27 Aug 2018

Censorship strangles Serbian media 

The struggle for existence has turned some Serbian news outlets into propaganda outlets for President Aleksandar Vučić. “You must obey in order to survive on the market,” an interviewee told BIRN during its research on censorship in Serbian media.

Lidija Pisker
Lidija Pisker NewsMavens, Balkans
Censorship strangles Serbian media  - NewsMavens
Aleksandar Vučić, 2013, Medija Centar Beograd, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

In February this year, a Belgian journalist living in Serbia was threatened with expulsion, even though he hadn't violated any law. He said he believed the reason for it was his writing that criticizing the Serbian government. A month later, a Serbian newspaper censored an obituary which praised the art director of a book criticizing Aleksandar Vučić. 

The two events illustrate the subtle tactics the Serbian government employs to avoid spoiling the reputation of the president and his government. 

As video below shows, Vučić likes to brag about how he lets news outlets mock him and how he laughs at the jokes together with them. There's no censorship in Serbia, according to Vučić.

But, in reality, Serbia under Vučić's rule has become a country where it is unsafe to be a journalist. 

In its annual World Press Freedom Index 2018 report, Reporters Without Borders noted that in Serbia there are an "alarming number of attacks on journalists that have not been investigated, solved, or punished, and the aggressive smear campaigns that pro-government media orchestrate against investigative reporters."

"The news bulletin used to be about "politics, politics, politics, sport and weather," BIRN quoted a journalist interviewed for the Slavko Ćuruvija study. "Now it’s Vučić, Vučić, Vučić, sport and weather."

Details from the story:

  • Self-censorship is often the norm among Serbian journalists, according to BIRN research. Some editors and journalists, out of  the 12 who agreed to talk, participated in the research on the condition of anonymity. BIRN noted it approached many more who were unwilling to talk.
  • According to the survey “Freedom and Control of the Media: Journalists’ Testimonies”, conducted by the Slavko Ćuruvija Foundation, almost 74% of respondents, believe that serious obstacles to media freedom exist or that conditions for such freedom do not exist at all, as well as that the situation has been increasingly worsening in this respect in recent years. Almost two thirds of them consider that the media is controlled the most by the political establishment.  
  • The survey included 177 media workers, who shared their experiences related to the pressure and the conditions under which they work.
  • This year, Serbia fell from 66 to 76 on the World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders.

Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

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NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
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