SPC Diocese: N1 behaviour scandalous, we hope it will change attitude

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Soon after N1 TV published a video of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) Backa Diocese's priests banning N1 TV from covering an event at its premises on Monday, the Eparchy published a statement on its website with unfounded accusations in interpreting of the dialogue between an N1's reporter and the Eparchy's officials, saying the crew wanted to enter the church's yard without permission or accreditation.

„The N1’s crew tried to enter the temple on their own and do what they want to in line with their permanent chase against the SPC,“ adding a Diocese’s official asked them decently to respect the sanctity of the church and the prayers for the victims of fascism.

The memorial service for the victims of a World War II raid in Srbobran, the northern province of Vojvodina’s town, was held on Monday with the provincial’s officials’ presence and upon the invitation Vojvodina’s authorities. No accreditation was asked for.

One of decent messages to N1 crew was the advice to „complain to the Water Supply Company,“ a usual sarcastic answer in Serbia to the question which one should complain to for an injustice.

Besides, a priest said: „N1 is not welcome on the Backa Diocese’s properties. Enter, and we’ll see whether you violate the law.“

„We believe that this powerful media house will misuse the filmed material and adjust it to its basic construction – that SPC doesn’t allow media to ‘do their job,’ and thus „deprive Serbia’s people of being timely informed.’ That is untrue,“ the statement said.

It added the Eparchy hope N1 and „its affiliated media“ would change their „so far inappropriate way of working and obtain in advance all necessary permits and accreditation for covering the SPC-organised events.“

Here is the transcript of the dialogue between N1’s reporter Natasa Kovacev and the Diocese’s secretary Vladan Simic.

Priest: Just listen to what I’m telling you. Don’t…

N1: Just explain to me why TV N1 can’t come in, and all these televisions can?
Priest: Turn off the camera.

N1: We’re not going to turn off the camera, I’m asking you why TV N1 can’t get in.

Priest: Just let me do my job, please.

N1: And what’s your job, not to allow the media in?

Priest: My job is to welcome the guests.

N1: N1 has come here like all other media to follow this event. Why won’t you let us in?

Priest: Turn off the camera, please.

N1: We’re not going to turn off the camera, answer us, please. You have to have an explanation as to why you’re not letting us in.

Priest: I am the priest of this church. You cannot enter. Is that enough for you?

N1: It’s not enough, I need an explanation of why. How can you choose which media can and can’t go in?

Priest: I am not the one who’s choosing.

N1: Who then decided that N1 cannot attend this event?

Priest: You have enough space, left, right, film what you want.

N1: Sir…

Priest: Just back off a little bit.

N1: No, we cannot move. We’ll wait for the provincial PM ask him why we can’t go in. All right?

N1: Excuse me, I have to tell you that the priest won’t let us go in there for the event, can you explain why?

Igor Mirović: It’s a church decision.

N1: Can you explain to us why we can’t get in the church?

Priest: Thanks, we’re going to the memorial, thank you.

N1: Mr Simic, can you explain to us why TV N1 is not allowed in the port?

Simić: I can, when you turn off the camera.

N1: No, we’re not going to turn off the camera, because we need an official explanation.

Simić: You must address us officially.

N1: Excuse me, you are the secretary of the Diocese of Backa, please give us a clarification as to why only we, of all the other journalists and cameras, are not allowed in.

Simić: Because you’re the only ones that behave as you do.

N1: How are we behaving?

Simić: Well, look at your reports about the Church, I don’t have to explain.

N1: What is the problem with our reporting about the Church?

Simić: If you don’t like the fact you’re not allowed in the church, please contact me in writing and you’ll get an explanation. ok?

N1: How can you discriminate between other media and us? Is this a public event?
Is commemorating the Raid something of public interest?

Simić: Yes, of course.

N1: Then how can you choose which media will broadcast it and which will not? Who’s to be the judge of that, you?

Simić: We have the right in our premises to assess whether or not you’re doing it.

N1: Can you prohibit any citizen from entering the church port?

Simić: Can we do that? We can, this is our space, it’s not your space.

N1: It is not a space of Serbian citizens?

Simić: No, this is SPC space.

N1: How can you distinguish between media, who has the right to report on something that is of public interest?

Simić: We are not making a difference, we just want everything to go peacefully here. Unfortunately, your television has never before shown any of our events in a peaceful way. So, you have no business here.

N1: No event was depicted as in a peaceful way?

Simić: None, literally, none.

N1: Tell me what statements you write on your website, you sign in person…

Simić: It’s none of your business. If you don’t like what’s on the site, you can post a reply.

N1: What do you call colleagues from N1 and others?

Simic: They’re not my colleagues.

N1: I say – my colleagues from TV N1.

Simic: I don’t know, I didn’t write…

N1: You signed in-person statements on the website of the Diocese of Backa.

Simic: What do you mean specifically?

N1: You often mention us as a US television, foreign mercenaries…

Simic: Well, I guess that’s clear to everyone. What’s the problem with that? Isn’t it true?

N1: So, you, as the secretary of the Diocese of Backa, can publish such things on the SPC website?

Simic: Of course, as you have the right to announce on your website that this is not true. We are communicating in the same way, if you can write incorrect things that you don’t even check, I guess we can write about you things that are true and known to everyone. If that doesn’t suit you, then you can also say it on your website, in your news, that we are not telling the truth and support that with evidence. And so can we.

N1: You have now banned our television and the two of us as citizens from entering the church’s port to film the commemoration of the Raid…

Simic: You were banned by the Diocese of Backa, that’s a big difference, because you reported on church events within the Diocese of Backa.

N1: Why didn’t you inform our station in writing?

Simic: Because you didn’t inform us in writing you were coming.

N1: And have any of my colleagues written to you about our crew coming?

Simic: It’s none of your business. Maybe they have, maybe they haven’t.

N1: I know they haven’t. Your colleague was asking people at the entrance which station they were from. You’ve allowed Delta Television from Novi Sad in, N1 isn’t allowed.
Simic: TV N1 is not allowed in the churches of SPC and on the territory of the diocese of Backa. End of discussion. If you don’t like it, you can complain about it.

N1: Who do we complain to, excuse me? You, since you banned us from entering?

Simic: Tough luck, find some other institution.

N1: Excuse me, is a church official supposed to be saying such things?

Simic: Well, tough luck.

N1: I’m asking you, is a church official supposed to be saying such things?

Simic: And can you talk to me like that?

N1: You are now addressing the citizens of Serbia.

Simic: No, I’m talking to you.

N1: You are addressing part of the citizens of Serbia.

Simic: I am not talking to Serbian citizens now, but to you personally.

N1: To me personally? You and I don’t know each other.

Simic: Then what are we talking about?

N1: Then why are you talking to me like this? What have I ever done to you?

Simic: But what have I done wrong to you?

N1: Nothing, you’re not letting me do my job right now.

Simic: Your employer can contact the Diocese of Backa and ask that you come and do your job here and you will still get a negative response.

N1: You’re putting us in an unequal position again since none of my colleagues had to address you in writing.

Simic: There is no unequal position. When you position yourself towards all citizens of Serbia, including those who believe in God, equally, then we can talk about your status.

N1: Are you taking an equal stance towards all citizens of Serbia by not letting us in?

Simic: But you are not the citizens of Serbia, what are you? All citizens of Serbia? You’re an employee of a television company that’s not allowed into our premises, what’s the problem with that? This is a private space.

N1: Can’t you see the problem?

Simic: No, because this is a private space, it’s not state or public. That’s clear. If I’m breaking the law, please try getting in. Do come in, if I’m breaking the law.

N1: What do you mean, try to get in?

Simic: Please come in, if you don’t think you’re breaking the law.

N1: What law would we be breaking if we entered the church port, explain that to me.
Simic: It’s simple, the church port is the property of the Church and it’s not space where you can behave…

N1: Would we be trespassing?

Simic: Of course, can I come to your house uninvited? Can I or can’t I? I can’t. You’re not welcome here, and that’s clear. Because of your behaviour. When you change your behaviour, we can talk.

N1: And your behaviour is quite exemplary at the moment, thank you, goodbye, have a nice day.

The Monday’s event was a public gathering to which the Provincial Prime Minister’s and the Assembly Speaker’s office invited the media without any accreditation, the same as it was every previous year for the same memorial service.