Serbian Media Landscape: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
On 26 May, Civil Rights Defenders organised a hearing event about the Serbian media landscape at the European Parliament. Although officials talk of progress in the Western Balkans media, there are numerous problems. “The Serbian media landscape could be summed up in one sentence: One step forward, two steps backward.” said Goran Miletic at Civil Rights Defenders.
Ms Tanja Fajon, MEP and member of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee at the European Parliament, focusing on freedom of media in Serbia, hosted the event. Ms Fajon underlined that all issues from the hearing event will be communicated to relevant delegations and committees.
The event welcomed several distinguished Civil Rights Defenders’ partners: Belgrade Pride Parade, SHARE Foundation, Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia and Pescanik. Some of the guests’ present included representatives of the International Federation of Journalists, representatives of the Serbian Mission to European Union and MEP’s from all four major parliamentary groups.
In her opening speech, Ms Fajon mentioned that Mr Ivan Tasovac, Minister of Culture and Information at the Government of Serbia cancelled his arrival on the event at the very last moment. She also said that there are a lot of discussions about freedom of media in the Western Balkans. Although officials talk of progress in this area, the statistics and available information speak of numerous problems. Ms Fajon underlined that all issues from the hearing event will be communicated to relevant delegations and committees.
“The Serbian media landscape could be summed up in one sentence: One step forward, two steps backward. Last year, three important media laws were adopted, all of them drafted in cooperation with Civil Rights Defenders’ partners. Still, each Government sees the media, and especially the Public Broadcasting Service, as something to control.” said Goran Miletic, Programme Director for the Western Balkans at Civil Rights Defenders.
Maja Vasic-Nikolic from Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia said that “In 2014 three critical TV talk shows were cancelled leaving no public space for exchange of critical views while some of the best journalists resigned for not being able to do their work professionally.” Svetlana Vukovic Mesarevic from Pescanik said that their database, containing over 15.000 articles, had been hacked and erased 27 times. Although officials said that the attacks, presumably committed from a foreign country were reported to the Interpol, this information was refuted. Vladan Joler from SHARE foundation said that 20 different online media websites in the period of a year have been under online attacks resulting in interruption or suspension of their services, while 13 articles and blogs were taken down during the floods.
Latest progress report by the European Commission on Serbia expresses serious concerns for full exercise of freedom of media. As some of the most serious threats, the Commission listed: lack of transparency over media ownership and sources of media advertising and funding, as well as a wave of self-censorship.