Cartoonist Miloš Dragojević has been using the Stripom protiv Diktature (Comics Against Dictatorship) Facebook page to make scathing comments about the political situation in Serbia. Several of his latest comics deal with the government's lack of transparency about the source of the COVID-19 vaccines and the reactions of the population.
In a statement to Global Voices, he explained why he started doing the digital cartoons:
Sa radom na kreiranju strip tabli na Stranici “Stripom protiv diktature” počeo sam tako što sam tražio način da izrazim bunt i iskažem neslagsnje sa stanjem u svojoj zemlji. Istovremeno želeo sam da što više ljudi vidi taj moj izraz. Tako sam našao efikasan način da kroz strip satiru ismejem, ali istovremeno i ukažem na loše pojave u društvu. Pre svega medju političirama.
I started working on the cartoons for the page “Cartoons against the dictatorship” because I wanted to express my rebellion and disagreement with the situation in my country. At the same time, he wanted as many people as possible to be able to see that expression. I found satirical cartoons to be an effective way to ridicule and expose bad news in society. In particular those made by politicians.
Although the Serbian government headed by President Aleksandar Vučić initially downplayed the danger of the pandemic, after the elections in June there was a change in tone and the president assumed the role of protector of the people from COVID-19. On July 15, Vučić announced that he was in contact with a certain country that had already developed a vaccine and that it would be available in Serbia before the end of 2020.
When journalists asked which country the import would be from, Vučić refused to reveal that information. He only said that “he would soon sign a protocol for cooperation, but I cannot say the name of the country.”
However, two weeks later the Serbian president announced that he had met with the Ambassador of the People's Republic of China, Chen Bo, and “reiterated his gratitude for the support that Serbia has received from China and President Xi Jinping, especially for the help provided during the coronavirus pandemic, ”and noted that obtaining a vaccine was one of the issues they discussed.
Because the clinical trials required for a vaccine can take several months, and even years, much of the public was skeptical about the quality of these medical products. This skepticism was reflected in this cartoon with alleged claims by Vučić and Xi.
On August 11, Russia announced that it had produced a vaccine against COVID-19. Pro-government media, politicians and social media users in the Balkans began to praise the controversial development, in particular, repeating the announcement that one of Putin's daughters had been given the vaccine.
On the same day, the Serbian president reacted to the news of the Russian vaccine with a statement that he is “ready to be the first to receive the Russian vaccine,” as reported by Russia Today on Twitter.
These comics from August 14 illustrate the change in position of the elderly, considered the most susceptible to Russian influence and local populists who collude with Russia.
As Putin's memes about the vaccine flooded social media, one group from the Balkans was unusually silent: the anti-vaccines. Sloboda Jakoski, a Macedonian social media personality, commented on that aspect of the situation on Twitter.
Со радост констатирам дека некои од моите познаници антиваксери цело ова време биле само адњазацпа. Спасибо Русија!
– Slobodan Jakoski (@FlavrSavr) August 11, 2020
I happily acknowledge that some anti-vaccine acquaintances of mine were actually only against the West this time. Thank you Russia!
In May 2020, the Serbian government announced that adult citizens were eligible to receive a government grant of almost 12,000 Serbian dinars (about $ 120) in exceptional financial assistance. Opposition politicians pointed out that this redistribution of taxpayers' money coincides with the continuation of the campaign for early elections, postponed to June 21, 2021.
The matter was controversial, some public figures announced that they would not collect the money, they said that they already had enough and that the aid should go to people most in need. Still, according to statements by government officials, the amount that signed up for the grant (6.2 million people) exceeded the number of people living in Serbia, suggesting that many who lived outside the country had applied for it.
Miloš Dragojević's latest cartoon illustrates the overwhelming reversal of positions of ordinary people, with the prospect of a state grant for vaccine recipients.
Miloš Dragojević explained why he considers comic book activism important:
Ovo mi je važno iz ličnih razloga jer imam tu nekakvu potreba da ljudi čuju moje mišljenje i moj stav, a da to ne bude puko iznošenje mišljenja negotiate na jedan duhovit i pre svega direktan način. Dakle snažnom i kratkom porukom. Takodje pored ličnih razloga rukovodio sam se i željom da na neki način osvestim društvo. Da prodrmam ljude i nateram ih da počnu misliti svojom glavom, ali isto tako i da ne nasedaju na razne teorije zavera kojih su prepuni mediji i koje možete čuti na svakom koraku. Ljudi su u današnje vreme zbunjeni velikom količinom različitih i kontradiktornih informacija. Kada govorimo or vakcini protiv korona virusa to je posebno izraženo. Ja sam kroz svoje stripove pokušao dočarati koliko lako ljudi menjaju svoj stav o toj temi u zavisnosti od sopstvenih predrasuda koje su opet proizvod propagande kojoj su svakodnevno izloženi. Takodje hteo sam ukazati i na momenat manipulicaje i jeftinog skupljanja poena političara na ovoj ozbiljnoj temi koja nikako ne bi trebala da služi u te svrhe.
This is important to me for personal reasons, because I have a need for people to listen to my opinion and my position, not a mere expression of opinion, but ingeniously and above all, directly. So with a strong and brief message. In addition, in addition to personal reasons, I was guided by the desire to make it known to society in some way. To shake people up and start thinking with their heads, but also not to fall prey to the various conspiracy theories that abound in the media and that can be heard at every turn. People today are confused by the vast amount of different and contradictory information. It is most noticeable when we talk about the coronavirus vaccine. Through my comics I tried to show how easily people change their attitude on this subject, based on their own prejudices, which are again the product of the propaganda to which they are exposed on a daily basis. I also wanted to point out the timing of politicians' cheap point-collecting and manipulation on this serious issue, which in no way should serve those purposes.