International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

A Slovenian tabloid spreading Vucic’s lies about Solak

April 8, 2023

A story based on fabricated speculation has appeared on the front page of a Slovenian tabloid, alleging that the owner of the United Group, Dragan Solak, is a "double spy".

Serbian tabloids carried the story with even more bombastic and manipulative headlines. N1 Slovenia put the matters in context and managed to reveal the reasons why Serbian tabloids imported these texts more and more quickly.

As N1 Slovenia reports, Serbian tabloids, which, as they state, like the vast majority of Serbian media, are under the complete control of President Aleksandar Vucic, are once again full of reports about Dragan Solak, businessman and co-owner of United Group, which operates in several countries of the European Union and the Western Balkans.

As an example, they use the titles “Double Spy” and “The Great Discovery!”.

This is another attempt to discredit and spread lies about Solak, which are abundant in the Serbian media, N1 Slovenia reported, adding the United Group is practically the only independent media in Serbia that Vucic would like to get rid of.

They allege that the extent of the brutality of Vucic’s conflict with Solak’s independent media is also seen in the fact that he paid for the rights to broadcast matches of the English Premier League through the state-owned Telekom Srbija, at the price ten times higher than regular one.

The goal, according to N1 Slovenia, was only for the media owned by Dragan Solak to “get down on their knees”.

Telekom Srbija, which is a state-owned company, paid an incredible hundred million euros for these rights per season, or 600 million for six seasons, although, for instance, in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the transmission costs only about 25 million euros per season.

This is just one of the latest examples that shows how brutally Vucic is dealing with Solak’s independent media in Serbia, and the attacks on the media under Vucic’s control must also be understood in this context.

However, according to N1 Slovenia, the latest discrediting attempt did not start in Serbia, but in Slovenia, where United Group also has significant investments, including Telemach and N1 Slovenia online portal.

Of course, the Serbian tabloids immediately “imported” the article of the Slovenian tabloid portal, which claims to “have exposed Solak’s Russian connection in the heart of Europe.”

At a time of war in Ukraine and Western sanctions against Russia, this is certainly one of the worst possible forms of discrediting.

The Slovenian portal targets Swiss lawyer Wolfram Kuoni, who was previously one of the board members of United Media Network AG in Switzerland, as Solak’s “Russian connection in the heart of Europe.”

This “discovery” is supported by the allegations that he was previously a member of the board of directors of the Swiss branch of Gazprom Bank, that he also has Russian clients as a lawyer and that his wife sympathise with Russia.

But the facts are as follows – United Media Network AG cancelled cooperation with Kuoni last year. All telecommunications operators that are part of the United Group stopped broadcasting Russia Today during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which even resulted in Vucic’s media reporting that Solak was denying the public’s right to information.

Also, N1 Slovenia reminds, the United Group donated a million euros of humanitarian aid to Ukraine last March.

On the other hand, Vucic’s Telekom Srbije continues to broadcast Russia Today unhindered, even though this Russian state television is on the list of Western sanctions, which Vucic apparently does not take into account.

In addition, an affair exposed by independent journalists and with European Parliament member and special rapporteur for Serbia, Vladimir Blicik, in the spotlight, is strongly flaring up in Serbia these days.

It was revealed that Bilcik was at a meeting where the contents of the draft report on Serbia’s progress in the EU accession process were agreed upon alongside the proposal that the state-owned Telekom Srbija should not be mentioned in the report.

It is the fact that the Serbian president, who actually plays both sides and flirts with the West on the one hand, and on the other hand constantly maintains an open door policy with official Moscow, is not choosing means in his conflict with Solak, who in the business world is considered a very Western-oriented businessman. This is exactly what has been a thorn in Aleksandar Vucic’s side for years.

The portal Uncensored reported that he also made a secret pact with the then Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa.

Namely, according to this media outlet, prior to the last year’s elections – those in Serbia on April 3 and in Slovenia on April 24, they allegedly agreed to abuse institutions in both countries in order to gather information about their political opponents.

According to the portal, the Office for the Prevention of Money Laundering, which was headed by Damijan Zugelj during the time of the Jansa government, allegedly checked the transactions and accounts of more than a hundred persons in Slovenia without authorisation.

However, in the end, according to unofficial information available to N1 Slovenia, the prosecution rejected the lawsuit, which was then filed against Solak together with the financial administration by Zugelj’s cabinet.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/a-slovenian-tabloid-spreading-vucics-lies-about-solak/

EFJ President - Ana Brnabic’s moves are reminiscent of some dark times

April 8, 2023

Maja Sever, president of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), told N1 that although we are witnessing the wave of populism all over the world, which is very “convenient” for politicians to blame the media and journalists for everything, what is happening in Serbia goes “a step further.”

Commenting on Prime Minister Ana Brnabic’s targeting of media on Twitter, she said it was unbelievable that Brnabic has time to engage in an organised campaign against the media in these times of crisis.

“Doesn’t that woman have some important job to do for the citizens of Serbia? This latest post is actually scary and reminds of some dark times. That suggestive music, graphics, messages… I don’t understand the point,“ says Sever.

She also wonders why media wouldn’t be allowed to speak about President Aleksandar Vucic.

“Vucic is the president of Serbia and the job of journalists is to write about him. However, everything he does is very dangerous, and at a time while in many European countries and with representatives of state institutions we are asked to build a system for the protection of journalists so that we can freely and safely do our work, which is important for society and democracy, organised attacks on journalists in Serbia start from those who should build a safe environment,” the EFJ president said.

Brnabic recently published a video on her Twitter account, which said that President Aleksandar Vucic appears more often on the front pages of the Danas and Nova dailies than on the front pages of pro-regime tabloids.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/efj-president-for-n1-ana-brnabics-moves-are-reminiscent-of-some-dark-times/

Internal Affairs minister reports to Parliament committee

April 7, 2023

Serbian Internal Affairs Minister Bratislav Gasic said on Friday that the number of crimes in the second half of 2022 dropped by 1.2 percent and added that law enforcement services solve three percent more cases.

“The number of crimes against life and limb dropped by 3.5 percent, and the number of property crimes dropped by 4.3 percent,” he told the Serbian Parliament Defense and Internal Affairs Committee.

Gasic said that 69 percent more high-tech crimes were discovered in the second half of 2022 as well as 90 percent of environmental crimes with an 11 percent drop in the number of public order misdemeanors.

“The security situation on the borders is stable with more than 42,000 people prevented from crossing the border illegally,” he said.

Rescue services rescued 909 persons in more than 14,500 operations.

The minister said there was a small number of cases of ethnic violence against Serbs and non-Albanians in Kosovo.

He said that 2,678 kilograms of of drugs were seized with a drop in the number of drug-related cases.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/internal-affairs-minister-reports-to-parliament-committee/

Montenegrin President condemns Srebrenica genocide, Dodik condemns him for it

April 7, 2023

The newly elected President of Montenegro, Jakov Milatovic, said that his position on the genocide in Srebrenica is very clear and that he condemns all the crimes that took place.

“The International Court was very clear and made a decision regarding Srebrenica… It is very important that the International Court somewhere individualized the genocide in Srebrenica. My position in this sense is very clear, the Montenegrin parliament also passed a resolution when it comes to Srebrenica. It is very important that as a region, together, we pass judgment on the past, which was difficult. The past that had a Srebrenica, but also Jasenovac, the past that also had things in Montenegro like the great crime in Piva, Velica… These are all things that I clearly condemn,” Milatović told Al Jazeera Balkans.

Milatovic defeated the then incumbent President and candidate Milo Djukanovic in the recent elections. For some, it was characterized as a step away from Europe, and a step closer to the “Serbian world,” while for others the end of one of the last dictators of Europe – Djukanovic.

Dodik condemns Milatovic

The President of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated Republika Srpska (RS) entity assessed that “Milatovic is judging Srebrenica in the same way as his predecessor.”

“Referring to the judgments of the International Court, and not mentioning the great suffering of Serbs in and around Srebrenica… shows that Milatovic chose to flatter Sarajevo without hesitating to insult the Serbs and Republika Srpska. It's a shame, I thought that the anti-Serb policy in Montenegro was defeated,” Dodik said.

He assessed that the Montenegrin President would never have been elected without the votes of Serbs, and that fact obliged him to show minimum consideration for that electorate.

“I still think that Milatovic is a less bad choice than Djukanovic, but he is also a less difficult opponent to replace than Djukanovic. The next time they vote in Montenegro, Serbs should know whom and what policies they are voting for. It’s clear that this time they voted against Djukanovic and not for Milatovic,” the RS President concluded.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/montenegrin-president-condemns-srebrenica-genocide-dodik-condemns-him-for-it/

Republic of BiH Army officer acquitted of war crimes in Brcko

April 7, 2023

The Appellate Panel of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina rejected the appeal of the Prosecutor's Office as unfounded, thus confirming the first-instance verdict acquitting Hazim Fazlovic of the crime against prisoners of war in Brcko in 1993, the State Court announced Friday.

The Court said that Fazlovic was acquitted of the charge that, while performing the duties of commander of the Third Battalion of the 108th Motorized Brigade of the Army of the then Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, he could have known that members of the Intervention Unit of this battalion had captured 11 members of the Republika Srpska Army, abused them and ultimately killed them.

The Prosecutor's Office stated at the appeal session that there had been significant violations of the provisions of the criminal procedure during the trial, as well as wrongly and incompletely established factual situation, requesting a guilty verdict.

On October 25, 2022, the proceedings against Fazlovic were separated in relation to Admir Rizvanovic, Smajilo Omerovic, Jasmin Huskanovic and Ramiz Pljakic, against whom the charges were dismissed.

The decision was made after the Court found that Rizvanovic, Omerovic and Huskanovic were legally acquitted in 1996 in the proceedings against them conducted in absentia. The charge against Pljakic was dismissed for procedural reasons.

This verdict is final.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/republic-of-bih-army-officer-acquitted-of-war-crimes-in-brcko/

Serbian authorities step up attacks on United Media journalists

April 7, 2023

United Media called the Serbian authorities to react to the latest statements by public officials which are endangering its journalists.

“United Media is calling all judiciary institutions and law enforcement to react immediately over the latest statements by public officials in Serbia who openly called for the persecution of the free media and the rights of our journalists, jeopardizing their security. We are warning that the open call which recalls a lynch order was immediately picked up by regime-controlled media once again proving that they take orders from the same person who they obey blindly.

“Using the tried and tested model of calls for a lynch and intimidation which Zeljko Mitrovic’s TV Pink implemented in a video about (Kosovo Serb opposition leader) Oliver Ivanovic who was gunned down, TV Pink have now targeted journalists in Nova, N1 and Danas in the latest 2 minute video authored by person or persons unknown. Following the tragic result of the first video, also unsigned, aired on the same TV, we are openly asking Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) if they will stop this even more horrific persecution of our journalists whose safety has been put in jeopardy by their media.

“Instead of demanding to know who gave the orders and who made the threats received every day by journalists Zaklina Tatalovic, Marko Vidojkovic, to find out who is keeping N1’s Kragujevac correspondent Milan Nikic under surveillance or asking who is behind the TV Pink video which targets United Media authors and journalists, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic has been approving those attacks in her public appearances. Instead of ex officio demanding safety for all journalists in Serbia, Brnabic has been stepping up the witch hunt on our media as something problematic that does not wish the Serbian president well.

“We are warning international organizations and European institutions that we are being subjected to unprecedented persecution and a radicalization of the media scene and we are calling them to analyze the latest steps taken by the ruling establishment and their media before it’s too late. United Media is calling the international community to take the situation in Serbia much more seriously as well as the negative campaigns against our journalists whose safety they jeopardize daily,” United Media said.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/serbian-authorities-step-up-attacks-on-united-media-journalists/

Vucic-Statement on Kosovo elections next week

April 7, 2023

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said after a meeting with Kosovo Serb politicians that a joint statement would be made in the next week covering a number of issues including the April 23 elections.

He said that Serbs in the north and south of Kosovo are angry with the authorities in Pristina and over the silence of the international community. “The dissatisfaction of our people over the violations of the agreement on license plates and arrests is peaking. My idea was to agree a stand today but that was not possible so I withdrew it,” he said. “We are working on conclusions. The Serbs are in a horrible situation with the terrible repression waged by the Kurti regime with the silence of the international community,” he added.

According to Vucic, a platform will be agreed before the next meeting with the Kosovo Serb politicians in Raska which will be attended by the prime minister. He said that Pristina’s only desire is to remove the Serbs from Kosovo, adding that this will never happen because it is their home.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/vucic-statement-on-kosovo-elections-next-week/

United Arab Emirates to abolish visas for BiH citizens from June 2023

April 7, 2023

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) will abolish visas for Bosnian citizens from June 2023, the UAE embassy told N1 on Friday.

BiH Foreign Minister Elmedin Konakovic met in Sarajevo with his UAE counterpart Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and hinted at this by saying that they talked, asked questions and received encouraging messages about the cancellation of visas for BiH citizens travelling to the UAE.

“It’s a country with which we normally have good relations, we don’t have any outstanding issues, but it seems to me that the potential for our cooperation is underutilized. It’s a country from which a large number of tourists visit us every year, with which we have established direct air connections to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and this clearly shows that the space for cooperation is very large,” Konakovic said, among other things.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/united-arab-emirates-to-abolish-visas-for-bih-citizens-from-june-2023/

Bosnia will certainly join NATO, Defence Minister says

April 7, 2023

Bosnia and Herzegovina's Defence Minister Zukan Helez says that his country will certainly join NATO and that politicians who do not want this to happen will not be able to stop this process.

Speaking in an interview with the Sarajevo-based Oslobodenje daily on Friday, Helez said there is strong support within NATO for Bosnia and Herzegovina to join the alliance.

“People from NATO are willing to help Bosnia and Herzegovina to be admitted to the alliance as soon as possible. These politicians with negative rhetoric will not be asked about it. They can only talk, but we are doing our job, and BiH will be a NATO member,” the defence minister said.

He said that the new government is ready to strengthen the defence sector, adding that this is the first time in years that the state budget provides for an increase in defence spending, which totals around €45 million for this year.

The increase in the defence allocation was opposed by politicians from the Serb-dominated entity of Republika Srpska and its president, Milorad Dodik, as the most vocal opponent of Bosnia and Herzegovina's NATO membership bid.

Bosnia  has been granted a NATO membership action plan, but other than the obligation to submit annual plans for reforms and their implementation no time frame has been set that would lead to full membership.

Dodik insists that the country should remain militarily neutral, and considers NATO membership acceptable only if Serbia joins the alliance.

Since its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has also become openly opposed to the possibility of BiH joining NATO. Its ambassador in Sarajevo, Igor Kalabukhov, has threatened that in that case, Moscow will take appropriate countermeasures.

Kalabukhov said earlier this week that Moscow still regards Bosnia and Herzegovina as a friendly country, calling for closer ties between the two countries. At the same time, he stressed that Moscow has the right to take “both symmetrical and asymmetrical measures” in response to any hostile actions against Russia.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/bosnia-will-certainly-join-nato-defence-minister-says/

Schmidt warns FBiH politicians to form govt, says no more final calls

April 7, 2023

International community’s High Representative in BiH Christian Schmidt addressed the public Friday, saying that he expects the blockade in the Federation (FBiH) entity to end soon, saying that this is his final call for an agreement and that political actors have this obligation to the citizens.

“The election results cannot be fully implemented even though the support of the majority in both houses of the parliament exists for the vote in favour of the Government formation. I will remind all political actors of their responsibility to enable government institutions to do their job,” Schmidt said at the beginning of the press conference in front of the Office of the High Representative building in Sarajevo.

He noted that the continued functioning of the current FBiH Government, which is in a technical mandate, would not be in accordance with democratic practice and would not reflect the will of the voters.

Schmidt pointed out that the FBiH is in a political deadlock and split between political blocs.

The High Representative said that the present situation in the FBIH entity is about the struggle of political parties for power, and not about the struggle for the survival of the people.

“Maximalist demands, intimidation tactics and non-acceptance of political reality will not help FBiH to move forward,” the international community’s envoy said.

The current standstill cannot last, he said, adding that the FBiH must function because a strong Federation is needed for the functioning of the state.

Finally, he added that he expects the politicians to find a solution to the blockade as soon as possible and ensure the formation of a government that has the support of the parliamentary majority.

“There will be no additional final calls,” Schmidt concluded.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/schmidt-warns-fbih-politicians-to-form-govt-says-no-more-final-calls/

Serbian president says Danas, Nova journalists are liars

April 7, 2023

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic called Danas and Nova daily reporters “big liars” at a news conference on Friday.

He said that media prove themselves to be big and successful by insulting him and called journalists liars. “They are big, not small, liars just like their political representatives,” he added.

Asked to comment Prime Minister Ana Brnabic’s claim that those two dailies (owned by United Group) devoted most of their front page headlines to the president, Vucic said he thought it was a joke. “I thought I was joking when I said they did that to improve circulation… but it’s true,” he said adding that the two dailies published hate insults and lies about him but that he would not be suing them.

Vucic said he wants the offense of insult decriminalized, adding that the proposal is good for journalists. “I am not fully prepared to support that initiative, I am partly prepared to support the idea of journalists being allowed to voice insults and for that offense to be decriminalized. It can’t be decriminalized for me but it can for journalists,” Vucic said.

According to him, all journalists should thank pro-regime Informer tabloid owner Dragan J. Vucicevic for that because he “laid bare the false Serbian elite” by going to jail. Vucicevic refused to pay damages ordered by a court under a private law suit filed by journalist Jugoslav Cosic over insults posted on Twitter. He was released after less than 2 days in jail when the court-ordered damages were paid into the state budget.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/serbian-president-says-danas-nova-journalists-are-liars/

Osmani-No autonomy for Serb municipalities

April 7, 2023

Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani said Serb municipalities in Kosovo cannot have autonomy and that, as President, she would not allow for the Kosovo Constitution to be violated.

Osmani told the Pristina media that Kosovo already has guarantees that its Constitution will not be overstepped.

“There is no autonomy. Everything that would emerge from the Kosovo Constitution has to be ratified in parliament, so the MPs will ultimately decide on something like that. However, as President, I would at no time allow this in violation of the Constitution, or in violation of the decisions of the Constitutional Court that has defined the parameters regarding the rights of Serbs and their organizing in Kosovo,” said Osmani.

She added that the Kosovo delegation is working on the details regarding Article 7 of the agreement reached in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue and that everything is based on previously established principles.

The first principle, she said, is the Kosovo Constitution, so “there cannot be autonomy in violation of the Constitution.”

Osmani said the second principle is a 2015 Constitutional Court decision and other principles laid down by the Parliament that “refer to preserving the country’s integrity and sovereignty and its internal functionality, known as the principle of unitary state. “

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/osmani-no-autonomy-for-serb-municipalities/

Aleksic-Early elections are a must

April 7, 2023

MP and deputy leader of the opposition People’s Party Miroslav Aleksic said early Belgrade and parliamentary elections are a must and that they should be called as soon as possible.

Aleksic said Kosovo and Metohija (the official name for what the Serbian authorities consider to be the state’s southern province) can only be saved by overthrowing Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic’s regime, and added that, while his regime is in power, the state will never be able to defeat the general plundering and corruption.

“Unfortunately the institutions are not functioning in Serbia and elections take place only when Vucic thinks he needs them. Vucic said last night that elections will be held when the opposition says,” said Alekic, stressing that Vucic has been deceiving and lying to the citizens for ten years and what no one any longer believes anything he says.

Early parliamentary elections should be called immediately in order to prevent the implementation of the Franco-German agreement.

“This government needs to be replaced, the citizens must not allow Vucic to implement the Franco-German agreement. In addition, we are witnessing uncontrolled plundering and destruction of all state resources and institutions, which is why Vucic and those around him must be punished by being resigned to political history,” said Aleksic.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/aleksic-early-elections-are-a-must/

Vucic with the Roma-We won’t allow marginalization of anyone in Serbia

April 7, 2023

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told a meeting with the representatives of the Roma national minority that the state will continue to work dedicatedly on eliminating all social inequality and that it will not allow for any community in Serbia to be marginalized in any way.

Vucic met in the Palace of Serbia in Belgrade with representatives of the National Council of the Roma national minority and members of the Serbian Parliament and Vojvodina Assembly to discuss the problems the Roma face in society, ways to improve their position in the social and political life, education, social protection, employment and promotion of Roma culture, said a press release issued by Vucic’s office.

It added that they informed Vucic in detail on the current issues and problems in the Roma community, and on proposals for improving the current policies in various segments in an effort to help overcome the challenges the Roma population faces.

The President noted that many projects have been implemented in the field of politics, education, employment, entrepreneurship and social inclusion, through which the Roma community was provided with additional support and assistance.

He said work is being done on many projects in order to further strengthen the Roma community and encourage it to proactively participate in joint work on Serbia’s development and progress.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/vucic-with-the-roma-we-won-t-allow-marginalization-of-anyone-in-serbia/

Zelenovic-We demand immediate elections in Belgrade

April 7, 2023

MP and co-president of the opposition Together political party Nebojsa Zelenovic said that this party demands that Belgrade elections be held immediately.

The Together party has been preparing for elections for a while now, it has organized primaries in Belgrade and will soon also have them in Novi Sad, said Together in a press release.

“We demand, first of all, the holding elections for the Belgrade City Assembly. Belgrade is managed by an illegitimate government, and the councilor majority in the capital did not win a majority of citizens’ votes in the previous elections. (Belgrade Mayor Aleksandar) Sapic’s government causes incalculable damage to the citizens of Belgrade on a daily basis. The cowardice and deceitfulness of the top government is the one thing standing in the way of organizing elections in the capital, which will allow for the true will of the citizens to show. That is why the Together party demands new elections in Belgrade, and immediately,” stressed Zelenovic.

Party of Freedom and Justice leader Dragan Djilas recently asked Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to name a date for Belgrade and parliamentary elections, noting that Serbia is at a crossroads and that its citizens should say whether or not they want a European Belgrade and a European future for Serbia. Replying to Djilas, Vucic told the Serbian state TV (RTS) that he never promised Djilas any dates for Belgrade elections, except that they would be held “when he asks for them.”

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/zelenovic-we-demand-immediate-elections-in-belgrade/

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