The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), joins two Serbian journalists’ associations in condemning mounting political pressure on Magyar Szo, a Hungarian-language daily in the multiethnic province of Vojvodina, northern Serbia.
The National Council of the Hungarian Ethnic Minority, an umbrella organization of ethnic Hungarians in Serbia, currently dominated by one political party, decided to replace the current Magyar Szo editor-in chief Csaba Pressburger. He was appointed to the post by the same Council . However, his independent editorial policy did not satisfy the dominating party within the Council.
On 20 June 2011, the executive board of the paper, composed of six members representing the Council and three representatives of the paper, presented a four-page report on Pressberger´s mistakes. Most of them were related to one political party. Pressberger admitted two out of the long list of alleged mistakes. Most complaints dealt with journalists’ absence from certain press conferences or the paper´s decision not to publish certain political press releases.
Two journalists’ organization, the Independent Journalists Association of Serbia (NUNS) and the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina (NDNV) denounced the move of the executive board as “an attempt to reconvert the newspaper into a party mouthpiece”.
As SEEMO reported in March of 2010, this is not the first time that the Council has attempted to control the paper. At the time, the Council set up a special board in order to monitor its editorial policy.
“While Magyar Szo is the only Hungarian-language newspaper in Serbia, it is not supposed to defend the interests of one political party, but serve the public,” said Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General. “I am concerned with the decision of the Magyar Szo executive board and call on its member to reconsider it. It is not acceptable that political pressure should influence editorial decisions.”