A book about Serbia

Serbia has never released a documentary book about something important, viewed from the inside, as it happens. In fact even in developed democracies is not a common publishing achievement.

Branko Čečen Source:

Brankica Stanković has announced just such a book: "Insajder, My Story" (Samizdat B92). This, however, is not the first thing that she was the first and only to do in Serbia. And she, as many people whose dealings she explored are aware with a deep sense of unease, does not deal with unimportant things.

The number of people who told her not to explore the things written about in the book, "for her own good", and also not to publish the book, was so high that it alone should be reason enough to read it. People who adore Brankica, people whom she irritates, everyone. Because, for all of them, she is an excuse that our country still has professional women and men who will do the right thing regardless of the consequences, because they would rather suffer than turn their heads away from the Great Robbery. We all know what it is. Mainly thanks to Insider.

Another important reason for reading this book is that the world to which it introduces us is, unfortunately, Serbia. Serbia is not Guča, it is not Exit, either. One journalist who, with her small team, constantly keeps the door ajar behind the political scenes where buddies are making deals or fighting over our money, our businesses, hectares, mines, our children using heavy drugs... That behind the scenes is Serbia. This reporter, who's just doing her job properly, is now being chased to be killed by the people whose interests she spoiled, who robbed, humiliated and abused us. They do not mean to scare or sue over lies, but to kill her. This is Serbia. While her murder is being organized, lawyers of criminals masquerading as fans are humiliating and insulting her in courtrooms while judges watch calmly and even add to the torture. This is Serbia. The country in which instead of awards, recognition and gratitude of the whole society, a top investigative journalist which colleagues around the world would pay in gold to have in their media - gets hired killers breathing down her neck, police protection, and (to put it mildly) relativization of her successes in the tabloids.

This, unfortunately, is Serbia. Insider, fortunately, speaks much louder and the respect that Brankica garners in Serbia, despite the occasional tabloid anti-campaign, is the second pole of Serbia - all the people who are aware of the problem, not ready to turn their head away. Miraculously, they are still hundreds of thousands.

Brankica is, like it or not, with the security, a walking conscience and honor of Serbian journalism. It provides thousands of colleagues and "colleagues" with an opportunity to, after each series, sit in cafes and say they already knew that, and that it was nothing new. Even if they did, they have only two questions they should, preferably honestly, answer to themselves: 1) If you knew, why did you not prove it, and 2) If you knew, and knew how to prove it, why did you not publish it?

If that is not enough for someone to decide to read the book "Insider, My Story," perhaps the ordinary, the best reader's reason: once you start reading it, as if through a secret door you enter Brankica's life, she bumps into you, and instead of pushing you back the way you came, she grabs you by the hand pulls you at fast pace in high heels through her emotional universe full of secret information, strong reactions, reliable sources, strong views, making uncompromising decisions, fanatical professional persistence, knowledge that would make much stronger people change their job in time, Insider's crazy successes, and the obstacles faced by which a person would almost be left to despair. It takes you through private relationships with friends, colleagues, relatives. As a silent witness, the reader attends incredible scenes, dangerous situations, moments of journalistic discovery, professional triumphs, secret talks, even dangerous car chases, and touching interviews, mental breakdowns, severe life crises caused by her, often unbearable, living in constant danger. Perhaps every page should have in small print in the corner, "not fiction." It is easy to get carried away.

I expected this book to tell me who's chasing the journalist to kill her and who's defending her. I expected exclusive "insider" information about Insider. I got that and much more. I did not, however, expect such candor on a personal level. Brankica is not inclined to share her feelings even with persons fairly close to her, except when he's angry (then she will be "sharing" without any hesitation or moderation). Now she ran her life into a book that is read just the same way - suddenly and intensely, with a measure of privacy that is decent - enough to understand the essence of her impossible life, away from the obscene reality and pathetic aesthetics of soft tabloid magazines.

Once she revealed to us who was looting and abusing us and in what way, and therefore found her self on the hit list of the most serious criminals we have, and nevertheless continued to work, Brankica Stanković has put us in the world which she otherwise aggressively defends - her own private battle for life such as it is, since she does not have a normal life without police escort. That took the kind of absolute commitment to truth and facts that was needed to create Insider, only this time, facing towards herself as well. In a courageous manner, just as she investigates, she let herself, such as she is, lead us through her life, such as it is. So who likes it, likes it.

For a normal person, the authorship of one series of Insider would be a strong argument to say that they had not lived in vain. Brankica Stanković made or edited more than a dozen, but now also wrote this amazing book. It is a warm story of a person who does not live on this side of the scenes in the dimension in which most of us spend our entire lives. These pages invite you to a ride in an armored car with a girl who leads a small group of guards of a narrow passage between the world of true Serbian strongmen and our everyday lives.

More importantly, they invite you to take a trip with someone who, in spite of everything still believes in life, truth and justice, and is ready to fight.

Branko Čečen is Director of the Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CIJS)

Brankica Stanković's Insajder, Moja Priča (Insider, My Story) was published by Samizdat B92

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