Two officials of the Serbian Regulatory Body for Electronic Media (REM) reacted differently on Tuesday to Minister Aleksandar Vulin’s decision to show photographs of mutilated corpses on live TV.
In a live appearance on the pro-government TV Pink, Internal Affairs Minister Vulin showed photographs of mutilated corpses and body parts which he said were downloaded from the mobile phones of members of a recently arrested organized crime group. The pictures were allegedly taken by members of the group headed by Veljko Belivuk aka Velja Nevolja who headed one of the FC Partizan supporter groups. Speaking about the pictures, Vulin told the Hit Tvit talk show that “some people threw up, others refused to look and some said they aren’t true”.
Similar pictures were shown earlier by President Aleksandar Vucic at a news conference but there was no reaction from the REM at the time. Partizan supporters are said to have drawn the wrath of the authorities for chanting slogans against the president at matches. The Belivuk group has been charged with a number of crimes, including several counts of murder.
The reactions this time came from REM Council Chairwoman Olivera Zekic who said that she believes that the photographs were “educational” adding that “they are meant to upset and warn so that people realize how important it is to fight this”. Zekic told Danas daily that there won’t be any reaction from the REM before the autumn because of the summer break. According to her the reaction will depend on what the Oversight Service says in its report. She added that she personally would not ban the showing of those pictures because the public has to see that the fight against crime is justified.
REM members Judita Popovic said that she would be filing charges againt TV Pink for allowing the airing of the photographs. “The photographs were horrific and I think a reaction should come but based on what happened earlier (when Vucic showed similar pictures) I don’t expect a reaction,” she said recalling that the judiciary failed to react and that the REM ruled that the law was not broken, she told the Nova.rs portal. Popovic reacted to Vucic’s news conference in March saying that he was in violation of the Law on Electronic Media and regulations on human rights for media services.
Lawyer Rodoljub Sabic, formerly the Commissioner for Public Information, told N1 that the authorities keep raising the unacceptable bar in terms of public displays of horrifying details of mutilations. “Every standard is being lowered and the law is being turned into props for a reality show,” Sabic said.
Milica Vojinovic, a journalist with the KRIK crime and corruption investigative network, told N1 that there was much less reaction this time, adding that the pictures shown by Vulin were worse than what Vucic showed and were on the front pages of the Serbia press. According to her, the public has gotten used to seeing things like that in the media.
The Association of Journalists of Serbia (UNS) protested on Tuesday over the publication of photographs of mutilated victims of an organized crime group on national TV and in the tabloid press. The UNS called electronic and print media to abide by the journalists’ code.