Belgrade protest changes form, will continue daily

Belgrade protest changes form, will continue daily

Belgrade protest changes form, will continue daily Izvor: Tanjug/Dimitrije Goll

After 21 Saturdays, organisers of #1 in 5 million, now called 'All as one – 1 in 5 million' civil protests and Serbia's opposition leaders opted for another way of demonstrating their dissatisfaction with President Aleksandar Vucic and his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) rule – they set up a 'Free Zone' outside his office for debate with citizens.

They also changed the starting point and announced the gathering at central Terazije street instead of outside the Philosophy Faculty where it all started on December 8, 2018.

After 22 protests on Saturdays, the opposition leaders announced everyday meetings with citizens during which people would be able to talk to politicians and public figures and listen to 'free news' later in the afternoon, while at 2 pm they said they would hold daily news conferences in the 'Free Zone' outside the presidential building.

An official of the Democratic Party (DS) and a famous actor Branislav Lecic supported a local journalist from Novi Sad Maja Pavlovic who has been on hunger strike for 20 days now trying to save her Channel 9which, as she said, was about to shut down due to the ignorance of the respective institutions.

Pavlovic was supposed to address the crowd but had to cancel due to exhaustion after 20 days of hunger strike. Instead, organisers read her requests.

Serbia's Regulatory Body for Electronic Media (REM) member Olivera Zekic told Pavlovic the Body was ready to accept some of her demands from Monday. Pavlovic told N1 she would wait until Monday to see how things go and then decide whether to stop the hunger strike.

"We will be like commandos, like ninjas, we will be everywhere where the law is violated, where human rights are in jeopardy, wherever the freedoms are denied, wherever you humiliate us as humans," Lecic later said in a message to the authorities.

After the walk, organisers put up a tent with and a sign saying 'It has started.'

The Presidency building is encircled with a protective metal fence. 

Late on Friday, Serbia's Prime Minister Ana Brnabic called Pavlovic for a meeting next Tuesday, but Lecic said that when someone was on a hunger strike, the reaction should be urgent. Brnabic's cabinet said in a statement she needed time to contact all institutions and ministries involved in the case.

"We will be like commandos, like ninjas, we will be everywhere where the law is violated, where human rights are in jeopardy, wherever the freedoms are denied, wherever you humiliate us as humans," Lecic said in a message to the authorities.

The walk ended outside Vucic's office where people listened to the so-called "Main Serbia's News," during which the crowd could hear real news, as the organisers said, in the sharp contrast to the state RTS TV prime time news at the same time which, they saw as nothing but lies.

The lawn in the Pionir Park next to the presidency building was watered hours before the protesters were about to come there,  although the weather was cloudy and rain expected.

On Friday, protests were held in the northern city of Novi Sad and the central town of Krusevac.

In Novi Sad, the protest's form was also changed. Instead of speeches and walk, an "open parliament" was staged. People who gathered got flyers with "yes" and 'No" on them so that they could vote for ideas about the only issue – the future of the protest and how to pursue with the fight against the regime.

In Krusevac, on the World Press Freedom Day, the speakers said that a "total media darkness" was introduced in the town. They also said that 80 percent of the money earmarked for media was given to those "close to the authorities."

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