ISSN 2330-717X

Serbia Sacks National Library Head Over Montenegro Row

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By Bojana Barlovac

Sreten Ugricic has been removed from the helm of Serbia’s National Library after he voiced his support for a Montenegrin official accused of disparaging Serbia.

In a telephone session on Friday evening, the Serbian government sacked Ugricic as director of the National Library.

The move came after Ugricic expressed his support for Andrej Nikolaidis, a writer and the advisor to Montenegro’s parliamentary speaker, who wrote that he regretted that explosives hidden in Banja Luka’s sports hall in early January were not put to use.

The weapons in question were found in the sports hall the day before Serbian President Boris Tadic and Interior Minister Ivica Dacic went to the venue, along with top officials from Republika Srpska, to celebrate the Serb republic’s 20th anniversary.

The suspect in the case, Bozidar Stanisljevic, is currently being held in Bosnia on suspicion of terrorism.

Nikolaidis wrote that it would have been a “civilizational step forward if the explosives found in the sports hall during the celebration of Republika Srpska’s 20th anniversary had been activated.”

Nikolaidis later said that his quotation was taken out of context.

On Wednesday, Serbia sent a protest note to Montenegro over Nikolaidis’ statements. Podgorica then tried to calm the growing tension between the two countries with a message sent by the Foreign Ministry saying that statements made by Andrej Nikolaidis did not reflect Podgorica’s views in any way.

Ugricic was one of a number of Serbian writers and NGO representatives to voice their support and sign a petition for Nikolaidis.

The sacking has caused outcry among Belgrade’s intellectual elite.

Since 2001, Ugricic has served as Chief Executive of the National Library and has turned the institution into a modern national library that serves as an information resource and drive for the development of Serbian society.

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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