The media reporting on the night when protesters entered the Serbian state TV (RTS) building caused different reactions with government officials calling N1 TV reporting scandalous, hypocritical and anti-civilisational while spokesmen for two journalists’ organizations said the reporting was professional.
“The population of Serbia who do not have cable TV did not know what was happening because the RTS did not report on events in its own building and in front of it,” Independent Journalists Association of Serbia (NUNS) spokesman Zeljko Bodrozic told N1, adding that pro-government TV stations with national frequencies showed just one side of the story which he said was propaganda.
“We would not have known a lot of the things that happened that night. On the other hand, I understand the RTS journalists and editors who could not report objectively that night. The criticism that the RTS did not report on events in its building are unjustified because they really were under siege,” Journalists Association of Serbia (UNS) President Vladimir Radomirovic added.
Serbian government ministers did not share the view of the professional organizations.
Energy Minister Aleksandar Antic (SPS) condemned what he said was the scandalous reporting by N1. “That was absolutely not reporting, that was a call to join in the breach of the RTS with very disputable, incorrect and provocative information,” he told TV Pink.
His party leader (SPS) Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic shared that view saying the aim was to get as many people there as possible. “They even called people to come there and that is the essence. It was certainly not by chance, I never saw that TV go live with anything that was not of vital political importance to them,” he said.
Their boss, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said the N1 reporting was hypocritical. “Those journalists are keeping quiet about (opposition leaders Dragan) Djilas, (Bosko) Obradovic and Vuk Jeremic entering the RTS with chainsaws. Threats, physical violence and they keep quiet and don’t react,” she told TV Prva.
N1 TV News Director Jugoslav Cosic responded saying that he has no idea how reporting from an event can be considered participation in that event and how reporting can in any way be considered support for violence.
“I think this is about something else – a new attempt to intimidate journalists and N1 TV and discourage us from working in the way we believe we should be working. Top state officials are taking part in this and we have received an enormous number of threats because of that over the past few days. They all watched the N1 live coverage because they could not have known what was happening there otherwise,” Cosic said.
RTS management board Chairman Vladimir Vuletic disagreed, saying the N1 coverage was not civilized. “I don’t like commenting anyone’s work, any TV stations but the fact that a TV had its cameras in the RTS, that it was in some way inciting violence, that to me is something anti-civilizational,” Vuletic told TV Pink.
Jugoslav Cosic said that he does not support anyone entering into any of the media by force. “On the contrary, I condemn every such gesture because I believe that these are dangerous things which create huge insecurity and a feeling that even the most basic security does not exist for the people who work there,” he said, adding that N1 did everything that needed to be done according to professional rules that night.
“We had images from the RTS building and covered police Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic’s news conference live, we carried part of the RTS special news and its CEO Dragan Bujosevic live. I am truly sorry that the RTS, unlike N1, has not been doing its job properly for years. The doors and shows of N1 are open to all political options. The fact that some people do not want to use that opportunity is really not our problem,” Cosic said.
Objections to the N1 broadcast came not only from officials but from a tabloid which accused N1 of having no shame because it was calling for the murder of the Serbian president who knows nothing about that. Nor did he read the tabloid story or view the N1 programme.
Vucic: No, I haven’t read that, what happened? No one heard that here. What happened people? Can someone tell me? You see no one here heard that, tell me what happened.
N1: Some media reported on their front pages that N1 was calling for the murder of Aleksandar Vucic.
Vucic: So what happened in fact?
N1: Did that happen?
Vucic: I don’t watch you, I don’t know what happened, I’m asking what happened.
N1: Do you think that happened?
Vucic: I’m sure that it didn’t, you love me best, without me you would have no programme. But I’m asking you what really happened, tell me. Does anyone in the audience know what happened yesterday? Looks like no one does.
What happened was that the inappropriate comments on the N1 Facebook page were used in the tabloid story as evidence that this TV was conducting a witch hunt against the head of state.