Serbian Magazine Scraps Cover That ‘Targeted’ President

NIN’s announced front cover – and the one changed later Photo: NIN (Illustration by BIRN)

The well-known Serbian weekly 'NIN' has succumbed to pressure to remove a cover shot of the President at an arms fair – which critics claimed contained an implicit invitation to kill him.

Maja Zivanovic , Belgrade , BIRN , November 28, 2019

A front cover picture on a Serbian current affairs magazine – showing a gun directed at the Serbian President – will not be shown in this week’s print edition after it drew sharp criticism, the owner of NIN, Ringier Axel Springer, has announced.

After NIN published the front cover on social media on Wednesday evening, ruling Serbian Progressive Party officials condemned it savagely, some insisting it was an invitation to murder.

“There will be no photo on the cover because the one already posted on social media was inappropriate in the opinion of the publisher, Ringier Axel Springer Serbia, especially in a country where the prime minister was killed,” the press release on Thursday on NIN’s Facebook page said. [A prime minister of Serbia, Zoran Djindjic, was assassinated in Belgrade in 2003].

The same press statement added that, although the front cover was now just an empty white space, the content of the article for which the photo was used remains unchanged.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic thanked the company on Thursday “for showing enough responsibility to change the front page of the weekly”, adding during her appearance on Pink Television that the picture appeared to “legitimise that you can do whatever you want to President Vucic”.

Tanjug news agency took the picture in 2017 at an arms fair. It shows President Aleksandar Vucic and Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik looking at a gun that is pointed at them.

NIN used the photo to illustrate a story entitled “Arms Affair: Who’s Destroying Krusik”, about a controversy that has embroiled the ruling party and the state-owned arms company, Krusik.

Leaked documents have revealed that the father of Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic mediated in Serbian weapon sales to Saudi Arabia, and paid below-market prices for arms from Krusik.

NIN managing editor Milan Culibrk initially denied that the photo was intended to encourage anyone to shoot the President. On NIN’s Facebook page on Wednesday, he said that “only the darkest minds could come up with the abominations attributed to NIN’s editorial staff over the front page”. He also asked why the photograph did not upset anybody in 2017, when it was first published.

But he declined to comment further, instead referencing the statement issued by the magazine owner. The Code of Ethics for Serbian Journalists says media publishers and owners “should not, at their discretion, change the editorial policy of the media without editorial consent”.

The article was republished from Balkan Insight.