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News 25 Jun 15

Serbian Media's Plight Worsening, IREX Reports

The annual IREX media sustainability report says self-sustainability and freedom of the press in Serbia are going downhill - and are at the level they were when Milosevic held power.

Filip Avramović

The US-based think tank IREX on June 24 presented in Belgrade its annual study on the media situation in 80 countries, stating that Serbia had recorded a downgrade in almost every measured category.

Serbia marked fall in all five main categories - freedom of speech, professionalism of journalists, diversity of sources, institutions of media support and economic self-sustainability, with freedom of the press and self-sustainability recording the greatest loss.

IREX assessments of the media are based on a so-called media sustainability index, MSI. Using 40 indicators, IREX has given Serbia an MSI of 1.8 out of 4, which is the same level it had in 2000, when the regime of the former strongman, Slobodan Milosevic, ended.

This puts Serbia in the same category as countries like Ukraine, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.

After briefly reaching 2.5 on the MSI scale, Serbia has recorded a constant fall for the past five years.

“Delays to the adoption of accompanying regulations to media laws, censorship of social networks, [hacker] attacks on... websites, threats and attacks on journalists and the inadequate response of the government, were all rated negatively,” Goran Cetinic, the MSI survey organizer, said.

The director of the Belgrade-based Fonet news agency, Zoran Sekulic, agreed that the situation for the media in Serbia was deteriorating.

“There is no cheaper content then the agency's news and no labour is more devalued than the work of journalists in the agency,” Sekulic said.

He said it was alarming that newspaper sales had fallen by 30 per cent and that only about 7 per cent of people now buy newspapers.

Sekulic added that the government had invested a lot of advertising money in billboards, adverts on public transport and on the internet, leaving little money for traditional media outlets.

Sekulic also said there was too little social dialogue within the profession, and that no representative union existed to defend the interests of the media and of journalists.

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