By Sasa Dragojlo
Serbian Defence Minister Bratislav Gasic was fired by the country’s premier after sparking anger by saying he likes female journalists who “get down on their knees easily”.
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Monday that Gasic can no longer remain in the government after his “reckless” comment about female journalists.
“We need to protect women in Serbia. It was a bad message for all women. A minister cannot afford to say that,” Vucic told reporters, adding that Gasic is his personal friend and one of his most devoted ministers.
Gasic made the comment to Zlatija Labovic, a journalist from TV B92, during his visit to the Prva Petoletka Namenska factory in Trstenik on Sunday.
After Labovic crouched down to get out of her camera operator’s shot, Gasic said: “I love female journalists who get down on their knees easily”.
After being admonished by Vucic, Gasic made an apology for the offence he had caused.
“I want to publicly apologise to the journalist Zlatija Labovic and the Serbian public because of my disgraceful and scandalous behaviour. There is no justification for my actions,” Gasic said.
Before his sacking on Monday, the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia (NUNS) called for his immediate dismissal of Gasic and urged all media and journalists to “freeze any communication with the defence minister and boycott all events in which he participates”.
“We believe that after such vulgarity which represents the pinnacle of disrespect to the journalistic profession, but also due to some past mistakes… Gasic must be dismissed from his ministerial duties,” NUNS said in a statement.
Jovana Gligorijevic, a journalist from the magazine Vreme and creator of Twitter hashtag #novinarkeneklece (‘female journalists do not kneel’), told BIRN that Gasic’s sexism was a common phenomenon which shows how the authorities see journalists.
“First of all, it is a sexist assault on a woman, but it is also an attack on journalists in general. If we understand Gasic’s act symbolically, we can see that ‘kneeling’ shows the attitude of the authorities towards the whole journalistic profession,” Gligorijevic said.
Gasic was called upon to quit on several previous occasions this year, in connection with other alleged wrongdoings.
In September, Serbian’s Anti-Corruption Agency alleged that he had a conflict of interest when he awarded contracts to companies linked to his family while he was mayor of the city of Krusevac. Gasic denied this.
Also in September, Serbian Ombudsman Sasa Jankovic advised the authorities to dismiss him in connection with incidents during last year’s Gay Pride parade in Belgrade.
Opposition parties called on Gasic to resign over an army helicopter crash in March this year in which seven people died, including a five-day-old baby. He denied that he was responsible.