NGOs baffled by masked, armed police at IM's news conference
Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic's address during a news conference on Sunday was sidelined by the armed police that stood behind him during the event.Source: B92
NGOs said on Monday authorities reached for an unnecessary gesture, "as it could intimidate the public."
Members of Serbian Interior Ministry (MUP) and police special units stood behind Stefanovic as he spoke about a tabloid's allegations about Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic and his subsequent decision to take polygraph test. The presence of masked and armed police provided "an usual backdrop" to a news conference, NGO representatives said a day later.
Thus Sonja Stojanovic-Gajic of the Belgrade Center for Security Policy says the statements made by politicians "point out that they, too, are conducting the police's operative work, instead of leaving it to the professionals" - and that it is "wrong when these professionals are presented in public merely as the decoration for the minister."
The message sent in this way, she said, is that "the minister's safety is endangered, too, and we all should be afraid of something - but does not say what the state is doing to protect citizens."
Dragan Popovic from the Center for Practical Policy thinks the goal of the display was to "intimidate citizens":
"I cannot see any other reason for people with rifles, with masks on their faces to stand behind the police minister in a Serbian government building. Therefore it is completely inappropriate and has never happened before."
Popovic remarked that such scenes have not been seen in Serbia even when during states of emergency in the past, and that the armed police were "clearly not there to provide answers" during the news conference:
"In other words, you can ask them nothing, they look sort of grotesque, in full war gear and with rifles."
What emerged as the main story are the accusations that two Belgrade-based tabloids have been trading for some days. The story about "a suspicious person who observed the PM's apartment and could represent a potential threat" disappeared into the background.
"As for information about the alleged attacker on the prime minister, we received very scarce information, we don't know if this is in some way connected. We don't know anything about that case, I would simply like to hear from the prosecutor or somebody conducting the investigation, not from the police (interior) minister, not from politicians, to tell us all the details of this potentially fairly dangerous scenario," said Popovic.
Stojanovic-Gajic, meanwhile, thinks that both accusations - that the prime minister's security is in danger, and about "potential corruption" - are equally serious and should be seriously investigated - "but by professionals":
"Public should be informed during the investigation about the measures, not the expected outcome, especially not in a phase where, as we are finding out, only one investigative measure, and that is the polygraph (test), has been implemented."
Meanwhile, the police remained silent when asked why the minister's news conference yesterday was attended by numerous uniformed and armed policemen.
The posts on social networks about the same happening in other countries have not provided an adequate answer.