Serbia - Media Report 2014

Serbia is short on independent and quality media outlets, there is strong self-censorship in some media companies, and advertising companies influence editorial policy. Very often there is no clear line between journalism, advertising and PR. Private television and radio is focused on entertainment. Some media in Serbia are participating in campaigns or are instruments of political propaganda, instead of respecting basic rules of the journalist profession. According to one research for February- March, Danas is the only daily newspaper in Serbia in which they appear criticisms of the leading Srpska Napredna Stranka - SNS, and their reporting does not favor any political party. This was published in the monitoring of print media in the election campaign, which is conducted by the "Kuća ljudskih prava i demokratije. "

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is concerned with the number of journalists attacked in Serbia over the last six years, with eighteen incidents happening in 2014 alone. Since 2008, over 350 media workers have been attacked either verbally and through threats, or through physical attacks. The Independent Journalist Association of Serbia (NUNS) presented an electronic database containing details of attacks on journalists, in an effort to appeal to the authorities and the public. Over the past two decades, many cases of threats, attacks and even murders of journalists have not been solved in Serbia.

The South East Europe Media Organisation is supporting the Serbian Media Coalition that sent a request on 30 April to the Serbian Ministry of Culture and Information and the Ministry of State Administration and Local Self-Government, demanding that they take all necessary steps to end the abuse of public funds that are intended for the media at the local level.

The Media Coalition consists of the following journalistic and media associations in Serbia: Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM), the Independent Journalists' Association of Serbia (NUNS), the Journalists' Association of Serbia (UNS) and Local Press The request delivered by the Media Coalition points out:

1. That numerous local self-governments view informing the public at the local level as no more than an extension of their PR departments and routinely allocate their money only to those media outlets that are willing to report positively about their work, completely disregarding the interest of the public and the needs of the local community for unbiased, timely and complete information in the context of realization of the public interest;

2. That many local self-governments have been abusing public procurement procedures in order to give money to “appropriate” media outlets, as was recently evident, for example, in Nis, Nova Varos and Pozarevac;

3. That some of the EU reports have emphasized that the inadequate system of budget-based financing does not allow equal treatment of all media outlets on the market and that it enables the so-called “soft censorship”, which prevents the development of free and independent media and hinders the fundamental right of the citizens to freedom of expression, one of whose components is the right to information;

4. That the Media Strategy clearly and unambiguously stipulates that the public interest in the field of public information has to be realized by co-financing of projects, by using a single methodology, and taking into account the regulations on the control of state assistance, regardless of whether the money is allocated by the Republic, Autonomous Provinces or units of local self-government (City or Municipality);

5. That the interest of the public in the media scene, in accordance with the Media Strategy implies, among other things, the production and publication of “general informative and specialized media content of significance for everyday life and work of citizens in local and regional communities”; that the criteria for selection of projects are based on quality of the content offered by the specific media outlet; and that the projects are selected by an independent committee comprised of competent representatives of the public, professional associations and sectors that is not financed by the budget.

The Media Coalition expects that the new government will systematically and completely deal with this phenomenon and appeals that media laws be adopted as soon as possible.

In 2014 it was 20 years of murder of the journalist Dada Vujasinović. She was found dead in her apartment in Belgrade on 8 April 1994. The case is still not solved. Simmilar to this case also still are many open questions in the cases of murder od Slavko Curuvija (1999) and Milan Pantic (2001)

As the daily Politika in March 2014 reported, more than 30 channels broadcast unauthorized advertising blocks, which generate one-third of the total marketing budget About 60 percent of the market in Serbia is covered by cable operators who carry out the distribution of cable distribution systems (KDS), satellite communications (DTH), over the Internet (IPTV), and there are also new opportunities receipt via wireless radio networks. According to the Republic Telecommunications Agency (RATEL), KDS systems cover 72 percent of subscribers, 16 DTH and IPTV 12 percent

The fight for a new national frequency between Nova TV and TV Kopernikus ended in 2014 without result. After all TV Kopernikus submitted a complaint to the Council of the Republic Broadcasting Agency (RBA). In June almost 100- staff members at Serbia's TV Nova have lost their jobs after the cable station said it had run out of money following its failure to get a national frequency.

Blogs, Twitter and Facebook are an important source of information in Serbia. In June, Member of the European Parliament Marietje Schaake sent a letter to the European Commissioner Štefan Füle regarding the cases of online censorship and intimidation of individuals in Serbia in 2014. One example for this is was in the beginning of June, when the web portal Peščanik ( published articles how several influence persons in Serbia had plagiarized the PhD thesis or never wrote a PhD, the website became unavalibale several times as result of hacking attacks. Simmilar problems had also several other Serbian bloggs and web pages in 2014, especially in May and June 2014. In September new hacker attacks on the Serbian website happened. The attacks are connected to an article which claims that a high level Serbian politician plagiarized his doctoral thesis. This was the second attack on Pescanik web, since the website was previously attacked in June this year regarding the same subject.. End of May the Serbian police have arrested three internet-users for spreading false information. This three internet-users posted information on personal Facebook pages about the number of persons killed in the floods that hit Serbia in May and were imprisoned for nine days. Around 20 people have been taken in the police for an interview for allegedly "spreading panic" on Twitter and Facebook, according to the Serbian BlogOpen group.

In September 2014 TV channel B 92 announced that the political talk show Utisak Nedelje will be postponed until further notice, due to failed negotiations with the show’s host, Olja Beckovic. The clash between the management of the TV station, the author began when Beckovic received a short notice suggestion to move her show from the B92 national frequency to B92 Info, a cable channel covering only 60 percent of the country’s territory. The host has rejected this offer, calling it a political order, and adding that the show has not been postponed, but actually banned. Both Beckovic and the editor in chief of B92’s informative program Veran Matic have opposed the transfer, calling it a degradation of the show’s long history and reputation.

In May 2014 after the city authorities removed Aleksandar Timofejev as head of the TV Studio B, owned by the City of Belgrade, Timofejev said that politics brought him to the post and then recalled him from it. After more than six years at the head of the city-owned TV Studio B, Aleksandar Timofejev is no longer director of the station after the new city authorities removed him from this position.

On 6 May 2014 the car owned by Dragana Zecevic, a journalist working for the Belgrade daily Vecernje novosti, was damaged. The car was parked in the garden of her family house in the Serbian town Kursumlija. Till today the police did not arrested any person connected to this incident. According to the Udruzenje novinara Srbije (Association of Journalists of Serbia) this is not the first threat against journalists in Kursumlija, and in all this cases till today the police did not arrested any person.

On 3 July 2014, Davor Pasalic, editor of Serbian news agency FoNet, was brutally assaulted as he made his way home from the office. Pasalic said: “I have no clue why those three attacked me,”. He added: “One asked me: Are you a Croat? I was born in Belgrade. I have no accent. I look like every other citizen of Belgrade. Nobody has ever asked me that question before. How did he know out that I am ethnic Croat?” Till today it is not clear who and why organised this attack on Pasalic.

In July 2014 Zivko Perisic, a BETA news agency correspondent, was physically assaulted near the green market in Gornji Milanovac.

In December Dragana Sotirovski, a local journalist from Nis, had again problems. Sotirovski, correspondent of the national public broadcaster RTS from the city of Nis, has been the target of threats and hate speech by the management of the Sokobanja hospital since November 2013, due to the series of reports about illegal activities conducted by the hospital's establishment that she has been investigating. Sotirovski was labelled as „persona non grata“ in the hospital premises, and has received threats.

Another case in December 2014 was by the president of the Municipality of Grocka towards the informative portal „Nasa Grocka“ and its editor in chief, Zeljko Matorcevic. The president of the Municipality allegedly told Matorcevic that he is prohibited from attending the sessions of the local Parliament, and that he would be fined in case of disobedience.