If September 28th, 2014 was another episode of the famous series “Grlom u jagode”, the closing credits would definitely show its narcissistic hero Aleksandar Vucic slowly walking away over Djilas’s bridge, with his jacket slung over his shoulder. The apartment blocks of Novi Beograd would be lingering in the back, as a projected utopian future of his reformed state. In the background, his lines spoken by the journalist Dragan Vucicevic, would go something like this: On that September 28th, 2014, the Pride was organized and not a single window in Belgrade was broken, smiling representatives of the government and the opposition were at the Pride, flooded residents of Tekija were promised Putin’s arrival, Dveri organized a protest walk on the streets of central Belgrade, members of the Gendarmerie beat up Andrej Vucic and Predrag Mali, the building of B92 was attacked, bus no. 46 was set on fire, the number of likes of the comments of large portals in favor of the government reached the staggering figure of seven thousand, and the show “Utisak nedelje” lost the market game after twelve years and, as such, was cancelled on B92. The Prime Minister, on this very sad day for him, decided to further accelerate reforms, practice his German and finally become a man of his word.
After the closing credits, a block of advertisements would be shown and, at 9 p.m. on B92, instead of the famous jingle “a headful of impressions”, a movie The River Wild would start. Some unbelievers would still try to find some information on B92, but a banner for “Utisak nedelje” would lead them straight to a show on agriculture “Dobra zemlja”. However, something was lost on this day, even though it seems that so much was “won” with Pride, which was finally organized in Belgrade after so many attempts, in an armored circle of six thousand police officers.
When you list all the important facts of one day in Belgrade, doubts remain, related primarily to the issues of freedom, movement and speech. On the one hand, members of the LGBT community successfully walked through the city and gave speeches, and members of the right-wing Dveri and SPC did the same after them. But the question about what happened to “Utisak nedelje” remains, as well as what happened with the prime minister’s and the mayor’s younger brothers, who experienced an unfortunate incident at Svetozar Markovic street, just before the beginning of the Pride. Let’s start from the beginning. There are, indeed, a lot of impressions, but there is no one to classify them, nor can you vote any longer. Maybe this was the main idea of the directors of these events. You got the Pride, you lost “Utisak”, you had a flood, you will get Putin.
This process of entertainmentization of television and radio programs has been going on for a long time. After the cancelation of the morning show by Dare and Mare, which was said to have been the ultimate market demand, came a morning program for teenagers who have trouble waking up. After an appearance of a journalist of Vecernje Novosti (Srdjan Skoro), the Serbian Progressive Party accused the national TV of “degrading the reputation of the new government and prime minister A.V.” It goes without saying that the journalist was subsequently replaced as editor. This was followed by the invasion of Studio B. The station’s director Aleksandar Timofejev was fired, after which all news reports of this broadcaster turned into advertisements for the successes of the city and the national government. This shift was explained as the need to meet the “complex social and economic circumstances”. Studio B’s new director Ivana Vucicevic explained recently on TV Pink that she found this company in disrepair (although she was already working there), so she introduced radical reforms. These reforms also include the long-awaited dictate of the market, and they immediately took their toll in the form of “removing” Predrag Sarapa’s show “Problem”. Namely, Sarapa could no longer survive in the game of higher ratings and had to be cancelled urgently. Then the summer schedule was introduced without much trouble and Studio B slowly started conforming to other media, just like the local authorities conformed to the national, i.e. that held by SPP. Pescanik’s website is constantly exposed to attacks and it is just a matter of time before another hot topic provokes a new strike. Now it’s “Utisak nedelje’s” turn, whose author Olja Beckovic openly revealed the kind of ultimatum she was given. She also learned an interesting lesson from all this, and that is the understanding that “the promises given between the owners of the media and the owner of the state are respected and fulfilled”. Indeed, these things here are done rather quickly and professionally. They are very often blurred by other important events such as floods, Pride, or the attack on a TV station which has been fighting for years for the “right to be different”.
The orders of our favorite show’s new hero, however, involve a completely different understanding of tolerance, human rights and the right to be different. It is a concept of strictly controlled freedom. You can walk, but under siege, you can debate, but on the invisible channels, you can speak out against the government, but watch what you say, because your ratings can easily drop and then you’re doomed.
From this day, as a semantic surplus, remains the case of the prime minister’s and the mayor’s younger brothers beating, about which Vucic the elder said at the press conference that everything was taken care of because they apologized and that the “case is closed”. This “closing of the case” was primarily addressed to the reporters. It was sent as a warning and a threat to not investigate the subject further. However, in a democratic society, such a story can’t be finished just like that. The public has the right to know all the details about the incident in which members of the Gendarmerie “exceeded their authority because they were doing something against their own beliefs”, i.e. they were in charge of defending the Pride, which is incredibly annoying, so the beating of Vucic and Mali can be “understood and tolerated”. Such things are unforgivable in “a state which respects the Constitution and the law”. Prime Minister Vucic, as well as mayor Mali, are obliged to give the public very precise explanations regarding this case, just as the High Magistrates Court was required to immediately prosecute all perpetrators, because we “know how they should be treated”.
Translated by Marijana Simic