The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), condemns continued political pressure on Hungarian minority media in Vojvodina, Serbia.
On 17 September 2011, Rudolf Mihok, the director of Television Panon from Subotica, a town on the border between Hungary and Serbia, was dismissed.
According to the spokesperson of the National Council of the Hungarian Ethnic Minority in Serbia, the regional television did not adequately cover a Hungarian national holiday celebration, held on 20 August 2011.
On 20 June 2011, Csaba Pressburger, editor-in-chief of Serbia´s only daily in Hungarian, Magyar Szo, was also dismissed. As SEEMO reported on 22 June 2011, Pressburger was criticised for supposedly inadequately covering press conferences by certain political parties.
In both cases, it was the National Council of the Hungarian Ethnic Minority, an umbrella organisation of ethnic Hungarians in Serbia, that fired the media executives. This Council is supposed to represent the interests of the national minority. However, its members were elected as party representatives and they appear to represent the interests of their political parties rather than those of the Hungarian minority. One ethnic Hungarian political party has a dominating role.
Legally, the Council acts as a founder of non-private minority media published and broadcast in Hungarian. However, it is not clear what its obligations are, as indicated in the recent statement signed by the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (NUNS) and the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina (NDNV). In other words, an institution that was conceived to protect the interests of the biggest national minority in Vojvodina, appears to represent the interest of one political party. That way, ethnic interests are equated with party interests.
“I strongly condemn political pressure on minority media in Hungarian,” said Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General. “It is time to rethink the role of the national councils as media founders. Party interests are not the same as public interests, “he added.