Attempts to demonize protestors in Banja Luka fall flat

David Dragičević's death was declared an accident, but police missteps and lack of transparency have sparked demonstrations, with protestors gathering to demand a new investigation and greater government openness.

Tijana Cvjeticanin
Tijana Cvjeticanin Istinomjer, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Source: Istinomjer
Attempts to demonize protestors in Banja Luka fall flat - NewsMavens
Bosnian police. Pixabay.

Why this story matters:

Banja Luka is the informal capital of Republika Srpska (a legal entity within Bosnia and Herzegovina). It has been run by the same party, in a rather authoritarian manner, for over a decade.

In that time, it has established a routine strategy for dealing with dissent: pro-government media declare that any cause for protest has been instrumentalized for political purposes and claim that "secret services and international actors" are using it to attempt a coup.

This time, however, the strategy fell flat as protesters calling for a new investigation into David Dragičević's death gathered in unprecedented numbers. 

Now the unrest is spreading to other cities as well. 

It's an election year in Bosnia, so the stakes are high. By failing to deliver the desired effect, accusations of the "political instrumentalization" of the protests could actually become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Details from the story:

  • David Dragičević (21) went missing on March 18, and his body was found washed ashore the river bank in Banja Luka six days later.
  • The police declared that his drowning was an accident, but their contradictory statements and investigation conclusions lead his parents, and many others, to believe that he was murdered.
  • The slogan "Justice for David" is now spreading both offline and online -- a Facebook group with the same name has attracted close to 140.000 members from all over the region. 
  • The biggest gathering happened on April 21, prompting government-friendly tabloids and TV stations from both Serbia and Republika Srpska to step up the conspiracy theories a day before, to virtually no effect.
  • After a failed attempt to portray the protests as an international conspiracy, the Ministry of Internal affairs even threathened to sue David's father for his accusations against the police -- an action which is explicitly prohibited to public institutions by law.
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