26. dec 2014.

The importance of being free

topic_press-freedom_1Members of all the other professions dare to provoke, but journalists are nowhere to be heard, because there are no journalists

There are no journalists in the main media, and the main media include television stations with national coverage, national daily newspapers and tabloids, above all. To be more precise, there are maybe some journalists working there, but they are blackmailed with money – from the majority that barely manage to make ends meet to editors with apartments, loan instalments and cars – or are preoccupied with servile political adulation tainted with pro-Russian and pro-Chinese aesthetics.

And since a blackmailed and servile journalists is equal to wooden iron or any other well-known oxymoron, the only thing for me to do now is to go back to the shocking statement – THERE ARE NO JOURNALISTS, no matter how hard or devotedly the authors of the “Progress Report“ may look to find them.

Stupidity, uncivility, ignorance and general trivialization on the one hand and glorification of one man on the other – this is the predominant editorial policy

Until recently I was myself a member of that same unjournalistic-like, blackmailed order, let’s call them media professionals. Since 2012, and more specifically, since the electoral campaign of that year, and soon after that – ever since my first banned text about one of the closest friends of the ruling party leader, it was much easier for me to fool myself thinking that things would change for the better and that I would again be able to write what I know and to write conscientiously.

Self-deceit, which is alternatively called self-censorship by many, lasted until I could stomach it no more.

Rise to the power by the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) is a milestone for journalism in Serbia, which, to tell the truth, has never been much prized or lauded in the first place, but the critical thinking, investigative journalism and basic decency have never resorted to the darkest corners of the Internet under the encroachment of tabloids. There have been examples of pressure exerted, postponing of topics that were not really matched to the government’s taste and it even happened to me that the then President Tadić, on the occasion of an interview authorization, dared to change my questions and to add things to the interview he gave. It turned out that it was all only a mild overture for the grand finale.

My self-deceit, which is alternatively called self-censorship by many, lasted until I could stomach it no more

The great political “success” of Aleksandar  Vučić, a radical and a warmonger from 1990s, who has now turned out to be a progressionist, is represented in tabloidization of the entire media scene, and thus in the tabloidization of society. Huge support of his voters is based on that success only, because he failed or gave up his electoral promises in each and every field – from the one about the better life, GDP growth, unemployment rate dwindling, relinquishing of the political party membership as the necessary precondition for employment in public companies and fight against corruption, all the way to his favourite “Kosovo is Serbia“ mantra, let alone introduction of the quasi patriotism criterion in culture.

Media in Serbia have become the rock solid base, and the so-called journalists have become the most loyal army for the rule of the “Great Censor” from the era of Slavko Ćuruvija’s assassination. In the absence of critical thinking and free, competent battle of arguments, facts, evidence and thoughts, media do not report about real life but about the projections served to them by the most powerful man in the state. This was perhaps most successfully expounded in a sublime manner in the following tweet aphorism: “In the past six months more powder was used to make up Vučić in TV stations than cement to build houses in Obrenovac”.

Media in Serbia  have become the rock solid base and media professionals have become the most loyal army for the rule of the “Great Censor”

Members of all the other professions dare to make some waves at least (lawyers hold out for the third consecutive month in their protest despite the heavy artillery fire from the Ministry of Justice and heavy criticism by the assault cavalry in the form of the main media-tabloids). Despite all that, journalists remain silent, because there are no journalists.

What is that tabloid quality, how does Vučić succeed in doing it, what is the secret of his power, where is the source of censorship and self-censorship? “Give us some evidence” – the foreign ambassadors and EU representative are reproving calmly, doggedly looking at Kosovo and its independence.

Evidence is brutally evident, because media rule and media tabloidization are carried out brutally, from the highest levels of the government. The desired media model of the Informer-Pink coalition that is to the Court’s liking has been inaugurated. We have all been bluntly told that their reporting about the Prime Minister-hero-saviour-of-children-from-snow-drifts-and-floods is the only one reporting style to the liking of the Prime Minister, because he has never had any objection to it, he is often their guest and it is through their channels that he is using to convey the only truth to us, “Amen”. The trail of money will eventually lead to everything else.

Stupidity, uncivility, ignorance and general trivialization on one hand and glorification of one man on the other – this is the predominant editorial policy and the basis for tabloidization of all the media and of the entire society.

Blackmailed and frightened journalist is the same as the wooden iron or any other oxymoron that we know –THERE ARE NO JOURNALISTS

If you are looking for the examples from the professional practice, that is, say, when you bring a widow of a war criminal to be your visiting editor and to suggest the ”must read“ literature and when a criminal’s golden Rolex watch sparkles on the hand of his adult son from all the media right into your eyes, while the bones of his victims “laugh” from the undug, secret mass graves.

That is, say, when, in a day when the European Resolution on Šešelj is trumpeted as the main political topic, you make the journalists dig for a story about the person growing their beard as a sign of their “grief over the fate of Serbia” and on how is Ms Jadranka Joksimović doing the same. Or, when you send them to ask the few women in the leading positions in Serbia whether they think that their being blond ever helped them promote their careers. You can’t blame an editor for not knowing what misogyny is, when they abide by the moto that says that they should “react as their readers would” in asking for someone to be lynched or decapitated.

That is when in a single day all the media, as one, and with no one “on the other side”, often with no source mentioned, without a single piece of solid evidence accuse the brother, and thus indirectly the Prime Minister of Albania himself, of staging the attempted destabilization of Serbia, and then when they insult him again on the front pages by calling him “Shqiptar with no Shame”, knowing that the “Great Censor” and masses manipulated throughout 1990s will both like that. The same goes, when not a single question can be put for the Prime Minister or the Minister of Interior for months on the progress of the investigation on the drone carrying the flag of the non-existent Great Albanian state.

That is when the title “Prime Minister Has Balls” is used to announce the topic of salaries’ and pension cutting down, only to explain to him that “Serbs will not forgive” his allowing such cut downs. And when there is no hint from the Cabinet on what should be written about, they resort to the tested topic of self-sacrifice and unselfish devotion of the leader that will allegedly lead him to meet the fate of Đinđić, or to distasteful parallels such as “not even Tito succeeded in doing it all”.

Everything has become trivialized and banal, except for the “great promises” made by Aleksandar Vučić. If anyone dare think differently, they shall immediately appear on the tabloid front pages to be presented as a paedophile, mafia member, thief and liar, or merely as a leader of the abominable opposition working against the best interests of the people, such as Ms Olja Bećković.

And what are brothers and sisters journalists doing in the meantime – grumbling to themselves, defend their acts by the stupidity of their editors, blackmailed media owners and managers and by their fear from losing the advertisements paid by the biggest Serbian loss makers, leaving them with no bonuses, that they will be left with no power to blackmail the general managers of the state owned and private companies once they have fallen from the grace of the “Great Censor”, or to be unable to racketeer criminals by offering them excellently paid interviews when necessary, that “investigations will not leak” any more and that they will no longer be able to feed the arena brimming with hungry Serbian citizens. The only thing they do not fear is that the “mole in the Serbian Government” manipulating the tabloid public will ever be uncovered. This is because the “mole” is the best protected and the only untouchable person in Serbia.

To achieve all that, to maintain the stupefied, illiterate and ill-informed tabloid public, you need a certain type of media professional, and not a journalist. Such media professional will, without any shame, copy a text written in the governmental Cabinet, quote an SMS as the result of their “investigative journalism” efforts, run after a national team athlete to his room to catch him in an adulterous act, pelt political enemies of the Cabinet, dig into the corpses of some unfortunate people and report on that all truthfully to us all. Such media professionals are bound to get pecuniary bonuses and to become the stars of Vučić’s favoured editorial boards.

The art of it is to remain a journalist despite everything, or to be more precise, the question is: How can one be free in the midst of the general lack of freedom when one may not ask any questions, choose a topic according to their common sense or logic, criticize, fight for the public interest that most certainly does not lie in establishing or strengthening of the rule of a single master?

I don’t know, I have chosen to be a journalist again instead of a media professional, and then I left.

The Author worked for 27 years as a journalist and editor with Radio Beograd, Večernje novosti daily, Radio Free Europe, Dnevni telegraf daily, Nedeljni telegraf, Reporter, Glas javnosti and Blic newspaper.

Photo: www​.freepress​.net

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