Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (IJAS) condemns the pressure of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) on the Lazarevac Culture Center, which led to the banning of the screening of the documentary film by Ukrainian journalist Mstislav Chernov “20 days in Mariupol”, at the Beldocs festival. It should be clear to the public that a measure prohibiting the distribution of a cinematographic work or information can only be imposed by a competent court based on the proposal of the public prosecutor.
The screening of the film “20 Days in Mariupol” by Mstislav Chernov, which was planned to take place on October 11 in the Modern Gallery of the Lazarevac Culture Center as part of the Beldocs Echo program, was canceled.
The day before the scheduled screening, the Serbian Radical Party published a statement on its website in which it “calls on the leadership of the city municipality of Lazarevac and the Lazarevac Culture Center to cancel the promotion of Ukrainian journalist Mstislav Chernov and appeals to the competent authorities not to allow the promotion of this film anywhere in Serbia.”
Since the Radicals, as they say, support the Russian Federation, they were bothered by the “promotion of this extremely anti-Russian propaganda film of the regime from Kiev” and they wonder who is funding the showing of the film, as the entrance to the screening is supposed to be free.
Beldocs said that they are not behind this decision and that they will do their best to show this film again as soon as possible.
The Center for Culture has not made an official announcement regarding these events.
The film is about a team of Ukrainian journalists who entered the strategic eastern port city of Mariupol on the eve of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. During the siege and assault, they are the only international journalist team left to record the atrocities of the war and transmit their footage.
Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia considers it a defeat if the Lazarevac Cultural Center succumbed to the pressure of a marginal political group and decided to remove the film from its repertoire, which was shown at the previous Beldocs festival in May of this year without any problems.
It is clear that this is tacit censorship and a ban on distribution, which, according to the Law on Public Information and Media and the Law on Cinematography, can only be imposed by a competent court based on the proposal of the public prosecutor, which is not the case here.
IJAS condemns the pressure coming from the Serbian Radical Party and appeals to all political actors not to impose their ideology through culture.
We invite the Center for Culture of Lazarevac to nurture democratic values such as freedom of expression, as well as to fulfill the obligations assumed and hold the screening of the film “20 days in Mariupol”.
Also, we call on the authorities to respond to illegal pressures and ensure the smooth screening of the film.
Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia
October 17, 2023