Serbian Tax Authorities ‘Trying to Close News Website’

NIS, 10.08.2018. – News website Juzne vesti, one of the few media outlets in southern Serbia known for critical reporting, claimed that the Tax Administration is trying to force it to close down.

by Maja Zivanovic, BIRN, Nis

Juzne vesti said on Friday that the Serbian Tax Administration has launched a procedure to force it to pay more than 8,500 euros, which will cause the news site to shut down.

“Although after six months of intensive control procedures, they did not find a single offence in the Juzne vesti business, citing a regulation that is specific to the public sector, tax inspectors found that Juzne vesti allegedly owed a million dinars [8,500 euros],” Juzne vesti reported on Friday.

The report added that the tax authorities initiated the compulsory collection procedure before a final court decision.

Juzne vesti insisted that the tax inspectors found no errors in its accounts.

“However, interpreting the Law on Information, without specifying exactly which part of it, they concluded that the editor-in-chief must be employed by the media that he edits, and that the editor of Juzne vesti, Predrag Blagojevic, does not have such a working relationship with the media outlet,” the website’s report said.

Predrag Blagojevic claimed in a statement that “the state wants to control media in a ‘legal’ way”.

The Tax Administration was not available on Friday for immediate comment.

Juzne vesti is one of only a few media outlets reporting from southern Serbia and is well-known for its critical reports about the authorities.

Its journalists have won numerous media prizes, and Blagojevic has received the prestigious Dusan Bogavac award for ethics and courage.

Juzne vesti in April accused the country’s tax authorities of deliberately subjecting it to prolonged and undue financial inspections because of its critical reporting.

Blagojevic told BIRN at the time that journalists had counted 14 different tax officials inspecting the media outlet and the companies it cooperated with, describing this as “pressure on independent journalism”.

Asked for a response to this claim, the Serbian Tax Administration told BIRN at the time that any data or other information about a taxpayer accused of wrongdoing was “secret information”.

After pressure from journalists’ associations and the international community, the Serbian prime minister on April 11 urged the Tax Administration to stop the inspections at Juzne vesti “if there is no need for this”.

The article was republished from Balkan Insight