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news 09 Jun 14

Serbia PM Accuses OSCE of Media Censorship ‘Lies’

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic says OSCE claims that his government has been putting pressure on the media in Serbia are false and part of a campaign against him.

Bojana Barlovac

Vucic said on Monday that pressure on the Serbian media to attack him was coming from  some ambassadors in Belgrade and from abroad.

“They [the OSCE] are lying, and when you’re lying, it is elementary decency to apologize. I will not let anyone attack Serbia,” Vucic said.

“The OSCE has uttered falsehood and lies, and I’m telling the truth,” he added.

Vucic's accusations came after Paula Thiede, the deputy head of the OSCE Mission in Serbia, told B92 television on Sunday night that freedom of the media in Serbia is facing serious problems.

"We work within our mandate to strengthen media freedom and in this regard we work with the government of Serbia, as well as with non-governmental organizations and journalists' associations. The government has pledged to adopt three important pieces of legislation, and I expect that we will soon see an improvement in media freedom," Thiede said.

But Vucic said that Thiede was trying to silence him.

"They think I'll pray to God that they stop. You won't silence me and I will never shut up, because I'm telling the truth, and they are lying," he said.

The controversy about alleged censorship in the media started during the recent devastating floods when some Serbian websites criticising the government's handling the crisis were taken down by hacker attacks.

The OSCE declined to respond to the Serbian premier’s latest comments but referred BIRN to a statement last week by media freedom representative Dunja Mijatovic after she held a meeting with Vucic.

"Today I have had a constructive conversation with Prime Minister Aleksander Vucic. I informed him that the trend of removal of websites, blocking of online resources and comments in Serbia is unfortunately not new, and I received assurances that he personally and his government will tackle these issues," Mijatovic said in the statement.

Meanwhile Labour Minister Aleksandar Vulin called on "the OSCE, great powers and professional associations" to end what he called the “campaign” against Vucic, saying that "that the most dangerous thing today is to be to Vucic's family member or friend".

Vulin said that critics should “stop considering it an unforgivable offence if someone at any moment or any place says something positive, or shares the opinions of Aleksandar Vucic”.

Over the past few days, the Pescanik.net website has been brought down by a Denial of Service hacker attack, soon after it published claims that Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic had plagiarised parts of his PhD thesis. Two other websites criticising the government have also gone down.

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