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Vranje-based weekly closes, founder starts hunger strike

The founder of the Vranjske weekly, that was closed on Monday, and former NUNS President Vukasin Obradovic has begun a hunger strike.

Source: B92, Beta
(Tanjug, file)

Beta is reporting on Tuesday that he has done this "to draw attention to the pointlessness of the fight for media freedom."

"I do not want to employ pathos, but this is a move of a desperate man who sees no other way to end his journalistic career while at the same time keeping at least the minimum personal respect and dignity necessary to feel like a human being," said Obradovic.

He sent a letter to his colleagues from the email address of the Vranjske a day after it was announced that after more than two decades, this newspaper had ceased to exist.

Obradovic added that he was unable to separate journalism and Vranjske from the rest of his life, and did not want to turn the other way and trample on what he fought for the whole time, trying to push the boundaries of freedom and democracy in the town of Vranje and Serbia.

"I was not, unfortunately, very successful in that. Neither I, nor you. And it's time to face this fact. I have no illusion that this act might change anything in this unfortunate country immersed in dishonor, amorality, intellectual and professional prostitution. I do not even want to play the hero because I'm not one, above all, because I'm terribly afraid for the future of my, but also your children. But there is an even greater fear that I cannot help them in any way. I'm not asking for anyone's support. I will even consider such offers to be hypocritical. Because, when that made sense, I encountered closed doors," Obradovic said.

He added that this was "only a gesture of a desperate man, journalist, father, and husband who is unable to cope with the reality that everyone is getting used to."

"It is precisely because of the fear that I myself might sink into this meaningless everyday life and lose the only thing I have left - human and professional dignity - that I have decided to take this step," Obradovic added.

The Vranjske founder added that "does not have and will not have" anything to to add or clarify on this subject - and asked the public to "respect his decision."

Reports on Monday said that the print edition of the weekly and the website would be closed, as the company that published them was facing bankruptcy.

Unofficially, the reason behind the decision was "a grave financial crisis."

On Tuesday, the BIRODI think tank said that the closure of Vranjske showed it was necessary to "reexamine the concept where the media are predominantly a thing of the market" and described free media as "the bread of democracy."

The Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia (NUNS) and the Independent Association of Journalists of Vojvodina said the shutting down of the weekly, which they said was "among the best and the best-regarded local papers in Serbia" was "a direct consequence of long-term political pressure on media freedom, and terrifying news for media professionals."

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