There is a thin line between love and hate on the covers of tabloids in Serbia. The latest public figure to experience this on his own skin was Defence Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic when Objektiv began accusing him of betraying the state and President Aleksandar Vucic, as well as calling him derogatory names.
Objektiv is the youngest tabloid in the country, launched in December 2020, owned by Aleksandar Papic, the former close friend of the current Defence Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic. The turning point in editorial policy came in May this year when Papic voted to remove Stefanovic from the top echelons of the Belgrade branch of the Serbian Progressive Party.
Since then, the Defence Minister has become the main target of the tabloid’s front pages, which led Stefanovic to launch a lawsuit against the newspaper and his former friend.
Aleksandar Papic is also known to be the owner of the Alcantara Invest Company, which was the focus of attention in 2015 when it bought the Tonati Hotel in Vrnjačka Banja, as the only bidder, for 750,000 euros and has subsequently received a hefty state subsidy for its renovation. Once the hotel was renovated, the company immediately sold it.
The research portal BIRN recently reported that Papic was also a mediator in the cover-up of the affair involving the Defence Minister’s father, Branko Stefanovic, who allegedly offered the owner of the Sumadija Hotel 300,000 euros in cash in the hope of the hotel owner selling the hotel to Stefanovic at a discounted price.
The unwritten rule that also applies to tabloids is that an attack on the government is allowed at any time, as long as it is not directed towards Aleksandar Vucic.
Since its foundation in 2012, Informer has gained the status of the king of tabloids. Its owner and editor-in-chief, Dragan J. Vucicevic, creates scandals at the command of the authorities, which, as a rule, are then followed by all other media. Employees of the same tabloid claim that Vucicevic personally writes the headline articles but always signs them as the Informer team.
Vucicevic, who is also the former editor-in-chief of the Kurir and Press dailies, was among the favourite journalists of Serbian tycoons from the former government but has changed his allegiance. Now, Vucicevic and the owner of the Pink media empire, Zeljko Mitrovic, are now the journalistic flagship of the current regime.
In 2019, Belgrade businessman Igor Zezelj bought the Adria Media Group from Aleksandar Rodic. The Group also owns the Kurir daily. He had become known to the general public in the mid-1990s as one of the leaders of the 1996/97 student protests, when, together with Cedomir Jovanovic, Cedomir Antic, Vladimir Dobrosavljevic and Aleksandar Ciric, he founded the Student Political Club (Studentski politički klub).
He is also remembered as the general manager of the Red Star (Crvena Zvezda) basketball club at a time when the club was not only in debt but also on the brink of survival. In the same year that he bought the Adria Media Group, he became the owner of the news website, Mondo, and is also known to be a close associate of the deputy mayor of Belgrade, Goran Vesic.
Although only the former editors-in-chief of Kurir, Sasa Milovanovic and Milan Ladjevic, were publicly acknowledged as the founders of Srpski Telegraf in 2016, the largest share (55%) is in the hands of the obscure businessman Ljubomir Dabovic, owner of Angokomerc, a company trading in timber and building material.
The news website, Srbija Danas, whose formal founder is Aleksandra Martinovic, sister of the director and presenter of Euronews, Minja Miletic, also has a strong influence on public opinion. Martinovic was also the owner of the company called Prointer IT Solutions and Services, which was linked to the ruling party. Unofficial sources say that the financial dealings of this website are controlled by the director of the Yugoimport-SDPR Company and an SNS party official, Branislav Prostran.
Ekspres weekly, owned by Goran Veselinovic, who is also the proprietor of Right PR Agency, regularly makes scandalous claims in the weekly without any proof. Veselinovic is said to have taken over most of the marketing activities in Serbia since the SNS party came to power in 2012. It is also interesting to note that the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, confirmed that, in 2010, he worked at Veselinović’s agency, which was then called Profiler Team.
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