Dealing with sexual violence in Serbia: Loudly against the tabloids

The newspaper “Informer” does not want to remove an interview with a rapist from the Internet. This leads to massive protests in Belgrade.

Since the beginning of the year, 25 women have been murdered in Serbia. The protest also wants to shed light on that

BELGRADE taz | On Friday evening, over a thousand women and men with whistles and rhythmic drum rolls in front of the newspaper’s editorial building are unmistakable Informer marched in downtown Belgrade. Again and again they sing: “Not our tears, not our blood” and “No to the media, thugs to the prisons”.

Even if the protest is a little smaller this time: For the third time, angry, mostly young women are gathering for the feminist rally. The wave of protests was triggered by an interview with a convicted serial rapist who had just been released after 15 years in prison. The tabloid Informer published an almost hour-long interview with the man in its online edition at the end of September, in which he was allowed to unfold his fantasies of violence. He explained in detail how he had felt about his actions and even threatened further rapes. The print edition of the Informer printed the interview, with his face on the cover.

“We demand that the interview is finally deleted and that the media in Serbia appropriately report on violence against women,” says one participant in the rally, who has been there with her friends from the beginning. The interview can still be found on the newspaper’s YouTube channel.

The Association of Serbian Journalists and the Press Council had also criticized the publication. According to the Coalition for Media Freedom, the interview violates the Journalist Code and the Information Act. Providing a convicted rapist with such a media space is not justified, it said in a statement to the portal The publication re-traumatizes the man’s victims, but also all women who have experienced sexual violence in Serbia.

InformerEditor-in-Chief Dragan Vučićević defended the interview as “public interest”. “It’s our job to publish what even the biggest bastard has to say,” he told

Government funds media

The feminist collective Ženska solidarnost (Women’s Solidarity) called for the protests. He is not only concerned with the interview, but also with the “dignity and the right of women to a life without violence”. Since the beginning of the year, 25 women have been murdered in the small Balkan country. According to the Medica Mondiale organization, 62 percent of women in Serbia have experienced sexual violence. There are no reliable figures on rapes, as only a few women report such an act.

The protests are also directed against the Serbian government. “It cannot be that our government supports this tabloid with a lot of money,” says a young woman with a whistle on the sidelines of the rally. The government of President Aleksandar Vučić partly finances the media directly or indirectly – including Informer. She often puts pro-regime entrepreneurs at the head of media and publishing houses. This was the result of research by Reporters Without Borders and the investigative network BIRN (Balkan Investigative Reporting Network) back in 2017. As the largest donor and advertiser, the state then exerts considerable influence on reporting.

Since then, the situation has worsened, and the country now ranks 79th out of 180 in Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom rankings – and the trend is falling. Ahead of the April 2022 elections, Vučić was free to pull off his one-man show on TV shows and on the covers of major newspapers – while the opposition either didn’t feature at all or were discredited by the president.

Also the Informer follows the Vučić line: At the beginning of the Ukraine war, the newspaper headlined “Ukraine has attacked Russia!” The Serbian government is closely allied with Vladimir Putin’s Russia and does not support the EU sanctions against Moscow despite EU candidate status.

On Friday evening, men and women continue to march along the Belgrade shopping street to the rhythm of drums. “We will not remain silent!” they chant. They want to keep walking the streets until their voices are heard.