I keep having the feeling, and wishing I was wrong, that Serbian journalism has been beaten and that it won’t soon recover from the defeat inflicted on it by our prime minister on Tuesday night (Question mark, RTS 1).
That “interview” was a duel of unequal opponents. RTS put an unprepared, indisposed and frightened host in front of the cameras, with ready-made and bolted-down questions which tied both her hands and her tongue.
The only ones who did their jobs professionally were the cameramen and the director: their zooming of the host’s face has perpetuated an anthological images of fear.
A fear which paralyzed her.
Our prime minister toyed with her, degraded her, humiliated, ruled the situation authoritatively and mercilessly cornered her.
Not even the compliment, “that she is one of the smartest women in Serbia,” helped her escape the hypnosis.
She didn’t talk to him; she answered each of his counter-questions, his (justified) critique of RTS editorial politics (e.g.: the electricity price increase) with a horrified look and murmurs which turned into “swallowing her own tongue”.
Not only did she not dare (or know how to) answer the question about what the government of Vojvodina had done for their citizens, but it seems to me that she wouldn’t have dared answer even if the prime minister had asked her her name. Or she wouldn’t have been able to remember it.
My first association upon seeing this unequal duel was a scene from the BBC documentary series “Planet Earth”, where an antelope stands hypnotized with frozen eyes and waits for the tiger to devour her.
The host had so many opportunities, her guest’s bad first serves, to snap out of it, come back to the game and give our prime minister at least one precise “return” and let him know who he’s dealing with.
But, nothing happened. Her fear of angering her guest and desire to act like a gracious hostess, caused her to rashly skip over semi-unpleasant questions (about the Belgrade waterfront, the Steel Mill, the helicopter crash, etc.) and to keep passing him the ball. Our prime minister was so eager and impatient to give the audience all the data, to show all the pictures and graphs, to say everything he had in mind that he didn’t even let her read the prepared questions.
That evening demonstrated the powerlessness of journalism, like when Bayern humiliated Real Madrid with a score of 4:1. Incredibly prepared (as if Allister Campbell had prepared him), our prime minister humiliated journalism on its home turf. It was another missed opportunity for professional journalism. Not for itself or the need to show its power, but to ascertain its important role in society and for the citizens (and RTS subscribers) who (still only in theory and in that commercial) have “the right to know everything”.
I watched Upitnik with eyes wide shut. From shame and embarrassment.
The weak host was deliberately sacrificed and pushed into the jaws of this politician. The way RTS degraded its star deserves contempt and condemnation. Deliberately or by accident, RTS laid her at the altar of ass-kissing to daily politics. We witnessed the shameful death knell of a craft.
Let’s be clear, the point of this article is not to cry over the host’s fate. As of Tuesday night, she has become a paradigm of the misery of Serbian journalism.
No more “question marks”, everything is clear as day. There’s no more “seventh force”; our prime minister has put journalists where he thinks they deserve to be – the ninth circle of Hell.
He used Upitnik (RTS 1, March 17, 2015) to raise the bar for politicians’ superiority high and score points by proving the uselessness of journalists.
If any TV journalist with integrity wanted to speak with the prime minister in the future, he or she would first have to ensure maximum independency from his or her bosses, in order to even be able to start a “one-on-one” conversation with him.
Because this just doesn’t make sense: to make the journalist a punching bag for the well-prepared prime minister.
And it’s the same monodrama every time, without any improvisation and with no room for an extra. A journalist.
I still believe, naively, that RTS will dare to express their repulsion at this new kind of mobbing.
Translated by Marijana Simic