Serbian Ruling Party Accused of Purging Province’s TV

Journalists have condemned the wave of dismissals of staff in the TV station in Serbia’s northern province, accusing the ruling Progressive Party of ordering their removal. 

by Sasa Dragojlo, BIRN, Belgrade

Serbian journalists have complained of a politically inspired purge of editorial staff in Radio Television Vojvodina, RTV, the public TV station in the Serbia’s northern province.

Protesters say the sackings are a direct result of political pressure being applied by the Serbian Progressive Party, which now runs Vojvodina.

Teofil Pancic, a journalist from the weekly Vreme, told BIRN that the “cleansing” of editorial staff at RTV was a consequence of the victory by the Progressive Party, SNS, in recent provincial elections.

“This is logical consequence of their winning the elections in Vojvodina. The SNS does not want any media criticism or pluralism, so they are doing this, brutally, right now. The ‘cleansing’ of RTV will leave us without any relevant and critical media,” Pancic said.

The dismissals at RTV came after Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party won political control of the province following recent elections in Vojvodina, ending 16 years of dominance by the Democratic Party.

Most recently, seven editors of the TV shows “News at 5″ and the “Postcards” on RTV were informed by telephone by RTV management on Tuesday that they would not edit their shows the next day.

On Wednesday, almost the entire team of the morning program “Good Morning Vojvodina” was dismissed.

Journalists at RTV claim there are hints that the series of dismissals will continue.

The latest sackings come two weeks after the TV station’s program director, Slobodan Arezina, was removed on May 5 in what some say was a political move.

RTV’s board of directors accepted the resignation of chief editor Marjana Jovic on Tuesday.

Arezina was sacked by the board of directors of RTV, which said there had been drop in viewer numbers and complained of the lack of a plan for the next year.

Several days later, RTV’s general director, Srdjan Mihajlovic, also resigned, saying in a written statement that he thought this was in the broadcaster’s interest.

Five journalists associations voiced their protests on Wednesday and called on international organizations to react, adding that the changes were the result of political pressure from authorities and a clear example of the instrumentalization of the public broadcaster.

The acting editor-in-chief of the first program of RTV, Nada Kalkan, told Insajder that the changes were not exactly dismissals, adding that she “had the right to pick her own journalistic team”.

Meanwhile, 77 journalists at RTV have protested in an open letter, criticizing the fact that the dismissal occurred without any explanation and warning that the survival of Vojvodina’s public TV broadcaster was in question.

“We demand a public explanation from the acting management about why there has been such a sudden shift without any explanation and whether this is a political decision,” they wrote in the letter on Wednesday.

The article was originally published by Balkan Insight