The biggest anti-violence protest so far

The third “Serbia against violence” protest walk on Friday was the biggest so far.

It took four hours for the protesters to pass through their set route in Belgrade, with the Gazela Bridge and the motorway blocked until the early morning hours. Tens of thousands of people rallied in Serbia’s capital for the third time in a month to protest the government’s handling of a crisis after two mass shootings in Serbia. Officials ignored their demands and claimed foreign secret services were manipulating protesters.

The opposition protesters in Belgrade chanted slogans calling on Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to “resign.” They have also demanded the resignations of two government ministers and the revocation of broadcasting licenses for two TV networks that, they say, promote violence and glorify crime figures.

Activist Jelena Mihailovic read the opposition demands in front of the National Assembly, saying the government opponents simply want to “live without fear in our own country.”

“We are here because we want Serbia without violence,” Mihailovic said. “We cannot allow them [the government] to play with the lives of our children.”

Earlier Friday, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and other government officials attended a parliamentary session, focusing on the May 3 and May 4 shootings and the opposition demands to replace the interior minister and the intelligence chief following the carnage that left 18 people dead, many of them children.

Brnabic rejected allegations that the Serbian authorities were in any way responsible for the shootings. Instead, she accused the opposition of fueling violence and threatening Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Brnabic blasted the opposition-led protests as “purely political,” saying they were intended to topple Vucic and the government by force.

She also said that “everything that has happened” in Serbia after the mass shootings was “directly the work of foreign intelligence services,” adding that her government could be changed only by the will of the people in elections and not on the streets.

Why did Serbian pro-government media fail to report about the protest?

Daily newspapers in Serbia had different coverage of the ‘Serbia against Violence’ protest which according to some assessments gathered tens of thousands of citizens in the capital city of Belgrade on Saturday. Compared to the week ago, the pro-government tabloids had more moderate reports on the rally.

The Danas daily reported this was “the largest rally since October 5 (political upheaval)” and that “rivers of people” flowed down the streets of Belgrade.

According to the Nova daily, the gathering was the largest anti-violence rally so far. Half of the cover page of this daily newspaper was dedicated to the protest with the headline ‘Serbian spring’.

On the other hand, the Vecernje Novosti daily made no mention of the protest at all. The main topic of its Saturday issue was a Kosovo-related subject. However, the daily did cover the rally in Pancevo that was held simultaneously with the Belgrade protest and was attended by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

The cover topic of the Saturday issue of the EuroBlic daily was a new system for reporting violence in schools.

The Politika daily had the Pancevo gathering as the main topic on its cover page, noting just briefly that Belgrade’s busiest bridge Gazela has been “blocked again.”

The Informer tabloid’s main headline on Saturday was ‘It is clear who is fighting for Serbia, and who is wishing for chaos’, emphasising that the Gazela bridge was blocked by “10,000 haters,” while there were “30,000 people with Vucic in Pancevo.”

Next Serbia against Violence rally is scheduled for 27th May.

(N1, 20.05.2023)

Photo credits: Reuters/Zorana Jevtic

This post is also available in: Italiano

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