Spreading of hatred accelerates across Serbia

Marinika Tepić
N1/Milan Nikić

In only several hours on Wednesday, two incidents spreading hatred happened in Serbia's northern city of Novi Sad and the central town of Jagodina, adding to the series of such events which had become frequent in the country that had witnessed murders of politicians and journalists.

In the north, a graffiti reading ‘SNS (ruling Serbian Progressive Party) live, miserable, your days are numbered’ was written in Cyrillic as a potential threat to journalists of NS Live website.

Its editor-in-chief Nikola Bilic said the „atmosphere in the news desk is alarming, colleagues are concerned about their safety.“

He added his outlet had often been targeted on social networks and public events and demanded the institutions’ and journalists’ reactions.

The website has been criticised by a part of the public and the opposition for what they say is its pro-regime editorial policy.

Almost at the same time, 223 kilometres away, in Jagodina, for years ruled by an SNS coalition partner, United Serbia, an opposition leader was obstructed while holding a news conference in a protest over the way two of her colleagues were taken by the police on a public attorney’s request.

Marinika Tepic, a deputy leader of the Party of Freedom and Justice (SSP), and an outspoken regime critic had to raise her voice to be heard amid cries by a group of people on the stairs leading to the main municipality building: (the SSP leader and the regime’s favourite target Dragan) „Djilas thief.“

The local police did not react, and Tepic filed a criminal complaint about endangering her safety in Jagodina.

She has often been targeted by the pro-regime politicians, activists and media during news conferences usually held outside the companies and institutions she accused of wrongdoings. At one point, a man threw a hen at her, while during another address to reporters, she was forced to move further by a company’s security.

The first to react to the Novi Sad graffiti was the Independent Society of Vojvodina Journalists (NDNV) which called on all institutions to do everything to reduce the increasing number of threats and hate speech in public communication in the city.

The latest was yet another incident in a series of threats and attacks on Serbia’s journalists, mainly on those working with the independent outlets.

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Such events were criticised in different international organisations’ reports, including the European Parliament (EP) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The Freedom House latest report said Serbia lost two points on the Freedom in the World 2021 list.

Those reports, either dismissed or minimised by the country’s authorities and only partly reported on state-controlled media, are becoming a serious obstacle to Serbia’s road to the European Union.

Many NGOs and independent intellectuals and journalists have repeatedly warned about the danger of the denials of war crimes, the celebration of convicted war criminals and the lack of proper reaction to hate speech in the country where a prime minister was assassinated, where a former president was killed, and several journalists also murdered, threats and attacks like those should not be ignored.