Long Road to Press Freedom Ahead

Only 4 of the European Council’s 27 principles for press freedom have been fully implemented in Serbia, the first comprehensive report on the media situation in the country: Serbian Media Scene VS European Standards, suggests. Free press is a cornerstone for democratic development; in this report the challenges lying ahead of the Serbian media scene become evident. This report is a result of a yearlong cooperation between Civil Rights Defenders and local partners.

The report Serbian Media Scene VS European Standards, published in May 2012, is based on the European Council’s Indicators for Media in a Democracy [1]. The lack of transparency of media ownership, political influence and safety of the journalists are examples where domestic practice drastically deviates from European standards.

That the Serbian media is under a lot of pressure is evidenced by the 73 cases of drastic violations of media freedoms and rights that was reported in 2011, out of which 9 cases concerns physical attacks on journalists, 18 were threats and 4 were discharges of chief editors or managers. At the same time, 242 charges against the media were initiated before the Courts in Belgrade (only) – a majority (93 per cent) of these charges were requests for damages for impaired reputation, in the amount of 3 to 100 million EUR.

Serbian Media Scene VS. European Standards is a result of a yearlong research collaboration between Civil Rights Defenders, Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM), Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (IJAS), Local Press Association and Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina, with the aim of drawing attention, from policy creators, professionals and other experts within the media sphere, to the deviations from European standards that affects the freedom of media in Serbia negatively today. The legislative, political, economic and professional environment under which media operate have been analysed and 240 chief editors from 79 towns have been interviewed.

[1] In October 2008, the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly adopted the list of 27 Indicators (Resolution 1636) as well as Recommendation 1848/2008, suggesting to member countries to analyse the media freedom in their respective country on the basis of the 27 indicators. The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers was at the same time recommended to take into account the list of indicators when assessing the media situation in the member countries.