On 26 May around 10.000 demonstrators joined the Waterfront protest in Belgrade. One month earlier masked men demolished buildings along the riverside where a state-backed complex is supposed to be built. According to activists from the organisation ‘Let’s not drown Belgrade’, who organized the protests, this was planned to clear space for the Waterfront project.
The biggest pro-government media outlets did not report about the ongoing protests. They either completely ignored it, or reported selectively on it. The issue of press freedom is currently debated in Serbia as more and more journalists complain of censorship. Just last week the highly valued public broadcaster of Vojvodina (RTV) faced dismissals as the ruling Serbian progressive Party (SNS) gained control over the province. Several journalist accused Prime Minister’s Vucic SNS of giving orders for the removal. However, the government denies any accusations of putting pressure on journalists.
According to a report of Ombudsman Jankovic, the city police ignored calls for help on the night of the demolition of buildings where the waterfront project is planned – a very prestigious project for Vucic. Later they claimed they did not know anything about the incident. After investigating the demolition event, he concluded that the police were complicit. He said: “These omissions in the work of the police are not the result of individual mistakes but were organised and implemented within the framework of a previously prepared plan.” Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic responded that he had not read the report yet, but said he was sure the police did everything they could to find out who the masked men are.
Eyewitness of the events of April 24, nightwatch Slobodan Tanaskovic, was tied up and his ID and phone were taken. According to reports Tanaskovic, who died on May 24, was hospitalised for a heart condition but was later treated for digestive problems. However, the exact cause of his death is still not released. With the latest protests, demonstrators paid their respect during a minute’s silence to Tankaskovic.