Brankica Stanković: Freedom is something that belongs to us

Insajder (Insider) began as a team of three reporters 15 years ago. Under the slogan "there is no compromise when it comes to revealing the truth", the team led by Brankica Stanković has uncovered substantial evidence of war crimes, corruption, crimes committed by the security services, the murder of the Serbian prime minister, privatization turned into embezzlement, hooligans and extremist groups, and the football, justice and construction mafia. Almost five years ago, they decided to step out of their existing framework, with the idea that the Internet was the right place for them, because, up until that point, they were the ones that pushed the envelope. After going online, Insajder stepped into “the world without borders”. Documentaries about Insajder were made in France, Germany, Scandinavia, Brazil and the region, while journalists from many reputable magazines from Europe and the rest of the world wrote about the success of this programme.

Brankica Stanković

At the beginning of this interview for Diplomacy&Commerce Magazine, Insajder’s creator, Brankica Stanković, says that Insajder demonstrates on the daily basis that “freedom is something that belongs to all of us”.

Insajder has recently published an article under the headline “The attitude of certain individuals from the opposition towards the media: You have failed!” which talks about the guest appearance of Sergej Trifunović at N1 television station. You experienced a similar onslaught when your guest was Aleksandar Vučić. What is the opposition’s and the government’s attitude towards the media?

We should not speak in general terms, but truth be told, individuals from the government and the opposition alike have no respect for the journalistic profession and journalists. They behave as if journalists are their collaborators and with their help, they can deceive the public, while constantly forgetting the fact that it is the job of journalists to control the work of the government on behalf of citizens and to act in the best interest of the public, not in the best interest of individuals. Realistically speaking, the situation is such because, among other things, the journalists allowed it to be so by becoming “buddies” with politicians, accepting their invitations to lunches and dinners and socializing with them. And then, after all of that, they are perplexed why there are “questions that should not be asked”. 

Insajder has clear rules for its entire staff. Many things are banned – from participating in any kind of protests to not being allowed to express their political opinions or insult someone via their social media accounts. The job of a journalist is 24/7. 

We take great care of Insajder’s reputation and credibility which we have been building up for years. As a result, we have the right to do everything for everyone and no-one has the right to call us and ask why we have published something or why we have not. They all know perfectly well that we would publish that immediately. After all, after 15 years of existence, we do not allow anyone to treat us arrogantly or berate us. As for the attacks that various journalists are exposed to, again, we should not generalize the matter. It is very dangerous when a tabloid is leading the attack against a journalist or an individual at the behest of a government or a power centre. It is literally like drawing a target on that individual's forehead. There are synchronized campaigns even against journalists who are responsible and professional in their work.

On the other hand, the attacks on social media against certain journalists are irritating but not dangerous. They are irritating because they reflect the backwardness of this society. Nowhere in the world people have an opinion about everything and know everything, and yet are not held accountable when they insult, threaten, accuse, tell lies and condemn. Just look at the case of an N1 anchorwoman who dared to ask Sergej Trifunović a question. The same kind of people also criticizes me for interviewing to the president of the state. Decent people will simply never allow such things to happen to them.

Today, anyone can declare themselves a moral authority even though they have not done anything important in their lives, and give themselves the right to insult and accuse journalists who do not want to be political activists but just want to do their job properly. On the one hand, this kind of people regrets living in a country where you will be judged because you are successful, while on the other hand, they give themselves the right to call anyone “a traitor, selling out to Vučić” for refusing to be part of a "group". The powers-to-be use the same rhetoric for anyone working for the opposition bloc. This is sick and dangerous and has nothing to do with the principles of a democratic state that everyone, at least declaratively, advocates.

We are constantly chasing our tail because we did not set up rules of behaviour. Hence, both the people in power and the opposition have allowed themselves to behave in an utterly arrogant way. The authorities bear most of the responsibility because they are the ones that create the overall atmosphere in society. In our country, the atmosphere is as such that we are permanently one step from a civil war.

Brankica Stanković
Brankica Stanković

What do you think of B92 TV station and B92 website today, considering that you worked for them back in the day?

I follow B92 just like I do any other media outlet. When, in 2015, after working for them for 17 years, I decided to leave, I also made a decision never to speak about them publicly. Everything I had to say about that TV station, I said during my working there.

Since 2004, when you launched Insajder, you have contemplated leaving the country several times. Why didn't you do it? What would you advise your daughter - to leave or to stay?

I don’t want to remove myself from my own country because of the people who are behaving as if they own it and because of all of us who live here. I could leave Serbia tomorrow if I wanted to because I have somewhere to go, but I don’t want to as yet. I have paid too high of a price just to pack up my stuff now and leave. I also think that we have done a lot of important things for all citizens that we, at Insajder, can be proud of. For years, we have been pointing to the misuse of the system, crime, embezzlement, injustice...

We are working in the best interests of all our citizens. We receive nothing from the state and we don’t misuse anything. On the contrary, we pay taxes and we adhere to this country’s laws which is what we expect everybody else to do too, especially those people that we, the taxpayers, pay. Citizens pay the government to do its job honestly and in the best interest of this country. Anyone who tried in any way to dispute our work was defending crime, misuse and embezzlement, and all that has been written down. Everything I do is for the sake of my daughter's future and the most important thing is that I know that, one day, when she grows up, she will be proud of me. I would not like my daughter's generation to be the generation that leaves Serbia. As far as advice goes, I am never going to tell her to stay or to go because she needs to decide for herself. It is my obligation to give her a happy and carefree childhood, to teach her the right values and to provide the best education possible for her.

What motivated you to continue being a journalist?

In a nutshell, I want to live in a state that is well-regulated, free, where the law applies the same to everyone, where rules are adhered to and diversity respected. I think that anyone who has the opportunity, and we, as journalists, have that opportunity, should do everything in their power to help Serbia to become such a country one day.

People who try to discredit Insajder claim that the programme is run by the police and that your stories come from the state security. What is your comment?

These claims are as old as Insajder itself. Many governments, many chiefs of police and many state security services came and went during that period. If such claims were true, we would be a worldwide phenomenon. Every single time we presented new evidence in our programme, they would come up with new conspiracy theories such as that Insajder was backed up by the BIA, the CIA and even the MI6. Over 20 people work for Insajder, we are all extremely committed to our work and nobody is backing us up. We are backing ourselves up.

This is clear to anyone who follows our work and is not malicious. For 15 years, we have been protected by strict adherence to the rules of the profession. Different people have tried to discredit our work with threats, lies and campaigns. Yet, despite everything, we are growing in number and strength. We were journalists even before this government came to power and we will continue to be journalists after it leaves. Our results, the awards and international recognitions we received are many. We don’t have any pending lawsuits. We exist because of the people who respect us and who trust us, and that is our strength. Everything else is fleeting.

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