The tragic event at the “Vladislav Ribnikar” elementary school in Belgrade, the lost lives of eight children and the school guard, injured students and a teacher, hit us hard. In a country where two-thirds of the citizens feel hopeless, such an event was, unfortunately, expected. Lost young lives cannot be returned, but everything must be done so that nothing like this happens again.
Even in such difficult and tragic moments for Serbia, the government, unfortunately, does not stop shocking with populist statements and arbitrary assessments, deepening divisions, and misleading citizens. The government that, by capturing institutions, stifling media freedom and expression, promoting hate speech and intolerance, shapes public opinion, creating a dominant feeling of anxiety, must take responsibility.
We strongly condemn the statement of the Minister of Education, Branko Ružić, who, instead of offering his resignation, blames the “cancerous influence of the Internet, video games and Western values” for such a tragedy. The use of new technologies does not have a national or geographical sign, it has its advantages, as well as disadvantages, which benevolent, dedicated, and democratic societies systematically take care of. Schools, as Minister Ružić himself said, are not isolated islands, they are an image of the society that shapes them.
It is unfortunate that even such a tragic event is used for daily political purposes, to re-create a false image of the union of societies of which Serbia is a natural part and which is based on universal human values. We wonder what still needs to happen in order for the government to accept that, in the run for the rating, everything cannot be allowed; that it is time to stop reality programs that promote aggression and violence on TV stations with a national frequency; that the president of the country, who has the greatest influence in society begin to promote a culture of dialogue, foster a culture of mutual respect and understanding, and not anxiety and fear.
As long as we live in fear, without the opportunity and right to live and act as free people, such a tragic event can only be one of many.