The perils of Sonja and Jelena
Ratko Dmitrović, Director and Editor in Chief of Serbia’s daily Večernje Novosti, writes (translation courtesy of the Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies):
How are the views of Kristijan Golubović [a convicted armed robber, extortionist, drug and arms trafficker] and his biography more dangerous for Serbian society than the views and biography of Sonja Biserko?
What are Sonja Biserko’s sins? This is what Dmitrović cites:
…she testified at the Hague in order to prove the genocidal proneness of the State of Serbia, making lists snitching Serbian intellectuals, professors, public figures…
Dmitrović puts Jelena Milic in the same category. Her sins? According to him, she
…claims that Serbia should have been bombed in 1999. That was, as she explains, the only way to prevent Milosevic’s crimes in Kosovo in 1998/1999.
These allegedly odious views make the two women as morally repugnant to Dmitrović as Kristijan Golubović, a notorious convicted criminal. Dmitrović can’t abide the two women having more access to the media than Golubović does.
Let’s leave aside whether Jelena and Sonja, both of whom I know and esteem for their courage and conviction, actually did and said what Dmitrović claims. They can answer better on that score than I can. The question is whether the editor of a major Belgrade newspaper is unable to distinguish between the moral effect of criticizing the (Milosevic) government’s behavior and the violent criminal activities of Golubović?
I imagine he can. But he doesn’t want to. He is using his freedom of speech–to which he is as entitled as Jelena and Sonja–to make their lives even more perilous than they already are. The implications seem clear to me. If they are endangering Serbian youth, shouldn’t someone do something about it? If they are more corrosive to Serb values, as he suggests, than the Russian-killing Rambo, shouldn’t someone stop them? Dmitrović is not alone in thinking this way. The Serbian People’s Movement Naši (NSP Naši) lists them among the 30 greatest Serb-haters and traitors among public figures.
I’ll leave it to the Serbian government and courts to decide whether these particular uses of constitutionally protected freedoms violate Serbian law. They certainly violate American sensibilities, which makes little difference under the circumstances. But both the international community and the Serbian government should be stating clearly that they dislike what Dmitrović is saying and regard the safety of Sonja and Jelena, both of whom live and work in Belgrade, as paramount.
Serbia has come a long way in the 13+ years since Milosevic fell. The recent election confirmed its future lies in Europe, where those who know Jelena and Sonja regard them as among Belgrade’s finest. They should not be made martyrs to a European Serbia, or asked to sacrifice their homes in order to be safe and secure.
PS: For more on what Jelena’s organization has to say about Serbia’s relations with Russia, see this. I find it amusing that a former prime minister has forgotten about Russia sanctioning Serbia, but I understand those who take it more seriously.