Following the investigation carried out by the Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CINS) into the work of the Serbian Progressive Party’s (SNS) call center, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić told Pink this evening that he does not see what the problem is.
“Of course, that is not punishable (…) What is the problem with that? Do you think it’s normal that you never listen to citizens, that you don’t talk to citizens, but just place a camera in front of you and talk to yourself, and just say I’m telling you it’s going to be like this or like that, and that’s the end of it. It is part of a serious campaign in every country in the world, and nothing more than that,” said Vučić.
He also stated that these are “the usual platitudes, just to have something to say against those who are actually doing something”.
However, Vučić only stated what CINS never even questioned, but he did not speak about the controversial matters for which we presented evidence.
For example, he did not say anything about the fact that our journalist, who infiltrated the group of people working at the call center, was told that in order to be able to work there, she had to vote for SNS. She was also asked to take a photo of her ballot during the 17 December vote and send it to the person who was in charge of organizing the work of the call center.
As a reminder, experts that we spoke to said that this entails so-called “vote buying”, which is a criminal offense. Nemanja Nenadić from Transparency Serbia says that another violation of the law could be a violation of the secrecy of voting, as it is required that a photo of the ballot be submitted to the coordinator, that is, to a third party.
We have also revealed that the call center’s database contains data such as people’s Unique Citizens Identity Numbers, addresses, and polling stations. As evidence, we published a photo of the database and the data it contains. According to CINS’s source, who is familiar with the call center’s operations, the database includes each and every one of us, regardless of who we vote for.
Ana Toskić Cvetinović from the Partners Serbia organization, which, among other things, deals with the protection of privacy and personal data, has told CINS that people who work with databases should have training for working with sensitive data.
“If they are employed, it should be written in their employment contract, or there should be some internal procedures obliging people to keep the data confidential.”
The source with whom CINS spoke says that they did not have this kind of training.
Toskić added that the bigger problem here is that this database exists, especially if it is a copy of the voter list.
“The purpose of that database [voter list] is to conduct elections, not political propaganda. No party should ever have that. (…) It can create a database of its own confirmed voters, under some of its own criteria, and it should have the consent of the people whose data it processes.”
Finally, our journalist recorded a video of payments being handed out to people working at the call center, which is carried out at the headquarters of an organization that supposedly deals with youth issues. As we have shown, more than 3 million RSD are paid out on a weekly basis in this way. The video we recorded shows that the payment is made cash-in-hand, and there is no clear origin of these funds.
You can read about how institutions have responded to CINS’s article so far in our other articles.