We can only talk about the division to those who still believe in the task of journalism and those who consciously, and for lucrative reasons, gave up their profession and mutated from journalists into PRs, readers of statements and government spokespersons.

Zoran Kesic

Today we are joined by our colleague Milan Jovanovic, journalist of the news portal Zig from Grocka, to discuss the biggest problems that independent journalists face today.

-Mr Jovanovic, as a colleague, can you briefly tell us what obstacles you have encountered or are encountering in your journalistic work?

-As a result of my reporting on the corrupt activities of the mayor, my house was set on fire while I was in it with my family, someone shot at the door, presumably to prevent us from leaving the house alive.

-Thank you Milan, we will now take a short commercial break, stay with us for the weather forecast and our sport segment.

Fortunately, my colleague Milan Jovanović survived, and (by some miracle) the entire editorial offices of H1 and Nova S televisions are still alive, as well as journalists of Danas, the weekly journals NIN and Vreme, the research portals KRIK, CINS, BIRN and several other media houses whose journalists are labelled as ‘domestic traitors’, ‘foreign mercenaries’, ‘destroyers of the state’, ‘chaos-makers’, ‘anti-Serbs’,  or even ‘wanting to harm the president and this family’; these are labels produced on a daily basis, and by the highest civil servants and their media outlets.

Independent journalists in Serbia are not journalists, but enemies.

Their photos are published almost as arrest warrants in tabloids, and guests appearing on popular television channels are enabled to insult their colleagues from independent media in the most vulgar ways.

The government, in cooperation with the numerous media outlets it controls (including absolutely all televisions with a national frequency), in a very tendentious, systematic and committed manner, declares independent media to be ‘opposition media’, thereby creating a false division between media close to the government and media close to the opposition.

A division, of course, exists and I have nothing against it, on the contrary.

I like the fact that I am on the right side, only that it is never, nor could it be, the ‘side of the opposition’.

It is always and exclusively the side of the truth. The side of justice, reason, logic and of an endless struggle against lies, ignorance, and evil. And in the case of our show, it’s a bit of joking and making a fool of yourself, even though many have warned me to not sing on the show, as I’m apparently not very good at it.

It is therefore a side of social responsibility and work in the public interest.

I suppose that’s journalism.

And so, we can only talk about the division to those who still believe in the task of journalism and those who consciously, and for lucrative reasons, gave up their profession and mutated from journalists into PRs, readers of statements and government spokespersons.

And that is why, instead of the problems that independent journalists face today, I would rather tackle the problems faced by those who have given up journalism, those who pretend to be journalists, those who are obliged to they lie every day.

I wonder how stressful it must be to run the Morning Program on Pink TV, for example.

What is your first thought when you open your eyes?

‘It’s a rainy morning, gray and disgusting, and I have to go to the studio and say things I know aren’t true.

And what’s worse, hundreds of thousands of people will see me doing it.’

I mean, it’s probably a little easier when the given morning is sunny and beautiful. It is possible that those few hours of lies fall easier on you when you come out of the TV studio into the light of a pleasant day.

But again, you can see people more clearly in the light of day.

Someone you just lied to will recognise you, aren’t you afraid that they’ll call you a liar in passing on the street?

A few years ago, in the middle of Terazije, I bumped into one of the most frequent guests of Pink’s morning program, the editor of Informer newspaper, Dragan J. Vučićević. For those who don’t know, the man is a metaphor and embodiment of quasi-journalism, crucifixion of personas deemed inappropriate, and a record-breaker in fake news publishing.

As I asked him why he was doing what he was doing and as he gave me some kind of counter-accusation as a response (in any case a meaningless conversation), a couple of young men shouted angrily in passing – and to me: ‘Why are you talking to that (insult). Are you not ashamed?’

Just imagine: we are in the city center, in front of the editorial office of that ‘colleague’, in a country where every tenth person is a member of the party that the ‘colleague’ wholeheartedly supports, it would be to be expected that this scenario happened the other way around.

That the ‘colleague’ is spoken to and someone is protesting him talking to a  traitor, a foreign mercenary, a chaos-inducer…

The reality, however, is different from what this ‘colleague’ and other ‘colleagues’ present it to be. The reality is that, despite the brainwashing, there is still an awareness of who is a journalist and who is a traitor to the profession, if we agree that our profession is essentially a quest for truth.

The truth is that, regardless of all the wealth, appanages and sinecures that ‘colleagues’ manage to obtain during their moneymaking period at the expense of obedience and parrot-like repetition of daily and weekly narratives of the government, they will be remembered for what they did and how they did it.

And that is why the position of journalists, no matter how much they may be on the edges of existence, even literally (just ask Milan Jovanovic), is much more comfortable in the long run than the position of former journalists, today’s suckups.

What independent journalists are doing today, during one of the most difficult times in their profession, will be a bright memory tomorrow. A prideful memory, both to their successors and to the profession itself.

On the other hand, the others will try to cover up, bury, and camouflage their wrongdoings and their betrayal. Some will succeed.

The street, however, has this habit of remembering.

And the days in this country can be very beautiful and sunny.

Visibility – very good.