BELGRADE – Serbian anti-government protesters marched through the streets of the nation’s capital for the 43rd consecutive week on September 28.
The latest protests took place at the headquarters of Belgrade University amid allegations that the finance minister, Sinisa Mali, may have plagiarized his doctoral dissertation.
Students had been picketing the university for 12 days demanding to hear findings from a university council’s review of the minister’s doctoral dissertation.
Controversy regarding the doctorate began years ago when a group of experts ruled that Mali copied other people’s works but within the allowable limit.
Some professors, however, subsequently analyzed the work and found additional parts were lifted from different authors without attribution.
In May, the university's ethics council controversially announced that Mali's text did not amount to plagiarism, sparking outrage in some quarters.
The latest protests are part of a wave of demonstrations dating back to December when leftist opposition leader Borko Stefanovic was beaten by masked attackers in central Serbia before a televised political debate.
President Aleksandar Vucic has mocked the demonstrations, saying he wouldn’t fulfill protester demands -- for free and fair elections and that all members of parliament resign -- “even if 5 million of you come out.”
Since then, government opponents have rallied every Saturday under the slogan: “1 Out of 5 million.”
Meanwhile, the protesters headed for the newly renovated Republic Square, a site that critics say symbolizes corruption because its 10-million-euro reconstruction price tag is unjustified.
Some Serbian officials criticized the students for blocking the university building and the educational institution’s president, Ivanka Popovic, for standing with them, saying she crossed “the red line” by taking sides.
President Aleksandar Vucic appeared to mock the protests while speaking to reporters in New York at the UN General Assembly.
“Long live the rector [president],” he said.
The march ended back at Student’s Square in front of the university’s headquarters, where demonstrators covered two public cameras with tape.
They said the cameras were installed by the government and Chinese telecom company Huawei without public discussion.
“Nobody knows who records and where the recorded material goes,” said Srdjan Markovic, one of the rally’s organizers.“During the blockade of the rectorate, we discovered that the photos and videos that ended up in the Belgrade tabloids came from these cameras. This is an abuse of privacy. Those cameras are not entirely legal, and we are going to boycott them all over Serbia.”