I know that we live in a shitty part of the world. But getting pulled over by a police officer and suggesting that he requested a bribe from you simply because you misunderstood him is a new level of being a huge douchebag.
Watchdog reporter called Yaël Ossowski came to our region to cover the story of Libreland, a small (7 square kilometers) self-proclaimed country sitting between Serbia and Croatia. I don’t know if he published the story or not, but there was an event after it that got huge attention not just in Serbia, but in our entire region.
He was pulled over for speeding by a Serbian police officer near the border of Serbia and Hungary. The officer who stopped him did not speak English and he did his very best to explain to the journalist the law that applies for the speeding violation in Serbia. He remained calm during the process and once he realized that they can’t communicate and solve the issue on their own, the police officer decided to call one of his colleagues that spoke English.
To explain the procedure shortly, the price for speeding is 5,000 RSD (approximately 41 EUR). If the violator pays his fine to the police officer right on the spot, he does not pay the full amount of the fine. He only pays 50% of the fine, which is 2,500 RSD (approximately 20 EUR). In both cases, he needs to pay additional 45 RSD (approximately 0,4 EUR) to a post office, which is a tax that post offices take for transferring the money to the state. If a foreign citizen does not have the appropriate amount of money to pay his fine right on the spot, the police officer by Serbian law has the right to confiscate his passport for up to five days until the voilator pays his fine. The violator cannot pay his fine in a foreign currency. Serbia has their own currency (RSD) and unlike most of the Europe, they currently do not accept EUR as their official currency.
As the police officer tried to explain the procedure to the reporter, reporter claimed that the police officer requested him to pay 3,500 RSD. There’s absolutely no proof for this accusation anywhere on the video. You don’t need to take it from me, ask anyone who can speak both Serbian and English regardless of their nationality and they will tell you the same.
The video went viral all over Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Croatia. Now as you may know, those three countries were at war 20 years ago after the collapse of Yugoslavia. The nations from these countries still haven’t forgot about the war and there’s still a huge tension between those nations (especially in Bosnia & Herzegovina). And then, the reporter tweeted this:
It seems the nationalists have been set loose. Please read the description of the video. Cop was very happy to accept 50 euros in cash— Yaël (@YaelOss) June 4, 2015
Now let me tell you something. Uniting the citizens of these three countries over anything is a huge accomplishment for anyone. We do not consider ourselves as the same nation. As an example, if you say to a Serbian that he has the same nationality as a Croatian, in most of the cases, that would be considered as a huge disrespect and some people might even take it as an insult. The same thing applies vise versa. But the fact is that our languages are pretty much the same (I would say around 98%). We can understand each other perfectly, but we will never say that we speak the same language. This is why you have people from all three countries defending the police officer in the comments on the video. As a conclusion, calling us nationalists is just completely incorrect.
Now this video managed to go viral because the reporter showed a huge disrespect towards the police officer. In our countries, insulting the police officer (especially as a foreign citizen) is considered as an insult to the country that he represents. The violator and his colleagues even made a couple of jokes towards Serbia as a country throughout the video, disrespecting the whole country in the process.
The reporter was requested to sign a document admitting that he made a violation. The document was written in Serbian language and the reporter was not able to understand the document he was requested to sign. He has every right to complain about this issue and I’m pretty sure that the police officers would give him the same document translated to English if he followed them to a police station. Unfortunately, the police officers did not have the English version of the document at the spot. Eventually, the reporter went to the nearest exchange office, exchanged his money to an appropriate currency and signed the document he did not understand. After doing so, police officers returned him his passport and he was free to go.
As a reporter, Yaël behaved inappropriately. He tried to accuse Serbian police officer for something he did not do without any evidence supporting his claims. I’m not a reporter, but I am pretty sure that this is completely against his ethics. He still remains ignorant and he does not accept the fact that he is wrong, even though lots and lots of people tried to explain to him the process by commenting on his video, on the post he published on his blog and on Twitter. And on top of that, he is mocking the country of Serbia in the process, with tweets like this one:
I <3 Serbia pic.twitter.com/A4hveVLrAB— Yaël (@YaelOss) June 4, 2015
Now please, if you are visiting a foreign country and you get pulled over by a cop, show some respect. Don’t make false accusations. If you’re a reporter, don’t try to make the story where there is no story. And above all, do not insult the citizens of a foreign country and their whole country in the process. Yaël did not behave very civilized. Let this be an example to you how not to behave.