It ought to be said clearly: the ministry of police and its minister are lying, and in a very peculiar way – they’re lying by telling the truth. In doing this, the ministry is helped by the media, including RTS and its informative shows. Just to avoid any confusion, although it seems like an oxymoron, lying with the truth is a phrase which refers to a very sneaky way of presenting lies as truth. You take a set of facts which are part of a coherent and trustworthy report and rip out only the facts which could make up a completely different story, while leaving behind the facts which directly contradict that story. The sneaky part is the fact that you leave behind the facts which benefit the person which your constructed story is trying to discredit.
The sneakiness becomes unbearable when your story implies that the person you’re talking about is – a murderer. And this is exactly what the minister of police, assisted by the press has been doing these days when talking about Sasa Jankovic. As an ombudsman, which isn’t only a protector of citizens, but also an institution in charge of protecting a legal state, Sasa Jankovic regularly gets into conflicts with executive government when trying, apparently unsuccessfully, to explain to them the legal boundaries of their work. The executive government never tried to answer the ombudsman’s reports and objections with relevant arguments; it always came down to an attempt to disqualify Sasa Jankovic himself. This time, these attempts have become monstrous.
In 1993, Sasa Jankovic’s best friend killed himself in Jankovic’s apartment in New Belgrade. The police established that it was a suicide and closed the case. By some wonder – the minister says that he has no idea how that happened – parts of that investigation were made public during the last couple of days, twenty two years later. Part of that public is also RTS, whose journalists like to say that they are a public service for the citizens of Serbia (and it appears that they are, again, serving only the government, at the expense of the citizens). So, RTS published the following parts of the document about the tragic event from 1993: that the experts determined that Sasa Jankovic’s hands were contaminated by gunpowder; that the gun which killed the young man wasn’t leaned against his lips; that on that day Sasa Jankovic didn’t have a license for that gun on his person. And, thus, RTS practically repeated everything the minister himself had said before (the only thing that the minister added was the fact that the gun was temporarily forfeited afterwards).
RTS news also said the following: “The suicide happened on April 1st, 1993 and the website of the Ministry of police published two expert findings – the first one dated on April 5th, 1993 and the second one from May 9th, 1994”, which seems to suggest some irregularity or complication in the investigation which lasted over a year. Although the news mentioned other documents on the MoP website, it didn’t quote them. And here’s why.
What did the minister and RTS journalist decide to keep secret, with the clear intention to create the impression that Sasa Jankovic may be responsible for his friend’s murder? Besides the stated documents, the MoP website also published the Minutes from the crime scene from April 1st, 1993 and a report from April 1st, 1993. The Minutes end with the following conclusion: “The room where the body was found, as well as the other rooms in the apartment, show no trace of struggle. The apartment is completely tidy and everything is in its place”. The crime scene was investigated at 3.25 p.m. The report tells us that the tragedy happened about 3 p.m. and that the police was immediately called. The report also tells us that the young man who killed himself wasn’t alone in the apartment. The person who was with him in the apartment (who was in a bathroom when he heard “the gun being cocked, immediately followed by a gunshot”, says the report), ran out of the apartment to call for help as soon as he saw what had happened.
The report also tells us that that person wasn’t Sasa Jankovic. The report says that Sasa Jankovic was out of the apartment at that time, that he was with his girlfriend and that they called him to tell him what had happened, after which he hurried to the apartment. Of course, someone might wonder how he ended up with gunpowder on his hands, if he wasn’t in the apartment when the suicide happened. An expert in ballistics says the following at the end of his report from May 9th, 1994: “Contamination by gunpowder or soot can happen in many ways, either by direct or indirect contact, because soot is transmitted similarly to dust or dirt”.
How evil and sneaky you must be to take this tragic story and remove the facts which absolve of suspicion the persons which are involved in it, and present the entire event in such a manner to implicitly blame a person who wasn’t even in the apartment when the whole thing happened? Of course, all the documents I mention are available on the MoP website which responded to a great interest of the public for something that happened twenty two years ago. And how did the public become interested in this? The naive minister of police doesn’t know this, although the information which leaked before these documents were published, the information which the minister himself gave, as well as the information being taken out of now already published documents all match. So, despite this complete math, the minister claims to not know how the public became interested in this case.
The fact that the government thinks that the citizens are so stupid that they won’t go online and see what’s written in the published documents is insulting. Since I wrote this, it could be said that the documents were published, and, thus, nothing was hidden and that anyone could see for themselves that Jankovic is completely innocent. The only thing I could say to this is that that’s how you lie with the truth. You cast a shadow of doubt onto someone and when they tell you you’re lying you say – how is it possible that I’m lying when everything is available to the public? You’re lying because you have hidden the truth away on a website that only a small portion of people will visit and the quality of published scanned documents is so low that one can hardly read the text.
And that’s not the only thing MoP and RTS are lying to us about. The claim that MoP is willing to answer the questions which are being raised in the public is a lie. They answer only the questions they themselves have raised in the public. The claim that the government is actually willing to investigate the issues which are over two decades old is also a lie. Didn’t the president himself threaten the prosecutors to stop digging the mass graves after all these years? But, even if we forget about the nineties (which the main advocates of oblivion have so readily jumped into now) and the questionable biographies of the officials: any attempt to find the truth about the helicopter which crashed practically onto the Surcin airport, and which the rescue mission was allegedly trying to find for almost three hours, has been systematically undermined for weeks. A few days ago, we even got a grotesque travesty of the tragedy in the form of a malfunction of a government plane, an incredibly stupid story trying to cover up the truth about the unnecessary death of seven persons.
Lies scream through Serbia, that would be an appropriate description of the past days and weeks.
Translated by Marijana Simic
Dejan Ilić (1965, Zemun), urednik izdavačke kuće FABRIKA KNJIGA i časopisa REČ. Diplomirao je na Filološkom fakultetu u Beogradu, magistrirao na Programu za studije roda i kulture na Centralnoevropskom univerzitetu u Budimpešti i doktorirao na istom univerzitetu na Odseku za rodne studije. Objavio je zbirke eseja „Osam i po ogleda iz razumevanja“ (2008), „Tranziciona pravda i tumačenje književnosti: srpski primer“ (2011), „Škola za 'petparačke' priče: predlozi za drugačiji kurikulum“ (2016) i „Dva lica patriotizma“ (2016).