Tens of thousands of people demonstrated against the government in Belgrade on Saturday, the seventh such rally in the capital since May.
Called by several pro-European opposition parties, the rallies accuse the government of promoting a culture of violence, particularly on television, following two mass shootings last month that claimed the lives of 18 people.
On 3 May, a 13-year-old teenager killed nine classmates and a guard at a school in Belgrade. Less than 48 hours later, a young man murdered eight people in two villages near the capital.
People initially demonstrated as a sign of mourning, but the protest turned into a vast movement of anger against the government of President Aleksandar Vučić.
Under the slogan “Serbia against violence”, rallies took place simultaneously on Saturday in Belgrade and in the country’s three main cities, Novi Sad, Kragujevac and Niš, where thousands of people took part, according to local media.
The organisers have warned that the movement will be extended to deri other towns if their demands are not met.
These demonstrations are the biggest since the protest movement that preceded the fall of Serbia’s former strongman, President Slobodan Milošević, in 2000.
The demonstrators are demanding that the government revoke the licences of television channels broadcasting violent content, and ban pro-government newspapers from exacerbating tensions by targeting political dissidents.
They are also calling for the resignation of the interior minister and the head of the intelligence services.
“Either the violence stops, or Serbia does”, Serbian journalist Smiljan Banjac shouted to the crowd in Belgrade on Saturday.
For years, the Serbian president’s critics have accused him of using increasingly authoritarian measures to muzzle the opposition and have the media and state institutions under his thumb.
President Vučić has dismissed the demonstrations as a “political” move and accused foreign powers of orchestrating them.