Media Coverage of the Belgrade Pride 2016

Date: 18 September 2016

Country: Serbia, Belgrade

Belgrade_Pride_2016Many Serbian media outlets covered the Pride Parade in Belgrade from the security angle reporting that the gathering of activists and citizens who celebrated LGBT rights was guarded by strong police forces and was held without incidents. The Serbian public service broadcaster, Radio Televizija Srbije (RTS), has also made sure that the security aspect appeared in the headline without providing live coverage of the event.

Although most of the mainstream media in Serbia didn’t use openly homophobic language, they are far from fair and inclusive reporting about the LGBT community. On the day of the Pride Parade, some tabloids used the opportunity to remind their readership of the “true values of the Serbian society such as family and Serbian orthodox faith”.

For instance, pro-government oriented tabloid Informer featured a heterosexual wedding couple’s photo under the headline “This is the true Pride Parade”.

Similarly, the Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said that he would rather go to the wedding of the former defence minister’s son than to join the Pride march. Vucic, who openly didn’t support the Pride Parade, said that “it was 4-5 times more wedding guests than participants in the Pride march”. The Serbian PM diminished the value of the event celebrating LGBT rights although he insists on his country joining the EU respecting democratic and human rights values and standards.

Sunday’s event in Belgrade is the third consecutive Pride Parade that has concluded without any violence. In the past, the march has been marred by violence, causing it to be banned for years. Many media reports highlighted the presence of strong police forces that secured the event, but some, instead of tackling the issue of human and LGBT rights, emphasised the Pride as risky and costly event.

What most media failed to say was that the police was keeping participants safe from hooligans and groups of citizens treating LGBT activists. Also, some readers’ comments[MP4] on social media platforms and newspapers’ websites stood out as offensive and with no understanding of the purpose of the Pride Parade, as well as human rights in general. Some readers complained because the traffic in the Serbian capital has been diverted and blocked for hours’, as well as because ‘the tax-payers’ money have been wasted on extra police forces’.

Human rights issues is something rarely tackled by many mainstream media in Serbia. For instance, Global Media Monitoring Project 2015 for Serbia showed that gender equality is a highly marginalised topic featured in only 3% of news. Similar situation is with any other human rights issue. The media coverage of the Pride 2016 is just another example of how the Serbian media outlets failed to address the human rights and LGBT community rights issues and to present them to the audience.