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News 18 Feb 15

Serbia Suppresses Critical Media, Watchdog Says

Responding to remarks on the media by the EU enlargement commissioner, Christian Mihr, director of Reporters Without Borders, said there were many examples of censorship and self-censorship in Serbia.



Christian Mihr, executive director of Reporters without Borders. | Photo by M. Müller/Deutsche Welle/Flickr

Mihr, of Reporters Without Borders, who participated in compiling the recent report on media freedom worldwide, said independent media and journalists in Serbia came under serious pressure in 2014.

Responding to the statement of Johannes Hahn, the EU regional policy commissioner, who said allegations of media censorship in Serbia need to be supported, Mihr said that such proof already existed.

“Articles that were critical of the government were deleted from the Internet, while independent journalists were either threatened or pressured," he said.

“Media freedom must be a firm condition for Serbia’s EU accession,” Mihr told the Serbian website Cenzolovka on February 18.

Mihr stated that in May 2014, during the floods in Serbia, some articles were taken off websites, while the government “attacked several critical reports” on the official response to the floods.

“Based on several examples, we know that the Serbian Prime Minister is very sensitive to criticism, even on critical questions,” Mihr told Cenzolovka, referring to Aleksandar Vucic.

He gave the example of the journalist Natalija Miletic, a Berlin-based freelance journalist and a regular correspondent for Deutsche Welle Radio, who posed tough questions to Vucic during his visit to Berlin in June 2014.

At a press conference Miletic asked Vucic about the media situation in Serbia and about  allegations that some ministers in the Serbian government had plagiarized their diplomas.

Mihr noted that some media in Serbia then published offensive articles about Miletic following the press conference, while the journalist also received threats.

He said that censorship in Serbia was often indirect and not transparent, and that this was not specific to Serbia.

“When we look at the overall context of the Serbian media, it can be seen that the authorities have very negative attitudes toward media freedom. Also, there are numerous examples of censorship and self-censorship," he said.

“It is a bad development because Serbia wants to join the EU and as a candidate country must seriously understand the importance of the independence of journalists and the need for freedom of the media,” Mihr added.

The new World Press Freedom Index, surveying the state of media freedom in 2014, ranked Serbia in 67th position, a fall from the 54th place it had one year ago.

The annual report on media freedom is published by Reporters Without Borders, a France-based non-profit, non-governmental organisation that promotes and defends freedom of information and freedom of the press.

Mihr stated that the rankings are being calculated based on questionnaires that are the same for all countries and are sent to journalists, media experts, lawyers and professors.


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