When lockdown restrictions were reintroduced in Serbia following a spike in coronavirus cases, the country witnessed its most violent and aggressive anti-government protests in years. An AP all-formats team, based primarily in Belgrade, delivered dominant coverage throughout three days and nights of unrest.
Photographer Marko Drobnjakovic was one of the first journalists on the scene Wednesday, making both photos and video. His iPhone footage of the first group of protesters storming through a police cordon protecting parliament were the first international images of the event. Meanwhile, reporter Dusan Stojanovic filed a APNewsAlert as it became clear that police would not soon control the violent demonstrations.
Video journalist Ivana Bzganovic arrived quickly, shooting live video via the Bambuser app, feeding the video production team in London which quickly turned out edits. As clashes between protesters and police increased, photographer Darko Vojinovic fast-filed his still images, while freelancer Pedja Barbul fired up a LiveU unit that produced a constant three-hour live shot of riots through the streets of Belgrade that night.
The result was 11 video edits showing police using tear gas, demonstrators throwing stones and clashes between protesters and police.
The protests continued for three days – and the AP team was first at every turn. On Friday, protesters again tried to storm into the Serbian Parliament, but this time were met with force by police. Athens-based video journalist Srdjan Nedeljkovic, quickly dispatched to Belgrade, delivered five hours of amazing live footage. He managing to position himself near the police cordon and had up-close video coverage of the violence, including tear gas fired by both protesters and police. AP text, including work by reporter Jovana Gec, was swift in sending minute-by-minute updates as the violence spread through the city center. Both Vojinovic and Drobnjakovic captured dozens of photos amid the tense confrontations.
The AP team beat its nearest competition at nearly every turn on this story. On both Wednesday and Friday, AP was not only first with video edits, it had hours of compelling live coverage; the opposition had none. On Friday alone, AP ran four edits, including close shots of clashes, while the competition had a single edit with less impact.
The team’s quick and up-close coverage of the protests received tremendous play. The wealth of video edits, as well as the text and photos, were seen globally, and among the most-used by customers for the week.