Thu, 18 Jul 2019

BELGRADE -- Serbian protesters demonstrating against President Aleksandar Vucic were forced out of the state-run TV building in Belgrade after storming the site two hours earlier in protests against what they called biased reporting.

Serbian police in full riot gear arrived inside the state TV channel RTS headquarters in central Belgrade on March 16 and move on the protesters, who included leaders from the Alliance for Serbia, a loose grouping of about 30 parties and movements.

After police appeared to attempt negotiating with the opposition leaders, they began evicting demonstrators by force, either by dragging out those who were sitting or pushing out those standing.

Some of opposition leaders inside the TV building had said they would not leave until they were allowed to speak on air.

The German dpa news agency reported that two opposition leaders, former Belgrade Mayor Dragan Djilas and right-wing lawmaker Bosko Obradovic, refused to leave and were carried out by police.

It was not immediately clear if the protesters had been arrested or allowed to go free.

Outside the building, people gathered to protest the police action, sitting on the ground face-to-face with riot police, who blocked the building entrance in large numbers but remained calm.

The unrest came in the latest in a series of weekly protests against Vucic and his government over the past 12-14 weeks.

'For the past months, we have been asking only for one thing -- to allow protest organizers to speak on the state television,' said Obradovic, leader of the Dveri political party.

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic warned the protesters to leave the building or be removed as police would 'protect all Serbian TV journalists.'

Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin told pro-government Pink TV that the protesters are 'fascists.'

The presidential administration said Vucic would address the nation on the protests at noon on March 17, according to the Tanjug news agency.

Demonstrators have been demanding Vucic's resignation, a more open media, and transparent elections.

The weekly rallies began after unknown people beat up an opposition politician in November.

Protesters have been accusing Vucic of stifling democratic liberties, cracking down on political opponents, and controlling the media. He denies the accusation.

With reporting by AP and Reuters

RFE/RL's Balkan Service

RFE/RL's Balkan Service promotes the values of democracy, human rights, and freedom of expression in a region where genuine media freedom remains elusive and where many media outlets remain divided along ethnic lines. Subscribe via RSS

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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