A postcard from Beijing: President’s Kosovo Safari

Tatjana Lazarević
Tanja Lazarevic, novinarka, Kossev, 04.01.2019 Kosovska Mitrovica, Foto Marija Jankovickoss

By Tatjana Lazarevic

The Serbian President, Aleksandar Vucic accused the media in the north of Kosovo and Gracanica of espionage actions against Serbia and of breaking Serbian unity twice in two days, during his tour to China.

They are trying to bribe some of our people, they are organizing media espionage networks, especially in the north of Kosovo, they are paying millions of dollars and these (media) are becoming your main information providers in Central Serbia and in many other places. They are directly paid from the outside – with the sole purpose of destroying the unity of Serb people in the north of Kosovo and in other parts of Kosovo as well. Since this is not working, then they continue putting pressure on Serbia. And now you ask me if I was satisfied with the talks with President Xi Jinping and if I am satisfied with the talks with President Putin? Well, I am. They understand this problem, they notice it, they are not blind, they are normal people. I do not know what else to tell you,“ he said yesterday.

Just look at how many media the foreigners have created in the north of Kosovo, how many media the foreigners created just to destroy the reputation of Srpska Lista. Look at all the campaigns that are being conducted to criminalize the north of Kosovo, to criminalize Serbs in Kosovo… You all know it and it’s all for nothing, you have 10 media outlets from Kosovska Mitrovica to Leposavic, Gracanica that you created and it is all for nothing. The millions of dollars that you invested are all for nothing. The Serbs do not want them, Serbs know what they are intended for, and Serbs know which flag they are supporting and what country they love. Serbs in Kosovo have their red-blue-white flag, they have no other – he said almost immediately upon landing at a Chinese airport on Wednesday.

I am the editor of an online news media outlet from in the north of Kosovo. We are one of the youngest Kosovo Serb media outlets, and many say, one of the leading ones. KoSSev newsroom is last year’s winners of the Serbian Independent journalists’ Dusan Bogavac award for ethics and courage. I am Vreme magazine’s 2018  person of the year.

This is an enormous honor for us, but an even greater responsibility. It is an important acknowledgment that what we are doing is appreciated and recognized in Belgrade, the region and beyond.

The local media scene is vibrant in the decimated Kosovo Serbian community. There are several Serb speaking media – in Gracanica, Caglavica, Silovo, as well as Gorazdevac, Kosovska Mitrovica and Leposavic. These are a small member newsrooms which work almost around-the-clock, just like the President himself, with an average of four to five hours of journalistic sleep, often even less.

All in an effort to be, as the President says, „the main providers of information.“

As perceived as one of the labeled ones by the Presidents statements –how did I feel about being declared of belonging to those who are enemies of Serbia? – people have been asking me since Thursday.

I perceive the President’s statements as deeply unethical, at the same time both dangerous and high risk. It is foremost due to my concern for the safety of Kosovo Serbian journalists.

I perceive them as being not fair sport, but a low blow.

I perceive them as risky for the President of Serbia himself. I am not claiming that they are personally risky for Aleksandar Vucic at the moment. It is  because the politician Aleksandar Vucic speaks no differently in relation to his decades-long cultural-verbal radical pattern as he is making progress in his state career. However, they are risky for the reputation of the institution which Aleksandar Vucic represents at the moment.

He is damaging the institution of the President of the Republic with these statements, while potentially revealing a finger pointing address to be held accountable  should a new eventual attack against Kosovo Serbian media and journalists take place. And yes, we may expect them.

Indeed, he opened quite a wide front for us to expect attacks on the handful of beasts coming from various hunters in this Kosovo safari. There is a potential call for an assault for all his supporters, all his enemies, all common haters of freedom of speech, for all who have a phobia of human freedom, democracy, and decency, for those who are not happy that Serbs live in Kosovo and Metohija, for all protectors of Serbia from constant enemies and haters of Serbs and Serbhood, while at the same time the latter remain unwilling and untaught to do something really beneficial for their homeland.

If the President’s statements did not contain the two elements I previously mentioned – the unethical and a risk for our security, they would not be worthy of any comment here, since they are simply fake news.

According to everything that I know about the work of the Kosovo Serb media, including us, I did not recognize any truthful allegations coming from Beijing, except the news piece about us using international funds. Unlike the media in Albanian and their vibrant businesses, none of the Kosovo Serbian media does business on the market. There is a non-existant market for the Kosovo Serbian community.

Therefore, it is true that we are project funded – like all NGOs – applying with international donors. Some of us also apply for the programs of the Serbian and Kosovo governments. Certainly, even in this part, I would not recognize the figure of „millions of dollars“, at least I have not heard about it, while agreeing that huge amounts of money has been invested in the Kosovo media scene landscape over the past 20 years. Moreover, I am one of the harshest critics of the transparency and purposefulness of the flow of these assets.

As a citizen of Serbia, although with a passport of the Coordination directorate, I am worried also about something else. It should now be clear to me that the Serbian security and intelligence services are in a deep phase of monitoring us, bearing in mind that we are such dangerous enemies of state interests. At the same time, if I was in the BIA’s, the VOA’s, the VBA’s and the judiciary’s place, I would be extremely worried by the fact that the President came out publicly with allegations coming from a procedure or investigation – while they were still in progress.

What will we do with this reaction of the President of the Republic? How do institutions in charge evaluate this act? What will they do and how to move forward?

My friends and associates say – it’s Vucic, you know Vucic, it’s your turn now, beware

Knowing the Serbian President’s current manner of addressing the public, it is certainly not hard to notice that after demonization and a negative campaign against all Kosovo Serbian politicians who are not part of the SNS and who yet dared to step up publicly, out of whom Oliver Ivanovic is the one who suffered the most, followed by the church dignitaries of the Raska-Prizren Eparchy, Bishop Teodosije and Abbot Sava Janjic, it is now finally the turn of the small Kosovo Serb media.

For now, only verbal attack on Serbian journalists arrives in the midst of a practically nonexistent pre-election campaign by Srpska Lista, which is supported by the SNS and President Vucic himself. For the sake of truth this party got itself into an extraordinary mayor ballot purely because its politics look like: We are leaving the Kosovo institutions and they cease to exist in the north. We raised conditions, meet up and we will return, while in the meantime continue to pay us Kosovo salaries for the functions we have terminated. You have not met the conditions, but we will return. We want to return to the Kosovo institutions which we abolished but now you are not letting us. You have let us after all and we will win again, and in the end, we will resign.

Srpska Lista practically has no rival opponents among Serbs in these elections. One of the opponents was assassinated in 2013, while the other was soon imprisoned, and then cars belonging to two opponents were burned in 2017, and the one that was imprisoned in 2014 was released, and assassinated after the elections in 2018… Finally, the northern Serbs did not want those elections in 2013 nor those in 2017; this one even less so, because everything was announced by the Kosovo President. Many are still hoping for Serb elections, even if Vucic is the one to call them.

Therefore, in the absence of the opposition, I’m horrified by the thought that the media, judging by everything that happened so far, will be placed as the electoral „opponent“ for a ruthless and brutal campaign similar to those led so far. I am horrified by the thought that spin masters and that unethical part of PR managers, after so many decades and the evil that happened to us all, will still not give up on the negative campaigns. I am horrified by a threat that they will now, in spite of our media work, the commitment to journalism, work ethic, contrary to our desires and by force, drag the media into a non-existent campaign.

My family is at the same time horrified that I continue to ignore our little family world on the eve of holidays. I did not clean the house, I did not dye the eggs, we did not go Easter shopping and we did not laugh and hug each other. I know that the same thing happened in the homes of my colleagues. With all respect to the importance of journalistic work, they do not understand why they had to spend another Easter with Vucic.

The Christ is Risen!

(Tatjana Lazarevic is the editor of the KoSSev portal)

 

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