Starting from Zero: the Collective Identity of Serbian Journalists

Esmé Spurling

[S]he knew how to identify the political problems in our country and they just shut her down[…] but I think it was our government.” – Lena, [22] Journalism student Belgrade University Faculty of Political Sciences (2015)

As an individual with an interest in sensitive research topics, and an aspiring journalist, I remain conscious to the importance of consistent ethical consideration of participants when collecting data. Consequently, during Starting from Zero research project, I became focused on journalists in Serbia whose values and collective responsibilities have become censored by the government. I became confronted by the power of media distribution by the government whilst conducting a focus group with Belgrade’s University students at the Faculty of Political Sciences (2015).

Expanding on the above quote from Lena [22] student, who recognises established Serbian journalist, Olja Bećković, and her previous position in power of discussing topical political issues on her previous…

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Starting from Zero: the Collective Identity of Serbian Journalists

Serbia Narrative (DRAFT)

Opening:“Im a passport to adventure.”* a book

(intro of brief set   )

We will present our active group engagement of Belgrade’s culture, lifestyle and visual appearance in order to consider how a national identity has become re constructed after a historic period of conflict and manipulation. We will provide a visual consideration to Serbia’s artistic spaces and how these have become more recently restored by presenting to you the following themes: Control and manipulation; collective responsibility; and national identity – these themes will be identified by primary artefacts and by those of which have been shared by a range of participants.

Originally, concepts of power and national imagination became identified, prior to exploring Serbia.

Later we will identify a sense of surveillance culture that has become stimulated by the immergence of the digital world and the convieniance technology has become to offer though still restricting the values of a journalist.

“Visibility is a trap” (Foucault 1977:200).

In order to analyse this further, as a group, participants were contacted, established and connected with. Participants included a variety of voices that we have since listened to, from a series of expert and non expert interviews, a focus group with Belgrade University journalism students and immersing ourselves into a culture (ethnographic research) in order to fully expand how our knowledge is constructed that will therefore result in a greater understanding of how Serbia has had to start again from zero through the arts and visual mediation.

The connotations of riddles featured therefore relate to the current state of the national identify within Serbia: “The initial uncertainty it generated, however, does not simply evaporate, but lives on in our memory.” (Walsh 1998:113). An on going process that we will explore throughout this presentation and feature.

(brief overview of history?) – Adam?

An understanding of time and space during our visit at the Belgrade Fortress was preconceived and framed the way in which we have digested Serbia. Belgrade Fortress presents a response to time that is immeasurable and remains uncertain, which as will be later discussed, we have begun to realise is the current state of the national identity of Serbia: uncertain and an on going process of being established.

The (absent) discourse of speed and urgency is important for us to reflect on. Milan identifies a cruel optimism that suggests that we should look forward to a future of career and working life (DATE). However, the question we pose here is how can this become freely exerted in a state of control, which has been governed.

**Phenomenology – Merleau-Ponty (1945) “we can only experience temporality not know our own. If time stood still, if we would imagine it”.

The concept of imagination and social discourse of utopia originally became key for us to consider. This will be reflected in the concept of escapism through visual arts, media and stage performance by our experience within Belgrade (SUPERMARKET & Mikser).

The mediation of arts within Serbia has begun to re construct the nation, though it will be shown, how this process has not been as smoothly reformed as understood from our original understanding.

Beginning: “What can run but never walks, has a mouth but never talks, has a head but never weeps, has a bed but never sleeps?” (A river.)

We therefore draw upon the reality of time that can be constructed by others, such as those in power: government. Capitalism produced the social discourse that ‘money is time’ therefore time has become constructed as a resource and a commodity.

Contemporary culture has an obsession with possession and desperation for speed – therefore the send of speeding up time is presented but neglected within Belgrade. Considering an online networked society (Virilio 2000) there has become a type of ‘black hole of inter connectivity’ of which the layers of history has become formed, the layers of which has begun this sense of uncertainty of national identity that has trickled down to a younger generation that will later be assessed on how they become to escape from this collective responsibility.

(*a visual representation of layers can be shown through Belgrade’s numerous collection of street posters displayed, use Attwood for visual culture quote to show on the layers of history/ relating back to the history itself – adam Serbia dvds? A reflection?

It was important for us to consider our surroundings; space and how it is used in Belgrade in order to re construct our representation of how Serbia is using media to develop a national identity again.

(Adam) Irrespective of its size or locale, any space, provided it has been inhabited or maintained by humans, will carry a trace of their values and history. Architecture is an absolute medium, a physical and structural projection of the designer, and as such it will carry the sentiments of the cultures they originate from.

Belgrade is no exception to this rule, and its history seemed to be quite literally constructed around us, to the point where it was inescapable. Perhaps the departure from our native spaces played a part in our stark observations, I would argue that our pre-departure research and fixation on Serbia may had also had some effect on our perception, but ultimately traces of history and ideology manifest themselves everywhere: Sometimes it is the more abstract forms of representation, a building or a street for example, that bear the most explicit marks.

Therefore the idea of division and separation between the marginal and the cosmopolitan becomes increasingly important to consider: ‘the flow of time’ later becomes expanded through our analysis and recognition of the Serbian Government’s power to operate and distribution of media. Collective responsibility and memory remains to be considered.

“Build up”: “Pronounced as one letter,/And written with three,/Two letters there are,/And two only in me./I’m double, I’m single,/I’m black, blue, and gray,/I’m read from both ends,/And the same either way./What am I?” An eye.

“[An] unfinished state of an belated nation” (Ristic 2007: 193)

We will consier the notion of collective responsibility as a nation holds from consideration to previous research and expert interviews conducted during our visit to Belgrade (March 2015). We wish to emphasise the importance of memory, especially in spaces of corruption, manipulation and where time appears to stand still.

Considering our starting question: media artefacts are perceived to be collective memories in order to emphasise dates, events and individuals – however Serbia uses their own constructed media artefacts, such as music, to recognise a national identity. The production of music videos in Serbia (Reflect on the dvds??) have become apparent to show a timeline of Belgrade history that has become an on going process of reflection.

Leggewie (2013:101) identifies that European memory needs to be changed in order to “achieve full integration and collective identity”, Leggewie continues to suggest that a different memory needs to be reformed in order to completely re construct a new collective self-reflection of the state. Therefore emphasising the importance of memory, particularly within spaces of corruption.

Modules of power of the construction of the representation of the narrative are important roles to consider in order understanding that power is the ability to control narrative. A expert (semi structured) interview with Olja Beckovic (2015) provided an insight of the current state of media uncertainty that, in extract 1, can be identified as being the government’s power of the media, generating the voice of the people for them. Beckovic demonstrates in this extract her own role as journalist provides a sense of narrative power that was admired by the people.

Extract 1:

Esme Spurling: “So how would you describe the power of the media against the government of Serbia?”

Olja Beckovic: “I think all medias are under the control of government. So the prime minister is really obsessed with medias. And he controls everything, he watches all TV programmes and society networks and he knows everything what everyone wrote about him and he is all the time in problem and in conflict to discuss with journalists, ‘how dare you to ask the question and do your job’, he does not realise that it is possible to be on the other side of him he is sure that he is the best prime minister ever seen in the world.”

Beckovic (2015) immediately identifies the position of the Government in relation to the public media. Her identity as journalist and previous television presenter of ‘Impression of the Week’ (1991 until September 2014) should be acknowledged. ‘Impression of the Week’ hosted 3 guests that had the apparent freedom of speech to discuss recent news and provide comical insights, before Beckovic was asked to leave under B92’s instructions.

Therefore providing a platform for her audience to actively engage: Hasinoff (2014) points out that there is a certain ‘fear and promise of technology’ (2014:09). This ‘promise’ suggests the freedom of speech through technology that Hasinoff (2014) continues to suggest allows the user to adopt to a more dominant online identity, therefore taking into consideration the younger generation of Belgrade (accessing mobile technology that is more restricted) online technology can offer a ‘utopian democratic promise that users and viewers could become producers’.

Therefore we consider the sense of surveillance culture that can generate power over others, online and offline, stemming from Foucault ‘Panopticon Prison’ .

“We should admit… that power produces knowledge[…] power and knowledge directly imply one another” Foucault (1977:27)

Rose (2011) has more recently indicated that this type of surveillance culture has become a more dominant form of visibility “throughout modern capitalist societies”

Authenticity of new reports, globally though particularly within Serbia, becomes uncertain because of the unequal distribution of broadcasted independent press. Information that is received becomes censored before becoming under public scrutiny – therefore the understanding of reality develops to be obstructed with the truth. Websites were blocked, servers attacked and Twitter accounts hijacked in Serbia during 2014 – which made the reason for our specialist interview with CEO of independent media broadcasting organisation B92 Veran Matic more significant in order to gain a greater understanding of the state of media within Belgrade.

Tellmann (2009) continues to describe Foucault’s relationship to the silences of the ‘market based truth’ because of the ‘fractal-panopticon- that ceaselessly produces and co ordinates identity in accordance with the governmental rationality – again acknowledging the ability to purchase a voice ‘online’. It is interesting to consider the convergence to new media within Serbia and how this might produce offline consequences due to the nature in which media becomes (re)produced interaction occurs.

The Problem (middle): I have holes in my top and bottom, my left and right, and in the middle. But I still hold water. What am I?” A sponge.

Those already in power are able to redistribute thoughts and values from their economic backgrounds – in regards to technology. The restriction to only one type of voice that is not marginalised, therefore only one version of events can be listened to online whilst the other is only heard.

Losonc (60:2014) points out that ‘neoliberalism is projected to manage a complex of freedom and non-freedom’, as previously discussed with Beckovic (2015) who strongly suggested that this was the most restriction journalists in Serbia had ever been in terms of voicing their opinions – despite the advancement of global and public communication online. Influenced by Tellmann’s “Foucault and the Invisible Economy” (2009:5-24), Losonc (2014) continues to add that the structure of history is always a combination of the ‘visible and the sayable’.

Bojana: “B92 was closed down and Mr. Veran was taken to prison in 2000. After that ban, we changed the strategy and we placed transmitters around the neighbouring countries, so the programme was aired from there and it was… illegal actually. But, It was aired. It couldn’t be banned.

Mandy: What do the citizens know more or less about the truth at that time? How they know the truth at this time? Do they find it easy to get the information at that period?”

Veran Matic: “In Milsevic’s time it was hard to find the truth about the killings that took place on behalf of Serbian people in general. But the citizens were able to find the truth if they followed independent media, although those media were not as powerful as the state media, so many of them were not in position to find out the truth.

 

Solution: “I cover what is real and hide what is true, but sometimes I bring out the courage in you. What am I?” A Mask. To symbolise courage.

Literature can provide a sense of escapism and a sense of indulgence: young adults in Serbia have been bombarded with information upon information about the history of Serbia.

This can sometimes start to feel overwhelming for children to take in, so by reading Uros Petrovic books they can take themselves into their own world where they can gain a sense of who they are through their imagination. Growing up we get lost in a world that manipulates our minds to think in a certain way as we are always being told what is right and what is wrong so by reading Uros’s books on epic fantasies it allows Serbian children to create their own sense of identity with their own imagination.

An understanding of Dowling (2011:29) can re present the construction of knowledge of how visual arts can influence an audience: “a large part of self-understanding is the search for appropriate personal metaphors that make sense of our lives”. Therefore, emotional connection becomes established when reflection of memory and personal experiences of thoughts reframe a sense of imagination.

The layers of knowledge only restrict young peoples minds to explore a sense of the real. Uros Petrovic applies these same techniques when writing his books as he is allowing his audience to construct their own identity through what they read as this may be of more comfort to those children rather than having to live in the reality which is being forced onto them. Dowling (2011:02) continues to add, “sometimes we quietly hide parts of our identity and other times we loudly project it”. These books have become to form a sense of escapism that reforms identity, projected within printed words and expressed in the voices of a younger generation.

(*provide quote from university students!!!)

 

 

 

Conclusion:

Therefore beginning to expand on this on national identity and how this has been constructed through spaces such as Mikser (relating back to space/ time and responsibility) – (Adam) use mikser video??

Ongoing mixed opinions upon where the influence for Serbia national identity is/ where it comes from stems from: film TV and creative arts.

(using ideas from America and creative director (Charlotte) and the voices/ opinions of the students in juxtaposition to this (ES) upon America).

One day, Belgrade will become great again” – driver.

Serbia Narrative (DRAFT)

Escapism Through Literature

The children in Serbia have been bombarded with information upon information about the history of Serbia. This can sometimes start to feel overwhelming for children to take in, so by reading Uros Petrovic books they can take themselves into their own world where they can gain a sense of who they are through their imagination. Growing up we get lost in a world that manipulates our minds to think in a certain way as we are always being told what is right and what is wrong so by reading Uros’s books on epic fantasies it allows Serbian children to create their own sense of identity with their own imagination.

By indulging in to an epic horror fantasy it takes the mind into a place where individuals are allowed to identify their own cultural aspects. The layers that are now covering up the truth is only restricting young peoples minds to explore the real world.

In the paper of Constructing Identity, Identity construction by Susan J.Dowling she is trying to identify the affects her visual arts have on her audience. Through doing this she discovers that “A large part of self-understanding is the search for appropriate personal metaphors that make sense of our lives.” (29: 2011). So we connect with what we read and see by picking out what relates most to our personal thoughts and then from this individuals will form their own imagination. Dowling suggests that the more understanding we have of these metaphors is how we can then begin to understand the construction of our identity.

Uros Petrovic applies these same techniques when writing his books as he is allowing his audience to construct their own identity through what they read as this may be of more comfort to those children rather than having to live in the reality which is being forced onto them.

The personal metaphors that the children are relating to through Uros’s books is taking them away from the fakeness of their reality, as growing up they will become confused with what teachers, families or the media tells them. Serbian children now have to grow up in a world in which they have no true understanding of so their only escapism is now through visual arts and literature.

Dowling explains in her paper how “sometimes we quietly hide parts of our identity and other times we loudly project it”. (2:2011). Serbian children use the books as a form of escapism to create their own identity to find their true selves whereas the identity that they project is the identity which has been controlled and is not off their own accord. Two different types of identities have been created but the goal should be to allow Serbian children to express their personal identities out loud.

 

Dowling J, Susan. (7/10/2011) Constructing Identity, Identity Construction. [Accessed from] http://scholarworks.gsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1089&context=art_design_theses[27/04/2015]

Escapism Through Literature

“Im a Passport to Adventure”: considering our previous research.

Originally, concepts of power and national imagination became identified, prior to exploring Serbia. In order to analyse this further, as a group, participants were contacted, established and connected with. Participants included a variety of voices that we have since listened to, from a series of expert and non expert interviews, focus group with Belgrade University journalism students and immersing ourselves into a culture (ethnographic research) in order to fully expand how our knowledge is constructed that will therefore result in a greater understanding.

  • An understanding of time and space of the Belgrade Fortress was preconceived and framed the way in which we have digested Serbia. Belgrade Fortress presents a response to time that is immeasurable and remains uncertain, which as will be later discussed, we have begun to realise is the current state of the national identity of Serbia: uncertain and an on going process of being established.
  • The (absent) discourse of speed and urgency is important to reflect on. Milan identifies a cruel optimism that suggests that we should look forward to a future of career and working life. However, the question posed here is how can this become freely exerted in a state of control, which has been governed.
  • **Phenomenology – Merleau-Ponty (1945) “we can only experience temporality not know our own. If time stood still, if we would imagine it”.
  • The concept of imagination and social discourse of utopia is key to consider, and will be reflected in the concept of escapism through visual arts, media and stage performance. The mediation of arts within Serbia has begun to re construct the nation, though it will be shown, how this process has not been as smoothly reformed as understood from our original understanding.
  • I therefore draw upon the reality of time that can be constructed by others, such as those in power: government. Capitalism produced the social discourse that ‘money is time’ therefore time has become constructed as a resource and a commodity.

Contemporary culture has an obsession with possession and desperation for speed – therefore the send of speeding up time is presented but neglected within Belgrade. Considering an online networked society (Virilio 2000) there has become a type of ‘black hole of inter connectivity’ of which the layers of history has become formed, the layers of which has begun this sense of uncertainty of national identity that has trickled down to a younger generation that will later be assessed on how they become to escape from this collective responsibility.

(a visual representation of layers can be shown through Belgrade’s numerous collection of street posters displayed as constructed below:)

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“Im a Passport to Adventure”: considering our previous research.

Rejection of Serbian Media

The reality television genre, Volcic identifies, is founded upon staged social experiments that produce spectacles from representations of gender, class and race. In the Balkans, a fourth staple is added to the formula – ethno-national identity – in order to re-inflect the former three elements, but scholars such as Wilson (2005) are critical of how this medium reproduces stereotypes of race, gender, religious identity etc. instead of exploring them more thoroughly for the “post-socialist, neoliberal Balkan media environment” (Volcic 2012: 2). My analysis has taken the route of observing the ways that Serbian reality television reinforces a version of national identity, the prerequisite values that inform this perception of national identity, and how various audiences consume these media messages.

“Pink TV was one of the main promoters of the pop star Ceca… As Grujic observes, the nationalist portrayal of Ceca as both ‘mother of the Serbs’ and as hyper-sexualised Madonna/pop star ‘was not supposed to challenge patriarchal discourse but, on the contrary reinforce it’ (2009: 217). Her version of Serbian femininity, in other words, celebrates the link between patriarchy and national patriotism” (Volcic 2012: 2). Ceca is one of Serbia’s most popular female singers and has held that title since the 90s. It is not a coincidence that her popularity soared at the same time that Milosevic’s regime was at its strongest point. Her portrayal across the Balkan media can be rooted to her complex ties with the television station. “The relationship between gender and nationalism as been a recurring theme in Serbia’s aggressively commercial Pink TV station since it was started in the 1990s as a kind of commercial propaganda arm of the Milosevic regime… During this period, Pink TV helped to legitimate, normalise and institutionalise Serbian mainstream patriarchal nationalistic culture – a culture in which parliamentary war criminals and gangsters were widely celebrated as role models, and their female counterparts came to stand for a nationalistic symbol of Serbian femininity (Kronja 2001, 2006; Tarlac 2003)… [Ceca] became the wife of paramilitary leader Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan” (Volcic 2012: 2).

Essentially, Ceca’s image became idealised and endorsed through Serbia’s government as well as other branches of Pink TV, all of whom tactically used the standard to project views on the appropriate feminine performance and how it could be used to strengthen national patriotism amongst audiences. Ceca’s reignited these controversial messages each time she made an appearance on or became associated with various commercial and reality television. “Critics disparage Pink TV as nationalistic entertainment television with a Serbian sensibility, whose iconography represents a cultural threat to democracy, multiculturalism, the public sphere and gender equality” (Tarlac 2003, cited in Volcic 2012: 3).

Investigating the ways that particular groups view these media texts is paramount in that it illustrates the varying degrees to which Serbian audiences are willing to interact with Serbian-approved messages, as notions of corruption within certain television and radio networks are widely known of, just difficult to prove and put a stop to. What we discovered in our focus groups with the students of the University of Belgrade is that most of them are around Serbian media to an extent, but what they actively choose to tune into is predominantly foreign media. Their preferences are heavily influences by America, though they are sensibly critical of much of it. They are also aware of the cultural differences in American and British media and share strong opinions on them. What I found especially interesting was one part of our discussion:

Natalija: I found that I like the UK programmes more than the US versions. They can be any show like, for example, The Voice – I like the UK version because it looks more original and, I don’t know, looks more interesting to me –

 

Ilija: Original shows – they copied it

What I am perceiving in this discussion is that Serbian students are just as aware of America’s stereotypically artificial and exaggerated media than we Brits are. But what goes completely unmentioned is Serbia’s version of The Voice, in which Ceca is a judge to the contestants. Though it would be irresponsible to consider the students’ opinions as representative of all Serbs within that age range, it could be posited that those young people who are active within the media industry in Serbia, or seeking to do so professionally, are critical to the point of rejecting terrestrial television in their country, and thus rejecting certain value systems conveyed through an awareness of them. They choose instead to connect with the value systems of American comedy shows, British music, and Spanish movies, despite being geographically disconnected and underrepresented.

REFERENCES

Grujic, M. (2009) ‘Community and the Popular: Women, Nation, and Turbo-Folk in Post-Yugoslav Serbia’. PhD thesis, Central European University, Budapest

Kronja, I. (2001) Smrtonosnisjaj [Light of Death]. Belgrade: Tehnokratia

Kronja, I. (2006) Politics as Porn: The Pornographic Representation of Women in Serbian Tabloids and Its Role in Politics. In: Moranjak-Bamburac N, Jusic T and Isanovic A (eds) Stereotyping: Representation of Women in Print Media in South East Europe. Sarajevo: MediaCentar, 187–216.

Tarlac, G. (2003) Vojaski in Politicni Turbo-Folk [Militaristic and Political Turbo-Folk]. Mladina 12(1). Available at: http://www.mladina.si/dnevnik/21-03-2003-vojaski_in_politicni_turbo_ folk/

Volcic, Z. (2012) ‘Commercial and Sexualised Nationalism on Serbian Reality TV’. International Journal of Cultural Studies

Wilson, N. (2005) ‘Excessive Performances of the Same: Beauty As the Beast of Reality TV’. Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory. 15(2): 207–229

Rejection of Serbian Media

Case Study: B92 (Media blackout and censorship in Serbia)

Case Study: B92

Media blackout and censorship in Serbia

We study the state of media by a case study, that has been enhanced through a primary semi-structured expert interview with CEO of B92, Veran Matic : by comparing the past and current situations of the state of media in Serbia. B92 is a radio and television broadcaster in Belgrade, Serbia. “ B92 is the pioneer of independent Yogoslav broadcasting” (BBC, 2000). We have interviewed Mr. Veran Matic, the CEO of B92. He is also the president of Commission for investigating killings of Journalists in Serbia. There are two key soul men in our project. They are Slobodan Milosevic and Alexander Vucic respectively. Slobodan Milosevic became Serbian regional Communist Party President in 1986 and found dead in the jail in 2006. We focus on his dictatorship during his tenure. It is because “During the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s, B92 was one of the very few sources for news not controlled by Milošević regime – it became an exemplar of a free media” (Calebonia, 2013). Therefore, B92 become our target to study. However, even B92 is an independent media, it is still in troubles for so many times.

Interview with Veran Matic: Extract 1

Veran Matic: “Well, I believe you might know that I am in the media and act as editor in Chief B92 since 1989, so for 26 years now, and during Milosevic’s time, all independent media were gathered round Association of independent Electronic media (ANEM). And I was the president of this association back then and during that time, the number of media kept growing and in time of Milosevic’s fall from power, there was over 100 electronic media in ANEM, So, B92 tried to make some kind of parallel system to that of Milosevic and a lot of media campaigns, and we have tried to establish movements and civil society and in the process, B92 was banned for 4 times. But we always managed to somehow find a way to come back on the air. I was under arrest during the bombing, more precisely, I got arrested on the first day of air raids.”

(…)

Bojana: “B92 was closed down and Mr. Veran was taken to prison in 2000. After that ban, we changed the strategy and we placed transmitters around the neighboring countries, so the programme was aired from there and it was… illegal actually. But, It was aired. It couldn’t be banned.

Mandy: What do the citizens know more or less about the truth at that time? How they know the truth at this time? Do they find it easy to get the information at that period?”

Veran Matic: “In Milsevic’s time it was hard to find the truth about the killings that took place on behalf of Serbian people in general. But the citizens were able to find the truth if they followed independent media, although those media were not as powerful as the state media, so many of them were not in position to find out the truth.

If to trace back the history, Slobodan Milosevic was arrested because of the ethnic genocides during his tenure. In 1993, United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed the cases that have to interrogate the guilt of Milosevic in Hague Tribunal. B92 at that time did live trial via Satellite that let Serbian know what mistakes they have done. Several televisions broadcast stations at that time, only B92 insist to show the trial to citizens. B92 broadcasted the trial for 2 years continually that make people suspect there is a powerful organization or people supporting them. Where is the funding from B92? Why are they so rich? B92 got the funding from foreign source of donation- USAID. “The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the United States federal government agency primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid. The organization’s goals include providing economic, developmental and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of the foreign policy goals of the United States” (USAID, 2014). However, why the funding is from America?

From here, we can see during the era of Milosevic, the information is quite free. However, the situations keep changing to be worse. Alexander Vucic is the current prime minster since 2014. “Alexander Vucic is the most important and the only one who has influence and he really makes all the decisions of this country and that is frightened and that everyone knows” (Beckovic, 2015). As Veran (2015) also supported “The state of media in Serbia is rather complex and not so simple to describe because in Milosevic’s era it was all black and white and there was government and authority and the resistance movement and now it is all vague and rather complicated”.

Interview with Veran Matic: Extract 2

Mandy: From 2008 to 2013, there are around 348 attacks on media professionals happened in Serbia. Do you think communication could be changed to prevent these things?

Veran Matic: So the journalists face plenty of threats on a daily basis here, and we don’t have threats, but also attempts of assassination, I think you may know that assassination was attempted on our colleague Dejan Anastrasijevic, and the other days journalists were severely beaten up and the journalist killers were never found, the one who committed this assault was never found.

Interview with Journalism students: Extract 3

Another interview we have done are from the Journalism students in University of Belgrade found out what students are thinking about B92 and the current status of the state in Serbia.

Student2:        B92 would be one of my favorites.

Esme:             Its got quite a history of er, especially journalists as well.

Student2:        Yes but they change. Also, B92 is from the 90’s they changed a bit.

Student3:        They changed a lot.

Esme:              How did they change?

Student3: They became like fox news.

Esme:              So from the American influence?

Student3:         No! Just unprofessional and bad reporting I think it has to be much better and now they deleted the good shows. Like celebrity shows.

Student1:         And they become more commercial television than Fox! The television B92 was the only one you could say ‘ok they do investigate you’ journalism but todays there nothing.

 

Lena:               They have just done of the most important TV shows, political shows.

Esme:             This is with Olja Beckovic? We are meeting with her on Thursday.

 

Group:            Aww!

 

Student1:   She is really great!

 

Helena:            Lucky you!

Interview with Journalism students: Extract 4

Student 1:       Well, Olja Beckovic was a good journalist.

Esme:              Why did they shut her down?

Lena:              Well, it was ratings or something like that. But I think it was, its our government.

Natalia:           She raised a lot issues and subjects somebody from the government didn’t like that very much.

 

Lena:               The prime minister.

 

Helena:           ‘Alexander the great’. (Laughing)

 

Student3:         The prime minister in the 90’s was like the minster of communications and promotions and he learned how to control.

Student1:         That was the time of the biggest media blackout in Serbia and you can assume why the freedom of media within Serbia is at low rates.

(…)

The show that the students mentioned about is named “Impression of the week”. It is a political show that ran for more than 20 years until last year. Impression of the week is one of the most notable regular TV programmes by B92. To apply the example of panopticon from Bentham, the state of Serbia utilized the media power to ruin the relationship between the state and citizens. The citizens are living in a panopticon that is monitored by the prison administrators (people who have power in the state of Serbia). The prison administrators are located in the centre of a panopticon, so that they can monitor the mode of all prisoners (citizens). The prisoners only know they were monitored, meaning that the citizens could not know what is behind the state of Serbia. However, the state of Serbia government has the power to supervise every citizen. Foucault stated there is resistance where there is power. For example, “Beckovic has begun openly speaking about receiving telephone calls from Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, pressuring her to change guests and topics on her show”. (Radisic, 2014). Beckovic (2015) has indicated ‘ Belgrade is a very small country and Serbia are in different ways corrupted. Like the little newspaper stores, you need to be members of Alexander Vucic’s party’. The little newspaper stores she is talking about named ‘Moj Kiosk’. Our group sees these stores everywhere. Pavlovic (2014) also supported “Serbia is a country devoured by corruption and robbed of its resources through shady privatizations”.

Moj Kiosk (little newspaper store)
Moj Kiosk (little newspaper store)

Reference:

Pavlovic K. (2014). Living the Serbian dream: a look at Aleksandar Vučić’s election victory.Available:https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/koč-pavlović/living-serbian-dream-look-at-aleksandar-vučićs-election-victory. Last accessed 15th April 2015.

CaledoniaB.(2013).MediaWars.Available:http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2013/10/06/media-wars/. Last accessed 15th April 2015.

Radisic, D . (2014). The Silent Crackdown on Serbian Media. Available: https://globalvoicesonline.org/2014/11/25/the-silent-crackdown-on-serbian-media/. Last accessed 15th April 2015.

PUSHING SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY FOR A BRIGHTER FUTURE. Available: http://www.usaid.gov/philippines/press-releases/mar-6-2014-pushing-science-and-technology-brighter-future. Last accessed 15th April 2015.

Radisic, D . (2014). The Silent Crackdown on Serbian Media. Available: https://globalvoicesonline.org/2014/11/25/the-silent-crackdown-on-serbian-media/. Last accessed 15th April 2015.

Case Study: B92 (Media blackout and censorship in Serbia)

The Notion of Collective Responsibility and Corruption (Spurling)

Reflecting on our collective research, as a starting point, originally began to identify the spectacle of Serbia conflict by acknowledging its historical past and the manipulation of the government. Serbia’s national identity that previously ought to be constructed was described as an: “unfinished state of an belated nation” (Ristic 2007: 193). This suggests that Serbia’s identity, as a nation is an on going process that is to be identified. This “chapter” will consider the notion of collective responsibility that Serbia as a nation holds from considering previous research and a series of expert interviews that will generate an alternative view of the formalising of identity.

  • Is it possible to define collective identity in an ever –evolving space of multiple and cultural identities?

Leggewie (2013:101) identifies that European memory needs to be changed in order to “achieve full integration and collective identity”, Leggewie continues to suggest that a different memory needs to be reformed in order to completely re construct a new collective self-reflection of the state. Therefore emphasising the importance of memory, particularly within spaces of corruption. Correlating to the brief set, media artefacts are thought of as collective memory that emphasise dates, events and individuals, however we are interested in the experiences these individuals have and how this can shape their knowledge of Belgrade. Additionally, Semprun, prisoner at Buchenwald (1945) claimed that, “European enlargement could only succeed culturally and existentially ‘when our memories have been shared and brought together as one’” cited in Leggewie (2013:102-103). This already perceived perception of the “in limbo” Serbian identity is key to identify, because this generates a degree of uncertainty of what should be considered the ‘norm’ within contemporary society.

Issue no.179: “Belgrade Insight” (2015) presents a juxtaposition of articles that represent the corruption of destroying memory, the sacrifice of history for investment. A sense of erasing a context of an era is highlighted with the merging of uncertain identity.

Belgrade Insight - Belgrade waterfront project set to destroy nazi bunker

Modules of power of the construction of the representation of the narrative are important roles to consider in order to understand that power is the ability to control narrative. A recent expert (semi structured) interview with Olja Beckovic (2015) provided an insight of the current state of media uncertainty that, in extract 1, can be identified as being the government’s power of the media, generating the voice of the people for them. Beckovic demonstrates in this extract her own role as journalist provides a sense of narrative power that was admired by the people:

  • Extract 1:
  • Esme Spurling: “So how would you describe the power of the media against the government of Serbia?”
  • Olja Beckovic: “I think all medias are under the control of government. So the prime minister is really obsessed with medias. And he controls everything, he watches all TV programmes and society networks and he knows everything what everyone wrote about him and he is all the time in problem and in conflict to discuss with journalists, ‘how dare you to ask the question and do your job’, he does not realise that it is possible to be on the other side of him he is sure that he is the best prime minister ever seen in the world.”
  • ES: “But he is surveying what has been said about him? Why do you think that is, that he wants to know about what has been said?”
  • OB: “…er because very very long political history and he, he was seeking for powerful 20 years ago. So he wanted to be someone so many years and now when he is he dosnt want to loose that position. He wants to be there until the end of his life or ours lives. So really, it is something I think it is not political he really needs to be loved of everyone, and he has support covered by researches he has of 70% it is support, which no one ever had. But no he wants 100%, or more.”
  • (…)
  • OB: “[A] journalist is restricted more than they have ever been! So journalists are frightened because they know that if they say anything that he dosnt like (prime minister) such in my case, then they loose job. And er because, when you loose your job you don’t have any other place to find it so what are you going to do? And he knows that, so when you ask journalists is there a control of media they would say, ‘oh I don’t know I don’t know’ and hes just the guy who makes phone calls personally to journalists every day and he said “how did you say that how did you say that” and then when Ive done one, yes he called me a hundred times, when you ask any other journalist they would say ‘oh no he never called me he never called me’. And he really enjoys that situation he says look at that everyone says I never call so…”
  • Beckovic (2015) immediately identifies the position of the Government in relation to the public media. Her identity as journalist and previous television presenter of ‘Impression of the Week’ (1991 until September 2014) should be acknowledged. ‘Impression of the Week’ hosted 3 guests that had the apparent freedom of speech to discuss recent news and provide comical insights, before Beckovic was asked to leave under B92’s instructions. Therefore providing a platform for her audience to actively engage: Hasinoff (2014) points out that there is a certain ‘fear and promise of technology’ (2014:09). This ‘promise’ suggests the freedom of speech through technology that Hasinoff (2014) continues to suggest allows the user to adopt to a more dominant online identity, therefore taking into consideration the younger generation of Belgrade (accessing mobile technology that is more restricted) online technology can offer a ‘utopian democratic promise that users and viewers could become producers’.
  • Considering the ‘new’ identity Belgrade is reconstructing the virtual space online works as an advancement and a sense of escapism, as Boyd et al (2008) note the online space can be used in order to explore identities, which should be considered when its suggested that the identity of Serbia is yet to be reformed and is currently an on going process.
  • I find specifically interesting is the notion of ‘layers’ and the constant reconstruction process of identity, which can be visually shown through the use of self expression of street art:
  • As seen from Mikser House Festival (2014) to recently in 2015 where we documented the same street art. The ‘layer process’ that suggests complete reconstruction because the art is completely different and does not correspond to the 2014.
  • (2014)

street art copy mikser

  • Mikserfest %2c Guitarfest and Mikser Card

(2015)

IMG_0752

  • Power & Redistribution of Values:
  • “The rise of transnational media and globalisation are weakening, in this view, identification with the nation. They are also said to be eroding engagement in national politics since this derives ultimately from a sense of national belonging”. Curran,J. (1981:282)
  • It is interesting to consider the convergence to new media within Serbia and how this might produce offline consequences due to the nature in which media becomes (re)produced interaction occurs.
  • Those already in power are able to redistribute thoughts and values from their economic backgrounds – in regards to technology. The restriction to only one type of voice that is not marginalised, therefore only one version of events can be listened to online whilst the other is only heard.
  • Losonc (60:2014) points out that ‘neoliberalism is projected to manage a complex of freedom and non-freedom’, as previously discussed with Beckovic (2015) who strongly suggested that this was the most restriction journalists in Serbia had ever been in terms of voicing their opinions – despite the advancement of global and public communication online. Influenced by Tellmann’s “Foucault and the Invisiible Economy” (2009:5-24), Losonc (2014) continues to add that the structure of history is always a combination of the ‘visible and the sayable’.
  • Tellmann (2009) continues to describe Foucault’s relationship to the silences of the ‘market based truth’ because of the ‘fractal-panopticon- that ceaselessly produces and co ordinates identity in accordance with the governmental rationality – again acknowledging the ability to purchase a voice ‘online’.
  • Seaton & Curran (307:1997) comment, “The more wealth an entertainment system has, the more it shows programmes made specifically for its own audiences.” Therefore directly relating to B92, despite the audiences engagement with Olja Beckovic on “Impression of the week” (2014), the state-run institution, with purpose to provide state information to the people, decided to provide Beckovic with a difficult decision to choose to have her programme where she would have low ratings (eg daytime) and moved to a separate channel altogether. Resulting in Beckovic appeared to leave upon her own accordance. “A system unable even to understand its own self-interest, but blindly moving forward nonetheless” (Seaton & Curran 1997:311).
The Notion of Collective Responsibility and Corruption (Spurling)