Serbian caricaturist’s sacking and reinstatement unleashes debate over government influence

Serbian caricaturist’s sacking and reinstatement unleashes debate over government influence
Political arena, 2015, Dušan Petričić, published in Politika. Speech reads "Who says we don’t have an opposition?"

5 October 2016

In a somewhat confusing turn of events, Serbian newspaper Politika will reinstate its cartoonist Dušan Petričić, sacked last week for his depictions of the prime minister, after none other than the PM stepped in to defend him…

“Since the acting editor-in-chief of Politika, Žarko Rakić, notified me about the cancellation of our collaboration, I have had no contact with [the] management [...] nobody notified me about anything,” Petričić said in a statement to Balkan Investigative Reporting Network.

The cartoonist believes, however that he was fired for his portrayal of Prime Minister Vučić.

“The only real reason for my layoff is because they asked me to ‘tone down’ my caricatures of PM Vučić. Since I declined, this is the result,” Petričić commented.

Once this claim became public, Mr Vučić himself jumped to the illustrator’s defence.

“People who do not accept change, have an anti-government attitude and a personal hatred towards the PM should have their space in the media,” Mr Vučić said on Sunday.

Critics have warned that looks can be deceiving, however, and that this turn of events is anything but reassuring.

“The statement from the cabinet of the prime minister in which he advises Politika to continue collaboration with Petričić and Rakić‘s reply, in which he accepts it, shows the direct link between the government and the media,” Vukašin Obradović, the head of the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia, commented. “Censorship is on the rise in Serbia and this shows the relationship of the government with the media and its attitude towards society in general.”

The move by PM Vučić has been greatest with particular alarm given his frequent mentioning of Petričić‘s caricatures as proof that there is no censorship in the Serbian media.

Source: Balkan Insight