BELGRADE, Serbia (Vianews) – At first glance, it barely seems newsworthy: a young woman got her university diploma, then started an internship, then got an employment. Amazingly, a story like this one reached headlines in Serbia, causing strong public backlash towards a woman. The problem is: it is not just any woman, but the daughter of Zoran Djindjic, the first democratically elected Serbian Prime minister, after the fall of the dictator Slobodan Milosevic in 2000.
Djindjic had limited time to modernize and reform Serbia: he was assassinated in March 2003 in front of the main building of the Serbian Government while arriving at work. His assassinators belonged to a criminal clan connected with war crimes. Their motive was related to Djindjic’s announcement, only a few weeks before his death, of new laws that were supposed to improve the fight against organized crime. He also announced the intention to improve the cooperation between his Government and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Djindjic’s tragic death left a strong mark in Serbian society, bringing him something he never had while alive: the recognition of public majority and the appreciation for the way he wanted to reform the country. After his death, his family, especially his two children, led a quiet life, far away from the public eye. Nowadays, 14 years later, his 27-year-old daughter faces public accusations that she betrayed her father.
Tabloids and social media users are merciless targeting Jovana Djindjic because she got a job in the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit, founded by the Serbian Government. The problem is that the current Government is ruled by people who were strong opponents to her father’s politics, and some of them, including Vojislav Seselj, chief of the party to which current Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic belonged at the time, stated they are glad that Djindjic is dead. Seselj even suggested that Zvezdan Jovanovic, the assassinator who pulled the trigger, should get the national Medal of Honor.
In circumstances like these, it didn’t take long before tabloids published “top news” that Jovana Djindjic, daughter of the late Prime minister “works for the Government led by people who considered her father a traitor. The headlines like “Jovana Djindjic in Serbian Government” induced an aggression by many Twitter users.
What happened in the next couple of days fulfills all the criteria of online abuse and harassment, with a disturbing level of misogyny towards this young woman. The most vocal were the supporters of the Democratic party, where her father belonged, which makes things even worse, considering the fact that this party has a reputation for modern and progressive political option.
The language they used to assault Jovana Djindjic in many tweets went way over the line straight to hate speech. She was harassed so badly, as if she reports directly to president Vucic, or as if she decided to become a minister in the Government.
Unfortunately, this comes as no surprise, if one knows political circumstances in Serbia. The general public is highly polarized. Very often, in any sort of political discussion, even among prominent intellectuals and scholars, there is a strange clash: if one doesn’t completely condemn absolutely every political decision of the current government, that’s wrongly understood as a support. It is the same on the other side, the ruling one that actually perpetuates this communication style: any sort of critic towards Government or President Vucic, either from the opposition or independent media, automatically gets declared for a betrayal of the country while critics are considered enemies.
So, what are the facts? Is Jovana Djindjic really working for president Vucic, her father’s longtime nemesis? Did she betray his ideals and principles? The answer to all this question is one simple no. She only got a job in a public administration, in one small body that deals with vulnerable groups. Her main assignment is to deal with issues of gender equality and human rights which is completely in line with her formal education, since she has bachelor degree in communicology and the master degree in social cognition, a sub-topic of social psychology that focuses on how people process, store, and apply information about other people and social situations.
While trashing Jovana Djindjic in tabloids and social media, users constantly repeated that the most important condition one has to fulfill to get a job in Serbia is to have a powerful father. But there’s a huge error in this argument: Jovana Djindjic does not have a father.