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Fake Beating Stunt on Serbian TV Draws Criticism from Journalists

Image of "bleeding" journalist Šećerov on the live television show; image by Nikola Janković, Mondo sports reporter, used with permission.

Image of “bleeding” journalist Zoran Šećerov on SOS Channel's live television show. Image by Nikola Janković, sports reporter for Mondo. Used with permission.

The story began when viewers tuned in for a live program about football on SOS Channel, a national sports TV network. A guest on the show, veteran sports journalist Zoran Šećerov, entered the studio late, bleeding and visibly bruised [sr]. By the end of the program, however, viewers learned that it was all a ruse orchestrated by SOS Channel to “raise awareness of the issues in Serbian football” such as organized crime and corruption, an idea they say they borrowed from Italian colleagues who did the same.

As Šećerov entered, it was explained that he had been jumped and “brutally beaten by three assailants in front of the SOS Channel building”. Šećerov had what seemed to be visible cuts on his head and appeared to be bleeding moderately from the head, arms and torso, leaving viewers, who had expected a typical weekly discussion on football-related matters, in shock.

Among the first viewers to break the news and comment on social networks was Igor Krasnić, a journalism and communications professional:

JOURNALIST SECEROV BLOODY IN THE STUDIO, BEATEN BY THREE ASSAILANTS IN FRONT OF #SOS CHANNEL. SAYS HE WILL REVEAL WHO ORDERED [the beating]

— Igo® (@IgorKrasnic) October 20, 2013

The news traveled quickly on Twitter, and soon other viewers joined the program. Many were disturbed by what they saw and heard. The journalist, approximately 60 years old, was visibly injured and covered in blood. Those watching the show began demanding that someone call an ambulance and police to the SOS Channel building to give Šećerov the treatment he seemed to need.

Šećerov said he would reveal the names of those who “ordered the beating” later in the show and, of course, the audience's anticipation grew. Once the show's host asked him to reveal who the guilty parties were, Šećeroc laughed and said, “Two lovely makeup ladies from SOS Channel.” The injuries and blood that had frightened viewers into worrying about Šećerov were nothing but well-done makeup assisted by a little acting from the journalist.

Viewers flooded social media in disgust, condemning the channel's stunt and calling it “shameful”, “unprofessional” and a “bad joke”. Željko Ilić from Belgrade directed his comment at SOS Channel's official Twitter account, writing:

@nixonbelgrade @sos_kanal If there were any courage in Serbia tomorrow there would be nothing written about sports and we wouldn't watch it on tv #Secerov

— Željko Ilić (@KonkiBasketball) October 20, 2013

Slavko Beleslin, an editor and anchorman at B92 network, commented on the matter with his colleagues:

@Nikola330 @djoca @SuzanaTrninic @AnjaDmitrovic Not relaxed at all!!! This isn't a joking matter, it's rude and ultimately distasteful!

— Slavko Beleslin (@SlavkoBeleslin) October 20, 2013

Anja Dmitrović, a former popular television host turned PR professional, commented with similar outrage:

Everything for ratings #soskanal #secerov Shameful! And then they ask me why I don't work in tv anymore…

— Anja Dmitrovic (@AnjaDmitrovic) October 20, 2013

The shock and outrage most viewers and journalism professionals showed on social networks was a reflection not only of the state of media in Serbia, but also of the dangerous sports landscape in the country, which has produced many high-quality sports teams and players throughout the past decades. In 2009, now Prime Minister Dačić was quoted as saying that “half of sports clubs [are] led by mafia” in Serbia. The situation has only worsened in the meantime, and many politicians have since promised a crackdown on corruption and crime in the world of Serbian sports, particularly football, which still yields the highest criminal profits.

Though there have been some arrests in previous years, the mix of organized crime in Serbian and regional sports has only escalated, thus people don't seem so pleased with SOS Channel's twisted joke on account of the lurking and highly possible reality.

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