When a hug turns into a media lynch mob

For many, it was a heartwarming act of solidarity between men who fought on opposite sides of the 1992-1995 war. For government propaganda, it was an opportunity to stir up nationalist sentiment.

Tijana Cvjeticanin
Tijana Cvjeticanin Istinomjer, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Source: Istinomjer
When a hug turns into a media lynch mob - NewsMavens
Sadikovic & Dragicevic. Facebook

Why this story matters:

As Bosnia moves closer to October elections, the protests in Banja Luka -- now entering their sixth month -- are becoming increasingly inconvenient for the government of Republika Srpska. Consequently, the attacks of the government-controlled media are getting more aggressive with each passing day.

After trying to intimidate protestors by (illegally) publishing their personal data and peddling countless conspiracies about them, they have found their latest target in a person who came to show support for Davor Dragičević, the man who started the protests in attempt to get justice for his son's murder.

Both men participated in the 1992-1995 war, but not on the same side. When Samir Sadiković posted a picture of them hugging and holding their fists in the air, he wrote "You political mobsters and murderers, this is proof that those who fought on opposite sides stand today shoulder to shoulder. You can't divide us anymore. We won't give up fighting for justice."

Sadiković continued to document his support of Dragičević on his Facebook profile. One of those photos finally caught the attention of the pro-government media, who immediately turned him into a scapegoat of anti-protest propaganda. 

"After hugs between opposition leaders, we now have a hug with a butcher of Serbs. Where does this lead?", they published on Thursday, adding a false military rank that Sadiković never held (to make him seem more threatening). It continued on Friday, when Sadiković's friends were described as wartime snipers and "a group of Serb killers". On Saturday, Sadiković announced that he will sue them for slander. This effort was presented as a threat of violence against journalists. 

Details from the story:

  • The protests in Banja Luka are lead by Davor Dragičević, whose son David was murdered in March. His death was officially declared an accident.
  • Convinced that his son was murdered, Dragičević took to the streets. In the past week, he has been currently "camping" in the square, refusing to leave.
  • Since April, he has been joined by thousands -- occasionally tens of thousands -- in the central city square in Banja Luka.
  • Under pressure from protestors, the police of Republika Srpska has reopened the investigation, but after six months there are still no credible results.
  • Dragičević believes that a deliberate cover-up is taking place and that the police are protecting the murderers who are connected to the entity's political circles.
  • Milorad Dodik, the president of Republika Srpska who is running for a state presidency office in October elections, has recently threathened to "sweep away" the protestors from the city square.
  • It was the latest in a long line of threats and attacks coming from the entities' ruling party, which have gotten more frequent and more aggresive since the election campaign started.

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