During the third extraordinary session of this convocation the MPs discussed, among other points, the REM’s Report on Supervision of Programmes of Commercial Media Service Providers for the period October 2022 – the end of March 2023 with a special focus on the reporting of violence in television programmes. This report was a direct result of the two mass murders that occurred at the start of May and civic protests that followed (AN. “Serbia against violence” protests have entered their fifthteenth week).
As most of the demands of the “Serbia against violence” protests have to do with the media (AN. For example, revoking the national frequency of TV Happy and TV Pink, as well as removing reality programmes from TV channels), this session seemed to be designed as a counter-offensive: with the pro-government TV Pink and TV Happy “under attack”, the MPs of the ruling majority have focused on slandering TV channels perceived as oppositionary - TV N1 has been mentioned around 60 times since the start of this session, TV NovaS around 40 times, all in a negative context - even though neither of these televisions is mentioned REM’s Report. Luxembourg, where TV N1 is registered, has also been mentioned around 40 times.
These televisions had been named as organizers of “Serbia against violence”, aiming to destabilize the country, undermine peace and provoke a civil war.
„Why does the media from Luxembourg instigate a civil war in Serbia?”, pondered the chief of the biggest parliamentary group “Aleksandar Vučić - Together We can do Everything, Milenko Jovanov, continuing “...Serbia is no longer a country where you can carry out hybrid operations, no matter how much influence American or whatever agencies have on you… you will not get a civil war, but I am glad you are admitting to this.”, said Jovanov addressing N1, NovaS and Danas.
The “foreign mercenaries” narrative that is ever so present in the Serbian society regarding civil society is being transferred to the media. This theme has been further developed by a party colleague of Milenko Jovanov, MP Djordje Todorović:
„So, Šolak’s televisions have organized a round table with the leaders of the opposition to push them to start protesting, to provoke unrest. They organize you, call you to protest, even determine your routes… They tell you when and how to walk.” (AN. TV N1 and NovaS report in depth on the protests, which includes announcing routes which are provided by the organizers)
The MPs, specifically the aforementioned MP Djordje Todorović, did have a comment on this event:
„You, that jump to the occasion to block Gazela (AN. A highway bridge in Belgrade), an international highway, to infringe on the freedom of movement of citizens… You are doing a marvelous job. You are being used as a tool, but when Gazela appears in front of their home, now there’s a problem! There’s whining, screaming, oh no they came in front of N1!
Somebody came to protest, I don’t know what they were doing there, it doesn’t matter, but they’ve been complaining about it for 3 days, they say - oh they came to threaten us, to jeopardize us, they won’t leave us alone. This is what happens when you taunt and block and infringe on other people’s freedoms, a boomerang happens. What goes around comes around, some people come in front of N1.”
This smear campaign seemed to be overflowing from the Parliament. A party colleague of aforementioned MPs, Aleksandar Šapić, mayor of Belgrade, had a similar comment:
“I condemn that, I condemn any type of going to somebody’s workplace, or their home… I believe it was really uncomfortable and I am sorry. But there you go, God has his ways, it is remarkable. No more than two months have gone by since you reported on some other people coming in front of my house and you did not condemn that then and there, you did not say “look at the message this sends, they went to a person’s home, in front of their private property of the mayor”, no - you characterized this as a peaceful citizens protest who are prevented by thugs to peacefully gather in front of my home. No media condemned that then, but I condemn a gathering in front of your workplace, and God forbid that someone comes to your home.” (AN. The incident Šapić refers to is a protest in front of his illegally built, but legalized as he became mayor, home, by owners of objects on the river that have been deemed as illegal by Šapić himself.)
Furthermore, MP Djordje Todorović does not hesitate to call out journalists by name:
“Šolak’s activists, i.e. his bots, Mladen Savatović and Šovljanski Branislav, are publishing photos with the same inscription…” (AN. According to Reporters without Borders index, Serbia has fallen 12 spots in 2023, from 79 in 2022 to 91 in 2023)
„You (AN. N1, NovaS) sow hatred, propagate violence, generate said violence, and then, as the chief of my parliamentary group said, it comes back around like a boomerang, so now those people that you called to the street, or that came there by themselves, are now after you.”, concluded Todorović.
(AN. TV N1 and NovaS can only be accessed through the SBB cable provider. According to RATEL, Serbian Regulatory Body for Electronic Communications and Postal Services, the market share SBB has in Serbia is 29,00%)