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WORLD NEWS | Protesters surround Serbia’s state TV building, urge government to loosen media controls

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BELGRADE (Serbia), May 27 (AP) – Massive anti-government protesters surrounded Serbia’s state television building in central Belgrade on Saturday, demanding that autocratic President Aleksandar Vucic loosen his grip on mainstream media and allow other voices.

Thousands of opposition supporters, some chanting slogans urging Vucic to resign, poured into rain-soaked streets a day after the president’s followers held an equally massive rally in the capital. Most of his supporters entered the capital by bus from across Serbia and some neighboring countries.

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Outside RTS TV headquarters, the crowd whistled and booed loudly. State television, which is legally supposed to be impartial as a public broadcaster, has been openly supportive of the government, they said.

It was the fourth time since the shooting in early May that the opposition-led protests appeared to be turning into the biggest revolt against Vucic’s authoritarian rule in more than a decade in power.

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The rallies initially erupted in response to two back-to-back mass shootings earlier this month that killed 18 people and wounded 20, many of them elementary school children.

Other protest demands include the resignation of top officials and the revocation of licenses for pro-government media outlets that broadcast violent content and host crime figures and war criminals.

Vucic accused the opposition of abusing the shooting tragedy to achieve political goals.

Earlier on Saturday, he resigned as the leader of the populist party amid plans to form a broader political movement. Vučić named his close ally, current Defense Minister Milos Vucevic, as his successor.

On Saturday, protesters braved the heavy rain and held umbrellas, walking slowly around the RTS TV station building in the center of Belgrade, completely covering the streets of the entire area.

Many held flowers to honor the children killed and wore badges reading “bald eagle” or “hyena,” mocking the words officials used to describe the protesters.

Vucic said a new national movement will be formed in June to include other political parties, experts and prominent personalities and promote unity. Analysts said it was an attempt to restructure amid growing public pressure.

Critics say the movement could lead to one-party rule more or less like Vucic’s Vladimir Putin-led Russia.

During Friday’s rally, Vucic offered dialogue as he sought ways to ease mounting public pressure.

Opposition parties have pledged to continue the demonstrations until their demands are met. These include the ousting of the interior minister and intelligence chief; the revocation of the national broadcasting licenses of two pro-government television stations; and the dissolution of the media watchdog.

“If they don’t meet (the demands), we won’t leave here. If we need to, we’ll be here, every day, every week, anytime,” said Belgrade resident Milica Tomic. (Associated Press)

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)


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