President accuses media and ministers of "spin"

President Tomislav Nikolic has said that "some ministers in the Serbian government influence the media to write negatively or lie" about his activities.

Source: Beta, Vecernje novosti
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In an interview for the daily Vecernje Novosti's upcoming May 1 holiday edition, Nikolic added that Deputy Prime Minister and SNS official Zorans Mihajlovic's statements about him "are not his, but the government's problem," and that for this reason, he will not be solving it - "or in any way set conditions for the government to do so."

"However, it is obvious that there is a disproportion of ambitions and capabilities and excessive interference in the work of all departments of the state administration and jurisdiction of the president of the Republic," Nikolic in the interview, excerpts of which his office has sent to the Beta news agency.

"I see the influence of certain ministers on the media, who are racing to write something bad or invent it and lie about me, but it's not my problem. This is the problem of those ministers and what are they imagining anyway, how high can they fly, instead of cooperating? Not only am I not criticizing them, I am not criticizing even their moves. If I have any objections, I say it to the prime minister, and never to the media," he was quoted as saying.

Nikolic added that he "knows exactly who releases certain information, half-truths or untruths that are coming into some tabloids".

Speaking about the recent incident when a government airplane he was traveling on had to turn back because of engine failure, and the subsequent reporting of "certain tabloids" about it, the president stated it was "morbid to talk about it mockingly and disparagingly, and accuse presidential advisors of telling lies."

"You know, when the plane is shaking, plunging, then it doesn't occur to you to make the most of it in the media. Although, I must say that it never occurs to you that you will die, either, because obviously, I am convinced of it now, a person has hope until the last moment," Nikolic said of the incident earlier this month.

The president added that he was "proud of his associates because in this dramatic situation not a sound was heard aboard the plane."

"When we landed, I congratulated the pilots, and they told me that there was something with the engine, but that they are not allowed to make a statement - yet they did. They gave a statement to the Directorate of Civil Aviation, I guess. This statement appeared in (the daily) Blic the next day. It did not come from any of us, because we did not even know that the pilot had 'spilled coffee' (on the instrument panel)," said Nikolic.

A report about the incident stated that the problems in the plane began after the co-pilot "spilled coffee and accidentally switched on safety slots." The pilots indicated that they then shut down one of the three engines, and as they could not restart it, the plane was sent to Switzerland for repair.

Nikolic said there was "media spin" of the story about spilled coffee, "and almost no talk about the problems with the engine."

"The report of the Directorate that the engine turned off is treated by the media with half a sentence. Who in their right mind can believe that spilled coffee can lead to engine failure? The very next day the Blic wrongly informed the public that the engine had been tested and was functioning properly, but in reality it was not working the next day so (the plane) flew to Basel without using this engine," said Nikolic.

In addition to her government role, Zorana Mihajlovic is also president of the managing board of the Civil Aviation Directorate.

"If a minister is chair of the board of the Directorate and is in direct contact with Blic, what else can I think but that the story about 'spilled coffee' came from there," the president concluded.

"Official version" doubted

The Politika newspaper on April 28 carried a statement of an unnamed pilot who said he doubted the official version of an incident which caused a government plane carrying President Tomislav Nikolic who had been traveling to the Vatican, to turn back to Belgrade.

The unnamed pilot, who knows the planes which government officials use for trips very well, said that he did not believe that the pilots could have caused the accident by spilling coffee over the instrument panel and thus accidentally triggering the emergency switch since these buttons were well secured precisely to guard against being unintentionally activated.

The source said that he was sure that the Falcon jet actually returned to Belgrade after experiencing a problem with one of its three engines, adding that the crew was covering up the real reason behind the incident.

The pilot said that the switch which the crew said they accidentally pressed when wiping the instrument panel off, had a special cover which protected it from being accidentally switched on, since one first had to lift the cover to reach the button.

The same pilot said that the stated loss of altitude, a drop from 10,200 meters to 7,500 meters, was also fishy and could only be explained as a result "of insufficient power for flight" at higher altitudes, which could have been caused by engine failure.

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