Tens of thousands have rallied against the Serbian government in the country’s capital city of Belgrade, blaming it for promoting a culture of violence that led to two tragic mass shootings early last month.
Eighteen people were killed in the back-to-back shootings, half of them elementary schoolchildren.
The Saturday protests, called “Serbia against violence,” have evolved into some of the largest rallies the country has seen in over two decades.
This week’s protest was organised by several pro-European opposition parties. It saw demonstrators demanding resignation of the country’s Interior Minister Bratislav Gasic and Secret Service Chief Aleksandar Vulin.
The demonstrators also wanted the government to revoke the broadcasting licences of those television channels that promote violent content, and a ban on pro-government newspapers that stir tensions by targeting political dissidents.
Recent Serbian reality TV shows have been featuring convicted criminals, including murderers, and showing men beating up women.
Last week, protesters circled the building housing state-run RTS broadcaster, calling for resignation of its top directors and editors, and denouncing them for encouraging violent behavior throughout the society.
The Saturday protest was the fifth of its kind to take place in Belgrade since the early May shootings.
“I’m here for all of us, especially my children. So they don’t need to protest, but work and live in their country like they should,” a participant told AFP.
The government has so far stopped short of bowing to public pressure.
President Aleksandar Vucic has dismissed the rallies as a “political” stunt, alleging that they are being orchestrated by foreign powers.
Opposition parties that have been organizing the rallies, accuse the president of resorting to autocratic tactics to divide the opposition and keep media outlets and state institutions under his thumb.
Vucic has, in return, categorically rejected a key demand by the opposition parties for a transitional government ahead of new elections, saying it would not happen “as long as I live.”
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