Do Serbia's media which report critically and point at the system's shortcomings during the state of emergency hate their country as Prime Minister Ana Brnabic believes and what the journalists' associations and media professionals describe as a campaign against freedom of speech with the message that the truth cannot be hidden for a long time.
After Prime Minister blamed citizens for the increase in numbers of infected with coronavirus, she pointed at journalists for spreading panic.
Ana Brnabic described those outlets as "tycoon media preachers" who undermine the progress.
"Why are you doing that, people? Do you hate Aleksandar Vucic that much that you hate your state, all your people, the whole system as well? So, a lie. But why are you doing that? Because you don't like your state? Do you want this epidemic to last, what exactly is the intention? Why do you hate Vucic? Do you want to destroy the whole country? Well, I think it won't happen," Brnabic said.
"Don't do that to the President while the man is fighting for respirators with the most powerful countries in the world and is winning in that struggle. That should make us all proud. Don't hamper (him) while he's fighting for protective equipment, suits, masks. Don't do it now," she told reporters.
On the other hand, the President of the Independent Association of Serbia's Journalists (NUNS) says the authorities use the pandemic to conduct a brutal political campaign.
According to him, after the state of emergency pushed the opposition aside, the media which work in the public interest, become main targets.
"Of course, professional and responsible media don't hate their country. It's a spin used by the (Serbian Progressive Party) SNS for years; they only change the reasons to curb the freedom of expression. This time they find it in the President's fight for respirators, which should prevent any talk about real issues at this moment, "Zeljko Bodrozic said.
The state of emergency only legalised the pressure on professional media, Danica Vucenic, a journalist says. On the other hand, she adds, fake news and panic spread by the pro-government media are desirable."
"Fake news in Serbia are not about their content, but their perception. If you are in power, and if news, even if it's false, fit into your perception of the support of your position, then that news is not fake. And on the contrary, if true information does not fit you, you will declare it fake news," Vucenic said.
Ana Lalic was accused and arrested for spreading fake news after she published a story about the potential shortcomings of the system.
The Government withdrew its Decree on centralised information, but Prime Minister still considered that handcuffing journalist was a legitimate practice.
"Why Ana Lalic was arrested? Because she spread fake news (…) In any normal country in such circumstances publishing fake news lead to detaining people. Because it creates panic, because you are destroying the state, because you're demolishing the system," Brnabic told Happy TV.
Ana Lalic did not publish fake news but used a legitimate practice of citing unanimous, but trusted sources, after unsuccessfully trying on several occasions to get official comments, Tamara Skrozza, a journalist, said.
"The doors to the ruling party, state institutions, officials… are usually closed. At this moment, it's even worse. I think it should constantly be repeated – yes, we use unanimous sources, but we try to get answers, and we don't get them," she added.
If there were for independent media, the public wouldn't know about the coronavirus infection in hospitals, Skrozza recalled.
"The truth is like water, and by attempting to create artificial dams, the authorities won't succeed in stopping their flows."
"You cannot stop water; it will find its way. You can ban people from speaking, you can ban clergy from speaking, but our inboxes and phones will be full of messages, full of stories. And we will eventually succeed to bring those stories into the spotlight," Skrozza said.
Some of such stories led to solving of the problems in health institutions, such it was in the case of Cuprija hospital. But – not yet since as it is announced, Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic will personally deliver it.