Thousands in demonstration against Serbian TV station after mass shootings

The demonstration attracted thousands of people in the capital’s streets (AP)
The demonstration attracted thousands of people in the capital’s streets (AP)

Thousands of people in Serbia’s capital have rallied outside a pro-government TV station that protesters say promotes a culture of violence and should be stripped of its broadcasting licence after two mass shootings stunned the Balkan nation.

The protest started outside the Serbian parliament building before thousands marched toward the Pink TV building in a residential area of Belgrade that also hosts foreign embassies and residences.

The protesters booed loudly in front of the station’s offices, chanted slogans against populist leader Aleksandar Vucic and his government, and threw rolls of toilet paper at the building.

Opposition politician Radomir Lazovic said of the station: “This is a factory of evil that has been spewing poison for years.”

Pink TV HQ
The Pink TV building, draped in the colours of the Serbian flag, during a protest in Belgrade (AP)

Serbia’s populist authorities have rejected any responsibility over the May attacks.

The president’s opponents, however, say hate speech and intolerance fuelled by pro-government media and officials have helped foster violence in a society still reeling after a series of wars in the 1990s.

Protesters have called for measures to be taken against Pink TV and another commercial broadcaster, as well as pro-government tabloids, after the shootings on May 3 and 4 that left 18 people dead and 20 injured, many of them children.

The anti-government protesters also have demanded the removal of key security officials and a media monitoring body during the street demonstrations – the biggest in years against Mr Vucic and his government.

Mr Vucic, a former ultranationalist who now says he wants Serbia to join the European Union but who has faced accusations of imposing increasingly autocratic rule, has dismissed the demands.

He has accused opposition leaders behind the rallies of exploiting tragedies in order to target him.

Serbia Protest
The demonstration attracted thousands of people in the capital’s streets (AP)

The shootings in May shocked Serbia, particularly because the first one happened in a Belgrade school when a teenager used his father’s gun to open fire on his classmates.

A day later, a 20-year-old shot randomly at people in a rural area south of Belgrade.

Critics have cited Pink TV’s reality shows, with their violent scenes and appearances by crime figures and convicted war criminals as being among the reasons why the TV station should lose its national broadcasting permit.

Dozens of guards were deployed during Saturday’s protest outside the Pink TV building, which was covered in a huge Serbian flag.

Smaller protests were also held on Saturday in several towns and cities in other parts of Serbia following a blockade of the main north-south highway on Friday.