February 5, 2016 / 7:07 PM / 4 years ago

Serbian minister dismissed over insult to journalist

Serbia's Defence Minister Bratislav Gasic attends a media conference in Belgrade, Serbia, December 8, 2015. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Lawmakers in Serbia voted on Friday to dismiss the defence minister over a remark he made to a female journalist that critics of the government said illustrated its lack of respect for the media.

Defence Minister Bratislav Gasic was caught on camera in December remarking to a female journalist who had crouched to avoid getting in the way of cameras: “I love these journalists who kneel so easily.”

Journalists and politicians condemned the comment and Gasic’s friend and party ally, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, said he would be dismissed.

“I am asking you to support a decision (to dismiss Gasic) because of courtesy, moral decency and respect we all need to show for others,” Vucic told lawmakers on Friday.

In the 250-seat parliament 195 deputies voted in favour, a move unlikely to have any impact on the ruling coalition with an early parliamentary election likely to take place in late April or early May.

Finance Minister Dusan Vujovic was given the defence ministry too until a new government is formed after the election.

Vucic, who as information minister in the late 1990s presided over legislation designed to muzzle dissent against late strongman Slobodan Milosevic, has been accused of stifling media freedoms since becoming prime minister almost two years ago.

He has denied the accusations, having shaken off his ultranationalist past and rebranded himself as a pro-Western reformer.

Reporting by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Matt Robinson/Ruth Pitchford

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