming that this dismissal opened a new chapter in repressing the media in Serbia. He pompously states, "After this incident, we shall realise how nothing will ever be the same in our media". At the same time, many media, including B92, were falsely presenting Srđan Škoro as "the dismissed Editor of Novosti", which in the context of censorship sounds much better than "Desk Editor", whose job has nothing to do with editing the content of the newspapers and is more of a technical nature. For Jasmina Lukač, for example, not even weeks will be enough to give up that sort of manipulation.
The Journalists' Association of Serbia (Udruženje Novinara Srbije, UNS) also took Škoro under its protection, but refrained from issuing manipulative statements. Instead, it played the role of a sort of a syndicate umbrella, just like the journalists see it in general, responding only because the person in question was a journalist. Without any reference to the whole case, the facts and the arguments from the other party, it also contributed to each Dmitrović's explanation being understood as second-rate in comparison to the precedence of the stereotype about an endangered journalist. Why does this reflexive protection paradoxically compromise the notion of professionalism? It turns out that this case, which is in no way an exception to the way UNS works, points out a whole methodological (not political) problem that this association has been dragging on for years – its excessive tendency towards formalism, general principles and notions, while at the same time verification and the manipulative potential of the content remain elusive.
Although it was first uncertain whether Ratko Dmitrović would let the propaganda machine and overall inertia related to censorship take its toll and he himself remain silent – in the same way that Editor-in-chief of the tabloid Blic, Veselin Simonović did in the case of the petition "In the Face of Censorship" – something else prevailed. Novosti Editor-in-chief could not hide his astonishment over the instrumentalisation of Srđan Škoro and the speed at which, all of a sudden, he had become an ideal referent, so he tried to resist, regardless of whether his political orientation is the same as the Government policy. He explained to UNS that Škoro's dismissal had nothing to do with his guest appearance on RTS and that he agreed with the majority of what Škoro had said on the programme. "Three months ago, I began intensive preparations in the Desk for which I have six-seven witnesses, for searching for another Chief, dissatisfied by the way Škoro had been running things", Dmitrović said in the 39th minute of the "Sarapin problem" programme aired on May 12th.
He characterized the complete media circus as an attack attempt on Novosti and the Prime Minister, and used the following words to express what the role that the others forced upon him is: "What should I have done? In order to avoid what had happened, I should have said, I cannot dismiss Škoro – and I have found a Desk Editor who I am convinced would do a better job – because it would be said that it was because of his guest appearance on the morning programme when he criticized the Government, Vučić and Ministers. So, I should think like that? – that neither concerns me, nor have I ever done that."
In these Dmitrović's words, who turned out to be more fair than the whole citizenship-elitist armada, lies the essence of the "Škoro" case. Whatever the reaction he caused after the suspension, it did not, or did very little change to the meaning and the significance of the incident, which is confirmed by the degree of recapitalization of propaganda that seals shut the phenomenon by its very appearance. Whatever the outcome, after the pomp subsides, is not really important anymore, because it cannot be measured with the damage that was done – by constant campaigning about jeopardizing the media freedom and inciting the "anti-censorship" atmosphere in public.
What does this result contribute to? Precisely to ensure and protect all those journalists who have been presenting themselves in public as "professionals" from losing their jobs, and today feel they are endangered because of their incompetence, of which they are aware themselves. The case of "censorship" becomes an open threat and weapons demonstration which these "moral giants" are ready to use in order to defend themselves and maintain their influential positions. Thus, the aim of the "Škoro" case was to send a clear message of what was in store in the future for each editor who might, for any reason, think of dismissing a journalist who "criticized", i.e. disparaged the authorities, therefore continuing to disparage without any disruptions. What emerges is a situation in which certain people are practically impossible to dismiss – no matter their behaviour – precisely because of the reactions to follow, as in the aforementioned hypothetical scenario related to Olja Bećković and Suzana Trninić. Because of all this, under the pressure of "anti-censorship" public, Srđan Škoro remains in Večernje novosti and is transferred to the position of an Assistant to the Editor-in-chief of the paper's "Sports" section.
A deeply ingrained argument concerning the relation between an individual and a group is related to a belief that any individual who is a part of a group primarily loses his sense of individuality, and diminishes his view of the self and the ego at the outburst of retrograde, herd instincts, of the primordial id that inevitably demolishes everything the individual has created with his own hands. However, Freud's findings in his work "Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego" from 1921 teach us something more: there is no higher degree of satisfaction and ecstasy that overwhelms the ego but the one which is, at some moment, withdrawn from the influence of a group, and no greater narcissism than the one created within the group for each individual alone. In other words, an individual is, paradoxically, able to reach his most selfish goals exactly in the mass he joins, and, moreover, in such a mass which wrongly identifies this synergetic narcissism as the most noble tie among the members of the group.
A group of this kind, which quite successfully manages to identify the fragility of the ego (or castration) as courage of inconceivable proportions, usually has no clear object of love, but of hate, and represents a spontaneous, impulsive, negative reaction to a formal, legitimate leader who shows off his intolerable authority, who indulges himself in ways we never will, who disposes of abundance we never had, and, finally, who is guilty of all problems of the world, even of the consequences that the group itself will bring about. What follows is an analysis of the impact of such symbolic Brotherhood (narcissism) which, for a short period of time in May, overpowered oedipal Father (state) concentrating its drive in the parole "We will never forgive you Obrenovac".
In the same way Freud's father of the primal horde – who is just his sons' fantasy – insisted on abiding by the laws and rules he himself did not observe, and, moreover, broke them with pleasure, the Brotherhood, which had, for several years, forcibly been reassuring itself to be "the last critic of the power", and "the last oasis of free thinking", felt the need to insert into its imaginarium and obsession with the "leader figure" his alleged violation of the Law on Emergency Situations. The deception of the public with incomplete and intentionally distorted data from this Law stemmed from the site Peščanik, a misinforming and biased blog, whose authors would, during the floods, demonstrate a moral decline not recorded in the history of "citizen-oriented" media in Serbia up to that moment.
To that end, not accidentally at all, the representatives of legal profession, Sofija Mandić and Vesna Rakić-Vodinelić, got involved. In her text "Objections to Responsibility" of May 22th the former attempted to falsify the words of the legislator by combining, in incomplete and imprecise manner, the parts of Paragraph 1, Article 30 and Paragraph 3, Article 31 of the Law, which is, in itself, scandalous for a lawyer, claiming that "an emergency situation in the territory of the Republic of Serbia is introduced by the Government decision, immediately after the recognition that there is an imminent danger of natural hazard or any other disaster in at least two municipalities in Serbia". Undoubtedly, such shameful manipulation is a deliberate, intentional lie with the purpose of blaming the Government for untimely reaction, alluding at the same time to something completely absurd and preposterous ‒ namely, that an emergency situation in the territory of the whole country has to be introduced by default because of the fact that at least two municipalities are endangered. In order to arrive to such an improbable conclusion, lawyer Mandić had to deliberately omit the last part of Paragraph 3, Article 31, which states that an emergency situation in the Republic of Serbia may be introduced only in case "municipalities do not have sufficient capacities for reacting to the emergency situation".
This part completes the meaning of Article 31, whose content, applied in the situation of predictable natural hazards, including floods caused by river effluence, as well as by subterranean water penetration due to ample precipitation, should be interpreted as a protocol on the rule of successive – therefore, gradual – introduction of emergency situations; in municipalities and cities at first, and in the part or entire territory of the Republic only after that, and only in case that is necessary. The decision on introducing an emergency situation in a city or municipality is not made by the Government, but by mayors and presidents of municipalities at the suggestion of crisis management boards organized on the level of local municipalities. Therefore, the part from Paragraph 3, Article 31 concerning "at least two municipalities" refers to a lower threshold, to a minimal and not absolute condition for introducing an emergency situation on the level of the Republic.
Unwillingness to cite the full text of Paragraph 3, Article 31 can also be noted in the interpretations by Vesna Rakić-Vodinelić, more experienced, retired law professor and the chairwoman of the New Party Council, known for bringing legal and media curtains down in order to interfere with and disavow the results of the investigation of the murder of Slavko Ćuruvija, and to support the unconstitutional violation of lawyers' right to work and obstruction of the entire judicial system on the part of Serbian Bar Chamber. In a radio show Peščanik of May 30th she also accused the authorities of untimely reaction, and in even more direct way than Sofija Mandić deceived the public by stating: "I have to point out right away, it is not my opinion that this emergency situation (in singular! author’s comment) was proclaimed with delay, it is the opinion of our legislator. When I say so, I only read from the Law on Emergency Situations. It defines very precisely the moment in which an emergency situation has to be introduced, and that is the moment of recognizing the risk of imminent danger to a certain region.“
Nevertheless, this is true, but only in case natural hazards are predictable and only in a successive manner, starting from cities and municipalities, whereas, contrary to this, the focus of the radio show was preplanned to shift the entire responsibility on the republic authorities, as if the only instance of emergency situation had been introduced only when the Serbian Government introduced it in the entire territory, which is the absolute untruth coinciding with manipulation on the part of Sofija Mandić. What follows from Article 31 of the Law is that the Government is the last link in the chain responsible for possible negligence during the emergency situation. Therefore, Vesna Rakić-Vodinelić interpreted the Law in a selective manner and at her sole discretion, and completely consciously, like Mandić, left out the meaning of clearly set categorization of emergency situations given in Paragraph 1, Article 31.
In her contribution to Radio Free Europe entitled "What Happens with Vučić's Responsibility for the Floods?" of May 28th beyond any measure of professionalism and earnestness, following the unwritten rule of the media she works for – that everything stated on Peščanik is canonical, Branka Trivić, a journalist who compresses her subjective opinions in the news format, literally copied the words from the text written by Sofija Mandić, without at least checking the Law in order to confirm the citation given by the Peščanik untrustworthy lawyer and, in this way, directly denoted her lie as the citation from the Law. Similar, but somewhat more subtle manipulation went on when her colleague Zora Drčelić from the corporate newsletter Vreme, who at least checked the Law, cited Articles 30 and 32 in her commentary "Dam at 11 Nemanjina Street", but conspicuously left out Article 31, which is essential for understanding when and at what instance an emergency situation is introduced.
How is it possible that these three seemingly unlinked media spread the same story, make mistakes at the same points and keep one another's back? What common impulse drives them in this tacit and virtual group if not pure narcissistic force on the crest of whose wave they ride in belief that omnipotent Father may suddenly be more than efficiently defeated and removed? So greedy and compelling that it is completely blind to the fact that it fabricates lies, falsifies laws and compromises its own profession? And so much so that it can excuse the brutal crime of the sons in advance ('he asked for it')?
"A lot of citizens believe that this condition was met if not on May 13th then on May 14th a day before the Government introduced an emergency situation", Trivić writes completely unaware of the fact that emergency situations had been introduced in five cities and fourteen municipalities on May 14th according to Paragraph 1, Article 31, along with a recommendation for evacuation from the cities of Valjevo, Šabac, Loznica, Čačak and Zaječar, and the municipalities Osečina, Kočeljeva, Lajkovac, Ub, Ljig, Gornji Milanovac, Mali Zvornik, Požega, Vladimirci, Kosjerić and Obrenovac. The root of manipulation is the same again – the Brotherhood does not perceive any emergency situations except the one on the level of the state as the relevant one, and, hence, they cannot be an object of criticism more important than the request for investigating the responsibility of the republic authorities. This information was completely left out by each of the aforementioned entities, which testifies about the most violent breach of the journalists' code of ethics and their responsibility for the mass deception of the citizens with the purpose of shifting the anger and dissatisfaction of the public opinion to the Serbian Government.
In each of these commentaries, it is stated, parrot-fashion, as a second argument to the claim that the authorities did not react in a timely manner, that on May 13th the Republic Hydrometeorological Service issued a statement about the danger of the river effluence of the highest degree, which is neither completely true, nor does it fall in the domain of accurately placed information. In the Government Report on Natural Hazard delivered to the National Assembly on July 3rd and including the report of the Republic Hydrometeorological Service, it is stated on pages 138-139 that the aforementioned Service first issued a red degree warning on Monday, May 12th for Wednesday, May 14th that is, for the same day emergency situations were actually introduced. Pages 9-10 state that the Sector for Emergency Management of the Ministry of the Interior promptly reacted to this warning and on the same day, that is, on May 12th it issued a preliminary warning to all command posts in the cities and municipalities of the potentially endangered regions to be on alert, again according to Paragraph 1, Article 31 of the Law.
Since ample precipitation began during the night between May 13th and 14th it was only on Wednesday, May 14th that the condition from Paragraph 1, Article 30 was met, which was when the danger classified as potential became imminent, and when the aforementioned cities and municipalities introduced emergency situations "immediately after the realization of the imminent danger". Nowhere in the Law are there formulations referring to the state of potential danger, as Vesna Rakić-Vodinelić misrepresented it, since the legislator does not even allow the introduction of emergency situation until the danger becomes absolutely certain. Moreover, the Law insists on differentiating between the introduction of emergency situations and the preventive activities of competent bodies.
On the following day, that is, May 15th after the insight into all circumstances, as set out by the Law, and with the goal of mobilizing resources from the entire territory and transferring them to the endangered regions, the Republic Emergency Management Board met in session at 11:00 AM and forwarded a suggestion to the Government of Serbia to introduce an emergency situation in the entire territory of the Republic according to the last part of Paragraph 3, Article 31 – that is, the very part of the Law which was falsified and omitted by Peščanik lawyers – which is what the Government did at the session held at 1:00 PM. With this act, the Government of Serbia observed the word of the Law on Emergency Situations to the fullest and there is no foundation to accuse it of untimely reaction. At the same time, the Democratic Party, the New Party, Svetlana Lukić and other NGO stars, corrupted journalists pretending to have no connections with the opposition, political parties and financial supporters like Miroslav Mišković and Miroslav Bogićević – in a nutshell, the Brotherhood driven by a uniform ego-motive – saw in the investigations about the potential negligence of the city and municipality crisis management boards only an attempt on the part of the Government and the Prime Minister to lay the responsibility for the damage and victims on somebody else.
Until the abolition of emergency situation, first in the territory of Serbia, and then gradually in municipalities and cities, according to Paragraph 1, Article 31, the sessions of the Republic Emergency Management Board were held on May 15, 16, 18 and 23rd. The sessions were open to the public for the purpose of deliberately alerting the citizens and media, raising their awareness about the severity of the situation and scope of the hazard which the third of the territory was exposed to. A higher dosage of dramatization was frequently applied to produce the effect of greater solidarity between the citizens and authorities on all levels in providing help which was lacking despite the request made on May 15th to the international community – the Governments of the Russian Federation, Slovenia and Hungary, as well as to the European Commission which was later forwarded to all the members of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Instead of understanding the intention of the sessions in this way and responding to the Government's desperate appeal for help from every citizen, the Brotherhood did everything to make those appeals, especially the ones from the session held on May 16th appear as the source of panic – all in an attempt to prevent the authorities and citizens from standing, even for a short period of time, arm in arm, on the same line, in solidarity worthy of the dramatic moment.
So why did this exact session make the level of rage and intolerance soar so drastically in the circles of blatant critics? In accordance with the fantasy about the omnipotent Father, there is no situation which causes the greater disgust in his sons than the one in which the Father tries to act as equal to those who do not actually have the same power. That is why it was necessary to immediately break the tie of solidarity between the citizens and the authorities by means of media, and to do so in a way which would distill from the union, on one hand, a purely narcissistic imaginarium about the so-called "spontaneous solidarity" from the citizens, who successfully organized themselves as opposed to the "incompetent authorities" on the other, all with the purpose of making the state, once again and at any cost, look like an enemy in those most difficult moments. Such a state represents an entity which constantly betrays its citizens and, in that way, qualifies for an ideal target to already irritated ego that is quick to point the finger at anybody. This very moment served as a common denominator for mutual recognition and identification, according to the well-known principles of group psychology, of almost all pseudo-journalistic and even literary commentaries on the subject of floods.
Such additional cohesion produces even greater arrogance within the Brotherhood, and creates a closed, parallel, narcissistic world in which the group, above all, communicates only with itself and reassures itself without stopping so that the assumptions which could easily be questioned outside this world become irrefutable, bare truths under the bell jar. Thereupon, the commentaries which, with a conceited ease, shout that "the king is naked", actually speak about the halfheartedness, moral distortion and disorientation of their authors. In such a heated rush induced in the field of the newly resurrected libido of the group, Dinko Gruhonjić, in his text "The Moleben for Aleksandar V.“ published on the extremists' portal Autonomija on May 19th falsifies, among other things, the words of the Serbian Prime Minister at the session held on May 16th conveying that "the number of victims is considerable" and that "dead bodies float all over Obrenovac". Despite the fact that those words almost completely coincided with the headlines which around the same time appeared in tabloid Kurir, accused of spreading panic and violating journalism code of ethics at the moments when that suited them by YUCOM, Human Rights House, Ombudsman, SHARE Foundation and other organizations bribed with the money of the Democratic Party, Gruhonjić, the president of the Independent Journalists' Associaton of Vojvodina, was not warned that he could and should be criminally charged on accounts of such intentional lie.
Similarly, in the issue number 1221 of May 29th delta-newspaper Vreme provided space for the narcissistic display of the brute force to analysts Đorđe Vukadinović and Slobodan Antonić who have been openly encouraging the public to cultivate xenophobia and national chauvinism for a long period of time while hiding behind an euphemistic name of The New Serbian Political Thought. As this is completely irrelevant in the struggle for seizing the power to a tycoon close to Dragoljub Žarković, these two this time acted strictly professionally, playing the parts of "TV Maniacs" with a specific mission to analyze the famous session "frame-by-frame". However, in their segmentation, hypostatization and excess incoherence, the authors more than forcedly interpreted the meanings of the Prime Minister's words in an unstoppable, clearly impulsive form which left us with everything but an impression of precise analytic thinking. The Prime Minister's dramatic speech is alternatively ridiculed as bad acting and observed as strictly pathological personality disorder, and in this roaming from one point to the other, their conclusions appear as an autistic exhibition of someone who is convinced that the world is constituted by logical equations only. In the sea of isolated words devoid of their real meaning, the main occupation operates on the level of the dilemma whether Vučić, by saying "we", really broke into people's homes and evacuated babies without their parents' consent to elementary ignorance as to why the session had to be open to the public.
Specially disgusted by the joint engagement of the authority representatives in the field, the latter was also contemplated by the authors of Peščanik, which, in a blink of an eye, precipitated their downfall to the lowest level of morality and integrity, slapping them in their own faces, without their noticing it, in many texts and shows. The loss of the last traits of humanity in times of flooding is evident in two typical texts – "Šabac Must Not Fall“ by Dejan Ilić, published on May 17th and "Shouting Over" by Sofija Mandić, published on May 18th – two apparently appealing and innocent stories whose foundations reek with unseen villainy and half-heartedness. Allegedly motivated by the Prime Minister's appeal at the session, Ilić, the owner of the Book Factory publishing house, writes in a form of a diary how he set out, in the evening of May 16th towards the Crowne Plaza, the departure point of the buses going to Šabac. When he got there, he saw all those lovely people and, at first, the bitter cynicism of the text is incredulously sugar coated with the kitsch of melodrama: "A girl gives a young man a plastic bag and says - there's a raincoat inside. For whom, the young man asks. They clearly do not know each other. For you, she replies."
This should say something about solidarity and goodness, but whose and of what kind? Exactly the kind which would be deceived by the mean authorities since all the buses had already gone, packed with "football supporters", and the ones who had left or were about to leave would apparently have nothing important to do in Šabac. What is targeted in this line is the solidarity between the authorities and citizens, while a kind of self-sufficient solidarity of the "civilly conscientious", in which group the author tended to include himself with his coming, is put in the foreground. But the moment he sees the Prime Minister and a cameraman nearby, surrounded by the same, until then lovely people ('couldn't anybody else come? why him?'), Ilić will leave the place in a hurry and rush to write something about his "adventure" in order to send it as soon as possible to Svetlana Vuković, Peščanik editor. In the last paragraph, when the Prime Minister, who he regularly refers at as a fascist in his texts, is far enough, melodrama will be employed again in an attempt to neutralize the cynicism, and the author will write that he won't be able to fall asleep because seemingly his conscience could not be appeased for sleeping in a dry place. Therefore, the result is pure hypocrisy.
Similarly, Sofija Mandić writes about her volunteering in New Belgrade Sports Hall and even more vehemently hypostatizes the "spontaneous self-organization" and solidarity of the citizens on account of some suspicious-looking people present, as if the dramatic session of the Republic Crisis Management Board followed by a twenty-four-hour media coverage on some televisions had nothing to do with inspiring that solidarity in all parts of the country! The author perceives those "nice citizens" as people constituting her alternative Serbia, that is, the Brotherhood in itself, the kind which Peščanik staff obviously dream about – with as little dissonant noise in relation to itself as possible. The following lines testify about the degree of rigidity with which outside parties were treated: "People were coming, saying that they would take the things away. We knew neither who they were nor where they wanted to take them away. That's why we didn't allow them to take anything. This decision we also had to make by shouting over.“ In this dreamy microstate full of arrogant, angry and spiteful citizens, the sons negate castration, that is, their oedipal tie with the Father. Mandić, who, by her own admission, lives in a soap bubble and gets informed exclusively on social networks, ends her text with a rumour that all domestic animals were left to die in Obrenovac, deceiving the public without any responsibility for the written word yet another time.
Solidarity is alright, but only if it is simultaneously pointed against the other, and that other is the state. Good deeds in the lines of Peščanik authors are, therefore, possible, but only in case they are invested against a certain objects of hate, which is what these two texts directly do and from where their entire character emanates. They are the testimony that these people have serious difficulties in feeling genuine compassion and doing charity without any interest, even in the circumstances of the universal catastrophe – without asking themselves what is in it for them and what advantages that could bring. The source of such derogation of the sense for general well-being is oppressive hatred towards one man. However, as it is not polite to openly show hatred, it is masked and displayed in crypto-figures of cynicism, arrogance and admixtures of melodrama kitsch; in this way, by being ameliorated, it underlines even more the moral corruption of its authors. It is not surprising then that the moral sludge of the times of the floods will, in only few weeks, metastasize on this site into the next logical phase – the willing complicity of Peščanik in the criminal activities during the "plagiarism" affair.
From the functionalist point of view, the questions as to how the membership of the virtual Brotherhood managed to grow in such an efficient way and in such a short period of time, and what are the actual reasons for the affinity to belong to a group like this one, coincide in practice with the flagrant breach of the journalists' standards and codes of ethics – how is it possible that disinformation from alternative media sources, such as social networks and blogs, were imparted as information and published in official media? What was the power that, in a blink of an eye, suspended the disclosure principle, and why was it more important, in situations like this, to publish anything, be a part of the blind force, then check first if certain information is accurate and true? Finally, where does this mass of unofficial information on social networks suddenly come from, and what part of an individual ego is satisfied with this immediate hyper-production?
The aforementioned non-government organizations, as well as two institutionalized "aliens" of the former regime – Sasa Janković and Rodoljub Šabić – would consider this problem only after certain entities had been taken into custody for spreading disinformation and panic on social networks. They blamed the authorities for provoking such reactions among citizens by withholding timely information. Some of them, such as SHARE Foundation, went so far to claim that the authorities violated the transparency principle from the Law on Emergency Situations, although this principle does not set out any dynamics of information release by competent authorities. On the other hand, Vladimir Barović, a professor at the Department of Media Studies at Novi Sad Faculty of Philosophy, lecturing on the subject "Reporting on Natural and Artificial Disasters and Accidents", and one of the rare voices of common sense in the times of the floods explained in an interview for Danas magazine of May 22nd that, in times of crisis, depending on the assessment of the crisis management, information is reduced and media operations in the field are sometimes limited.
"If we talk about the relation between censorship and information in crisis situations, it is always common to resort to withholding some information which are assessed by persons in charge as having the potential of sabotaging rescue operations", Barović said. What follows from this is that an attempt to lay the blame for untimely information on the authorities is actually reduced to a paradox that the authorities should have released unofficial information and, in that way, created widespread disorder and panic among citizens. However, this is what the Brotherhood did all the time on the Internet, without admitting it to itself but auto-projecting it on the other (the Father), convinced that he was withholding some kind of "absolute truth" from the public. Daliborka Delibašić, a journalist from Obrenovac, practically confirmed this in the show Bulevar on TV B92, interpreting the warning from the competent authorities not to spread disinformation and impart everything she hears but cannot check as the threat to herself and her family, emphasizing that she hoped to "find out one day what had really happened in Obrenovac".
The instance in which this could be noticed even better was the one when the news was released on the Tweeter that radio amateurs were switched off "from the air". This disinformation was first released by B92 on May 19th but it was soon withdrawn; however, the news remained available on Telekom informative portal Mondo, from where it was retrieved by other media and journalists' associations. Despite the fact that the same news included the information that the radio channel was given over to the Mountain Rescue Service in Obrenovac, commotion on social networks, to which Bojana Maljević, an actress, also contributed, was caused thanks to just a few radio amateurs who were not completely informed what had really happened and why. The sentences like "Killed by too strong a word!" or "We are enemies, we are in their way" appeared, and association is clear: something should be hidden from the citizens, someone is working behind our backs and tries to prevent us from finding out something, we are doing something which is not in their interest, etc. This was the code that acted as a ticket to the group and auto-detection that someone is "ours". The fact that, the following day, Živojin Petrović from the Radio Amateur Association refuted the news and explained that they had not been a part of the Republic Emergency Management Board and, therefore, could not be expelled, did not mean anything anymore.
In this collective repetition and insistence on intrigue and sensation, on anything that would confirm all doubts that what is already apprehended is true (and since it is not known for sure what that actually is, it could turn out to be something inconceivably significant), it is exactly where Lacan's pleasure for the ego abides. 'Killed by too strong a word!', didn't that sound like being too impatient to state something like that despite not being informed what was actually happening? Isn't the ego, at that moment, hopelessly forced into the short circuit which is simultaneously a shortcut to its ultimate narcissistic satisfaction, taking into account that it addresses an imaginary group of the like-minded who would shout in unison at that single coded sentence, as at a command? Doesn't that supply the necessary fuel for enthusiastic, but arrogant heroism and bravery of the people who, nowadays, don't watch TV, don't believe in the official media and mostly get informed where Facebook newsfeed takes them? Doesn't any instance of panic paradoxically include something of that irresistible pleasure that only a group could provide?
Drive fuelled by something unknown, some big hidden secret (an absent signifier) augments the power of the enemy, and turns the Father figure into something more horrible than it actually is, which gives an excuse for even greater fear and rage. Messages from many citizens from the endangered regions are inscribed and processed in this predetermined key, only to have their revolt transferred to obscure sites that only imitate the form of media and, hence, have no formal and legal responsibility to observe the journalism codes and standards. Instead of dismissing disinformation from alternative media sources and releasing only verifiable data, the opposite was done – what was intentionally imparted was unverifiable, fantasmic and exotic information which captivated imagination, spread panic, hatred and rage in order to be imposed as information within the pseudo-informative environment of a site. That was especially done by fraternal blogging sites such as Teleprompter, Tabloid, Tarzanija, Srbi na okup, Srbin.info, Fejsbuk Reporter, Vaseljenska, Koreni, Srbska akcija, Borba za veru, Srbijadanas.net and other mostly extremely right-oriented vulgar garbage.
This wild cartel with rather limited flow on the servers and unstable, redundant and poorly optimized web architecture, exchanges the news and shares them on social networks with the purpose of gaining wider distribution and building synergy, which should compete with official media in effect. However, none of these sites can be found in the media register, except for Tabloid, while it is not even known for the most of them who their editors are. Hence, a million-dollar question is the following: how to take legal action against such sites, what names to report and at what address, and most importantly, according to what legal provisions since, according to Article 30, Paragraph 2, they are not even included in the penalty clauses of the Law on Public Information and Media?
Some of disinformation with the highest impact claimed that thousands bodies floated all around Obrenovac, that there were a lot of victims of electric shock, how domestic animals and pets were being killed or left to die, how carcasses were loaded into refrigerator trucks and transported to furnaces to be burnt, how bodies were buried in the ground, how dams were blown up with the aim of flooding the population, how Obrenovac was flooded in order for Belgrade to be spared, how only those places where Serbian Progressive Party was not in power were flooded by purpose, how the gendarmerie and army robbed abandoned houses, that water in Belgrade was not potable, that water in entire Serbia was not potable, that there was going to be a water shortage in the whole country, etc.
Srbijadanas.net invented appalling conspiracy theories about how Obrenovac was sacrificed for a provision, suggesting that, among other thing, dams on the Kolubara were blown up in order for TENT A and B to be spared, which are not even geographically connected with the Kolubara. "The dead have been collected and continue to be collected in abandoned army barracks from where they are transported to Belgrade cemeteries in trucks and refrigerators", someone under the nickname "Taliban" wrote and continued: "A source from the gendarmerie reports that there were between 1300 and 1700 victims, including Roma people." Another one signed as "Golub" writes about "the tons of dead cattle and other animals“. A journalist called Sanela Jovanović wrote that the military police treated mothers with children like cattle and that they kept them "behind a rope as if they were cows", while the text entitled "Who's Lying Over There, Vučić?“ was deleted in the meantime because of the far-fetched amount of lies, vulgarity and inconsistency. It is interesting to note that, on all of these sites, the only words of praise were addressed to Russian rescue teams and Russians in general. On account of this, Milovan Brkić wrote on the Tabloid: "It was obviously clear to Russians that this sinister cyclone was created in an American criminal "laboratory" and that it was intentionally navigated above Serbia and the Republic of Srpska (with the surrounding area)."
When it comes to the distribution of disinformation, how do these obscure web locations contribute? Created on Facebook and Twitter by the alleged users of the said networks near the flooded areas, they made disinformation available to people geographically distant and unable to examine the validity of information. Up to the stage when a cartel of the so-called informative sites, private blogs, forums and then official blogs of some registered media interferes, the circle of information stays within the domain of arithmetic progression on the social networks.
By the intervention of the informal and Saussure-like arbitrary group - meaning there was no necessary deliberation or orchestration from a higher entity - the arithmetic progression is replaced by geometric progression, for then every web location with a domain shares the disinformation in the form of its text within which there is a previously mutually shared basic post. What follows is the activity of the new wave of users, who, apart from individually having shared the content, do it this time adding unlicensed sites where each autonomous post is “dressed up” in so-called journalistic, manipulative apparel. Spiced up with vulgarities and anger, such a text is accepted with great approval and without any objectivity. In that manner, anger and hatred were spread among internet users, based on nothing more but a try to suppress panic.
Due to incessant rains throughout the whole country between Tuesday May 13th and Saturday May 17th, and the fact that the emergency situation was declared and the media mostly dealt with the subject of floods, there was an enormous increase in number of users thirsty for unofficial off-colour stories and consequential clogging of internet traffic in the narrow passages - informal sites and blogs not equipped by hosting contract to endure the volume of traffic in the unit of time. This also means that the creators of such sites had no intention to invest in the stability and safety of the platforms by renting their own (virtual) server. When these situations arise, the provider usually notifies the client about overloading the rented part of the server and takes steps such as to temporarily deactivate the site, or suggest the user do it himself so as not to affect other users of the same server. That is exactly what happened to the Telepromter and Drugastrana.net sites.
In the centre of the gray zone of informing, the Teleprompter, a trashy website where only one person - Danilo Redžepovic makes the editorial staff, up until recently financed by the tragically killed businessman Tomislav Đorđević, masquerading as a “social and political on-line magazine”, reached its top rating following the publication of pamphlets titled “Appeal: Vučić must stop with the pathetics and self-pity!” on May 17th, and “People indignant: Attacking and cursing the ministers!” on May 19th. These texts, as well as their internet location became unavailable after some time. Both texts, as well as almost everyone within the said cartel, rouse the people against the current government in every way possible and without choosing the means to achieve it, leading to, without exception, tasteless underestimation of the readers. Such texts regularly break professional journalistic standards which are not even remotely present on similar sites, because these sites are only personal blogs masked in some sort of official heralds.
The personal blog of Nenad Milosavljević, the member of Njuz.net site editorial suffered a similar fate, because the website, as well as the TV show “24 minuta” which is produced by this editorial office and Zoran Kesić, no longer deals with the political content to create humour, but, on the contrary, the humour is reduced to creating subtle political messages, thus turning into an apparent misuse by dribbling. In his text “Državo, ne bismo te vise zadržavali” (“We wouldn’t keep you any longer, State”), dated May 18th (the said text being the last activity on the blog), Milosavljević used neither humour nor irony, but like Redžepović created a pamphlet for the proletariat to further ignite anger and hatred, where he passed on a disinformative post from the Srbijadanas.net website, also announcing to the readers that the truth from Obrenovac would soon come out.
Due to the viral sharing of this text on the social networks, it was harder to access the blog so the following day Milosavljević wrote on Twitter that he had to deactivate the site himself - “so as not to affect other sites on the server”. Although the latter proves the use of shared hosting, neither Milosavljević nor visibly irritated Redžepović hesitated to ascribe the sudden increase in site traffic to an attack from the government! This clarifies that in the domains of group psychology, the exaggerating of the power of Father serves also to over-emphasize the importance of the group members (induced narcissism), since he directly opposed them by “crashing sites”, therefore showing that their activities can seriously jeopardize his survival. Nevertheless, the number of those who believed this without question, completely forgetting the fantastic nature of this attitude, still amazes us (‘we suggest they continue to crash our sites, since they provoke a strong counter effect and increase the rating of our texts’)
Unlike the previous two, the third case to be used for purposes of political manipulation is in no way connected to the hosting problems. Novica Milić, a professor of the Faculty of Media and Communications at the Singidunum University, gave his contribution to spreading hatred and anger on his barely protected blog named Libreto, later explaining it with a euphemism that he “hit the mood of a small part of Serbia”. In his belletrist work “I, AV, hereby resign” (“Ja, AV, dajem ostavku”) dated May 22nd, this misguided professor stated a number of misinformation, leaving a written proof of ignorance and obscure origin of the data he used, accepting them for granted. The impulse for writing this text was discovered in the conclusion, when it becomes clear that Milić tried, as unsuccessfully as Bojan Pajtić, to pass up his personal problem – a continuing discontent about the fact that the former architect of the nationalistic great Serbian politics has become the Prime Minister – as the burden of every citizen of Serbia.
However, this tragic comedy of disinformation has just started. The following morning, May 23rd, Dragan Todorović, a news reporter for Vreme magazine, the most vulgar and most primitive author on the blog section of Blic tabloid of that time, whose “common style” made the same nation even worse than they really are, posted the said text from Libreto on the Blic blog as his own, with no indication that the real author of the text was Novica Milić, therefore literally stealing the text. On the same day, the cover of Blic shows an announcement of the web design editorial office of the magazine apologizing to the readers in advance for the possible technical problems due to the site construction. This fact obviously eludes the argumentation of Todorović when he later declares that “the boogeyman” took his text, alluding to the pressure from the authorities. A few hours after that, the announcement of the editorial office disappears from the Internet, along with the text Todorović stole from Milić, and soon after that the complete section of Blic blog.
The allegedly not informed Todorović immediately informs the NUNS (the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia) – the association which, instead of helping all the citizens affected by floods, organizes a help program with a ten day delay, exclusively for their own members from the flood-affected areas. NUNS, led by Vukašin Obradović quickly puts together an announcement claiming a single-mindedness of media in Serbia and at the same time activates one of the phantom web projects Glasno.org in order to pass the same text from Libreto, this time with a pre-title “A censured text from the blog of Dragan Todorović” and finally, with a reference to Milić. Srećko Šekeljić, the person mostly responsible for alarming Dunja Mijatović from OEBS, does a similar thing on B92 blog. A co-founder of the Balkanist blog, whose role was to forward various media-planted texts translated into English to the civilian individuals of EU countries, made his contacts by working in the office of the former Serbian president Boris Tadić.
That same night, two bloggers, Aleksandar Sekulić and Dario Hajrić make the most of the moment and put together a petition titled “In the Face of Censorship” (“U lice cenzuri”), integrating the three mentioned cases – Teleprompter, Drugastrana.net and the text Todorović stole, although the said texts were available again on the Teleprompter and Drugastrana.net web sites. To make the list longer, it is filled with blogs, various organizations as well as the names and surnames of various individuals, although many of the blogs didn’t exist before May 23. Milosavljević and Redžepović then sign the petition and the latter takes up the production of the text “CV of Vučić: censure as specialty” (“Vučićev CV: Cenzura kao uža specijalnost”) in which he turns the “technical problems” from the afternoon announcement, as other similar cases, into cases of apparent censorship. The publication, which was apparently written by Redžepović himself, among other things states the following: “We demand that the government immediately stop attacking freedom of expression, that it stop interfering with the work of critically oriented internet pages and that it start answering the questions which the public asks with an undeniable right”.
The following day, the petition is published and confirmed by the Peščanik website, followed by NUNS and NDNV (Independent Association of Journalists of Vojvodina) – these actions of translating misinformation into information finally initializes the process of their institutionalization and introduction into official media flows. Although the heralds will not directly publish the panic-spreading posts, the news will refer to the “crashed sites” and texts with similar content, therefore indirectly popularizing the raw misinformation from the social networks, the broadcasting of which would directly oppose the journalist code. Instead of dealing with the content, accuracy and other obligatory standards, the subject will solely be the “crashing of sites”. This is exactly where the practice becomes overburdened with uncontrolled, group and narcissistic censorship by those that claim the censure is executed by the authorities. This pursuit has completely overshadowed the consequent attempts of the unfortunate professor from Singidunum University to dissociate himself from the campaign he suddenly found himself in, after the confusion in his mind was somewhat cleared.
While the news about the “crashing of sites” are institutionalizing and spreading, the editorial office of Blic led by Veselin Simonović openly remains silent and doesn’t respond with any kind of announcement which would remove all doubt about the disappearance of the blog section, thus becoming an accomplice in scheming, without any objection to the situation developed by others. To that effect, the manner in which the editorial of that magazine placed the news on the launched petition, forgetting to mention its own participation in the campaign, is highly indicative. Simonović will not bother to react even when the previously instructed Dunja Mijatović, the president of the autonomous body for the freedom of media within OEBS makes an appeal from Stockholm to the Serbian authorities to “stop interfering in the operation of online media”, without even knowing that both Telepromter and Drugastrana.net don’t have the legal status of media.
It is only after the letter of PM Vučić demanding an explanation and an apology for making allegations that Ringier Aksel Springer, a company that owns Blic sends a note to OEBS and several other international addresses explaining that the Serbian government has nothing to do with the cancellation of the blog section. At the same time, since the company makes no official announcement to the citizens of Serbia concerning this issue, the question continues to linger in the domestic public. To maintain the suspicions and back up those who decided to believe that the government is behind everything, the Blic editorial office avoided any explanation on the subject to that extent that they cancelled their participation in the TV show “Teška reč” dated June 1st on TV Pink, where they were supposed to clarify the entire case.
One of the reasons why this question remains unresolved to this day could be the number of appeals and claims that this tabloid receives regularly and which are kept hidden from the eyes of the public. It is most probable that, thanks to the authors like Dragan Todorović, the Ringier Aksel Springer company estimated the Blic blog as the weakest link, considering the fact that pursuant to the Law on Public Information and Media, a blog belonging to the registered media is subject to the same legal penalties as the media itself, which is contrary to the legal treatment of a personal blog. The fact remains that none of the authors of the Blic blog, even Dragan Todorović, never signed the petition “In the Face of Censorship” which has in the meantime turned into a street, circus selfie collection of Vladimir Pavićević, Ratko Femić and many others who were convinced they were fighting censorship by taking pictures with a piece of A4 paper. For this biggest and most bizarre media fraud in the past couple of years, none of the more prominent actors was ever brought before the face of justice.
One more, less known petition was released on the social networks – a petition for the deplacement of the mayor of Belgrade, Siniša Mali because of his appeal to the citizens of Obrenovac on May 16th at 13h to not leave their homes unless in dire need. The petition claims that the specific responsibility of the mayor is that “he didn’t order the evacuation of the citizens of Obrenovac 8-24h prior to the first flood wave”. Due to the lack of understanding of emergency situation procedures, as well as insufficient information, unchanneled anger and hatred, the appeal of Mali was seen as another example of confusion and lack of organization of the authorities, used by the journalists like Branka Trivić from Radio za Slobodnu Evropu, Ratko Femić from Novi magazin and Al Jazeera Balkans, Nemanja Rujević from Deutsche Welle, Milica Jovanović from Peščanik and others. The portal Nova srpska politička misao proved to be particularly disinformative after the launching of a coverage on May 20th underlining that Mali made the appeal “just before the catastrophic wave that flooded the city”, insinuating that the death toll could have been lower if not for the appeal in question.
Emergency situation was declared in Obrenovac on May 14th, and since then the local television shows constant news ticker calling for the evacuation of citizens, therefore two days before the Kolubara River breached the Valjevo road on May 16th at 3 AM and entered into the inhabitated areas and the town at 5:30 AM. The first emergency sirens are sounded at that time, and evacuation becomes mandatory and executed only by the authorities, i.e. the municipal headquarters for emergency situations, along with the republic headquarters. By 13h, when the mayor made his appeal, water reaches the level of 3 m in some inhabitated areas, which creates a new situation where every evacuation at one’s own responsibility inevitably results in more victims. A recording available to the public documents the exact words of mayor Mali: “I ask the citizens of Obrenovac to not leave their homes unless in dire need or instructed by the authorities.” The additional flood wave of catastrophic proportions will be caused by the breaking of the dam near Veliko polje at 16h on the same day, when the forced evacuation is already taking place. That type of evacuation in the town could not, on one hand, be initialized before the knowledge about the immediate danger – considering the fact that the water that broke the dikes at Grebača and Jozića Koliba in the second half of the day flooded only the peripheral areas-and on the other hand, due to the non-existing resources for the successful execution of the mandatory preventive evacuation of a town the size of Obrenovac.
The faze of disinformation institutionalization is unthinkable without the inclusion of logistical support of certain institutions within the campaign. Primarily, it was the Share Foundation with its well-known double standards considering the freedom of expression and responsibility for what is written on the Internet. After taking under protection the web sites and users claiming to have been the victims of merciless attacks by the government, including even the Teleprompter which was the reason the Share Defence appealed to the Press Council in December 2013 due to the publication of misinformation, this foundation will publish a manipulative report titled “Internet remembers everything” (“Internet sve pamti”) on May 28th, with a purpose to present the situation on freedom of expression in Serbia as catastrophic to the domestic and international public.
Striving to comprehend and pin the least suspicious case on the government, the Share Defence has, among other things, overusing euphemisms in the text and avoiding to call things by their real name, accused the Poplave.rs service for trying to conceal the “information of public importance” and removed the “citizens’ reports” from the flooded areas. This lie caused an official of the said service the following day, published with yet one more euphemism – for the purposes of instigating “debate” (!). “Due to the volume of work the poplave.rs team had in those days helping the endangered people, we decided to stop any further publishing of the reports of the citizens for reasons of possible misuse. Unfortunately, we had neither the manpower nor the resources to validate the details of every story, as established by the code of ethics, so we decided to give up this part of the information service. We would like to emphasize that there was no censorship or self-censorship involved, as well as threats from any of the parties”, the official denial states. This clearly indicates that the heads of the Share Foundation were never concerned with the question of information validity or ethical codes.
Saša Janković, the protector of citizens, left his euphemistic mark on the defence of disinformation with his widely quoted statement: “Everybody is free to be critical, to be a ‘fault-finder’, an optimist or a pessimist, to believe or not, to support or oppose, to scorn, praise or be indifferent, to be silent or speak and freely and publicly search, receive, give, exchange or disseminate ideas.” What the alleged piling of corpses into ice boxes and their cremation in blast furnaces has to do with “opinions” and “ideas” and “critical thinking” is what this ombudsman couldn’t explain, as well as the one-and-only lawyer Vesna Rakić-Vodinelić in Naše novine, and journalist of Danas Bojan Cvejić who was inspired by Janković’s words to reveal to the NUNS press release no. 70 his discovery that the “censorship is banned by the constitution”. The said mystery could not be cleared by Miljenko Dereta from the Citizens' Initiative or Milan Antonijević from the Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights – Yucom, an organization which has in the daily political whirlpool definitely lost any touch with the standards long ago set by Biljana Kovačević-Vučo.
The aforementioned people were the spokespersons for the spreading of panic by the authorities until the Ministry of Internal Affairs started arresting the offenders pursuant to Article 343 of the Criminal Code on Causing Panic and Disorder, i.e. for what Share Defence called “reports from the spot”, when they were turned upside-down, denying their previous statements and claiming it should all be substantiated by evidence.
This is also where Share Defence demonstrated an elementary ignorance about notions defined in Articles 29 and 30 of the Law on Public Information and Media. Krivokapić equalled the notion of a public herald, i.e. the media with a definition of media outlets, only to conclude that blogs, Facebook profiles and Twitter accounts are not included in the latter and therefore must be excluded from legal punishment. The law, the title of which opposes this thesis, states the following: media is just one of the means of public informing differentiated by being a part of the registry of public heralds (future media registry), therefore social networks and blogs are not a part of the media, but are considered media outlets (Article 30, Paragraph 2), with a meaning wider than the meaning of media. Paragraph 2 of Article 343 of the Criminal Code clearly and accordingly states that whoever participates in causing panic and disruption of public peace “through media or similar means or at public gathering” shall be punished by imprisonment of six months to five years. Journalist Jovana Gligorijević from the weekly Vreme went a step further victoriously writing that “Serbian legislation does not recognize ‘spreading panic’ by an individual neither as an offence nor as a crime”. Still, in her text and within her manipulative capacity, the said journalist universally accused “bots” (individuals paid to defend the political opinions of the governing party on the internet) of “crashing sites”.
Statements of Saša Janković and Rodoljub Šabić testified mostly of the lack of morals and inherent disloyalty to the public interest of these “independent” state officials who were the entire time, as it turned out, testing their blackmailing potential concerning an entirely different, forthcoming subject – austerity and rationalization measures in state offices executed by the government of the Republic of Serbia. Faced with the possibility of a decrease of their enormous incomes, reduction in use of service cars and lower number of associates, these officials complained in the name of preserving “the institutions of human rights”, i.e. themselves, at the same time throwing poisonous arrows like statements “we do not recognize panic seen by the prosecution” or simpler ones like “there was no panic”, since, for them, there were no sights of hysterical shopping, lines or empty shelves for bottled water throughout the country. It was staggeringly hypocritical how Šabić hid behind the media campaign when asked a perverted question by the journalist of Danas whether the requests for the rationalization of his office came from his recent statements on censorship, when he said that he dealt in no such speculations, but that it was certainly not good, since just as the journalist put “a large number of citizens were affected by it” (!).
Under the premise of legally unfounded claims of Dunja Mijatović that “the arrests of individuals because of blogs, comments or other forms of writing is unacceptable”, the obscure gathering of conspirators, helpers and participants in manipulation “In the Face of Censorship” was held on June 10th in Belgrade Youth Center under a comical name “If there is no censorship – what is this?”, which was attended by Michael Davenport, chief of mission of the European Union (EU) in Serbia, Michael Kirby, the ambassador of the United States, with special guests Vesna Pešić and Branka Prpa. The objective of this “panel” was another attempt to present the arrests and apprehending of persons for their texts on the internet as actions of the authoritarian government not in compliance with the western European tradition. The proof that this claim is a pure lie are the arrests and punishments of two British citizens convicted in 2011 to four years of imprisonment for encouraging the citizens to riots through Facebook social network.
During that time, certain media clans, interconnected with personal as well as ties of mutual interest, from Peščanik to Teleprompter, from Svetlana Lukić to Danilo Redžepović have actively been working on the relativization of the responsibility of persons suspected of spreading panic during May floods; starting from NUNS offering them free legal services, to the article written by journalist Željka Jevtić in Blic dated May 30th and 31st, whose purpose was to evoke pity of the readers and represent this crime as absurd, all through the confessions of the arrested parties, unaware of the legal repercussions of displaying false information. Lately, the identical propaganda is reactualized by the so-called Center for Investigative Journalism in Serbia (CINS), known for close relations with the former Criminal Police (UKP) chief Rodoljub Milović and the current deputy district attorney for organized crime Saša Ivanić. CINS, led by the director Branko Čečen shares its texts on this subject not only with – once more – both Peščanik and Teleprompter, but also with various unregistered, unlicensed NUNS portals, so-called media, including the Cenzolovka site.
Rule of democracy and human rights means freedom of speech, as well as the responsibility for the written or said word - everyone’s right to speak publicly and take responsibility for what they express. Freedom of speech cannot exist without responsibility. Guidelines of EU for the freedom of speech in online and offline spheres establish the equal treatment of both, which results in equal responsibility and identical legal mechanisms in cases of the misuse of the said freedom. One of the legally defined misuses concerns the spreading of panic and disorder.
The arrests and hearings of certain individuals are the first actual, although delayed and inadequate responsive act of the state to the large scale misinformative war started by a significant part of the civil sector. During the nineties, Milošević, among other things, waged wars against the civil society, but today, the situation is reversed - the government is under attack from all weapons, all sides, and being torn like that it is not able to timely defend itself from disinformation spreading virally through appropriate social networks. How can the sudden importance of false heralds and obscure web sites for the international community and European Commission be otherwise explained? On the other hand, how come the government’s Office of Media Relations lacks the need to timely react and by means of announcements put an end to every disinformation before it reaches such proportions? Why is it, when things get out of hand, that every final clarification is left to the prime minister and is it an efficient institutional model of defence against such attacks? For these reasons, this is the field where the absence of preparation and organization of the government needs to be discussed - the state must recognize in advance the social dangers, realize unauthorized mechanisms of the opponents’ attacks and prevent any potential social damage with well prepared arguments.
As for the psychological, i.e. psychoanalytical standpoint, the mentioned attacks can be divided into two profiles. The first is guided by Mannoni’s principle ‘I know very well what I am doing, but regardless of that…’ and it deals with more experienced actors, dinosaurs, specialists in cynicism and hypocrisy, the “aliens” that simulate and reminisce about their participation in the ’90 reality show “Survivor”, knowing that they have nothing to secure them in that position any more, except for the smaller amounts of money from domestic tycoons and inert foreign donors for that purposes. The second type is therefore much more direct and in a more Husserl-like manner centered on the “very subject”, ready to crash and burn for the hundredth time without reservations in the pro bono battle for truth and existence. This breed takes after the characters from the TV show “Otpisani” who fight as a subversive resistance movement, 100% convinced by the other group that in 2014 Serbia is under Hitler. The government should identify both of these types, clearly make a distinction between the mean and the fanatic – and give up the transformation and intimacy with the mean, while at the same time giving a chance to the other one to see what can result from acting “without bad intentions”.