In eight months, 57 journalists attacked in Serbia, pressure on media growing

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Media freedom, as one of the basic human rights and the foundation of every democratic and law respecting country, is imperilled in Serbia, hate speech and political abuse of media are spreading, while the number of attacks on journalists is on the rise, an analysis said, the Beta news agency reported.

The survey “Freedom of expression and media freedom in Serbia in the EU integration process” presented in the European Union Centre in Belgrade analysed current state and future trends in six related negotiating chapters from 2014, when Serbia adopted media laws, until September 2018.

The analysis is based on reports by local and international organisations, legal documents and investigative articles.

Dragan Popovic from the House for Human Rights and a co-author of the study said the trend in physical attacks, verbal threats and pressures on journalists increased since 2013.

In 2017 there were 92 attacks reported, while in the first eight months of this year journalists were assaulted 57 times.

The latest one was reported on Wednesday when the home of Zig Info editor Milan Jovanovic was burned down in the Belgrade Grocka suburb.

Popovic reminded the audience that Serbia fell ten places, from 66 to 76, in media freedom on the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Freedom House lists.

He added the main problem was with the institutions which did not react adequately, or did it slowly, or did not act at all.

Regarding the freedom of expression, the authors criticised the work of the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Media (REM) stating some irregularities regarding the election of its members, reactions to reports during pre-election campaigns as well as for the appointment of the steering committees in the state televisions RTS of Serbia and RTV of Vojvodina.

A particular issue with REM was the lack of its control over media content on TV channels with national frequency where hate speech could be often heard.

Maja Stojanovic from the Civic Initiatives said REM turned a blind eye on political abuse of media during the campaigns.

She added that according to the BIRODI monitoring organisation, in the 2017 presidential election campaign the ruling majority candidate Aleksandar Vucic had 15,000 TV seconds more than all other contestants put together.

Besides, the participants in the debate about the study said the financing of media was selective and not transparent.

Tanja Maksic, from the investigative BIRN network, added the budget funding of competitive media programmes was also irregular and turned into a corruptive mechanism, adding an efficient system was needed to monitor the spending of the state money and its effects.

The article, originally produced by Beta News Agency, was republished from N1 Serbia