No journalists at daily pandemic briefings, Serbian government says

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The Serbian government informed the media on Friday that questions for the daily news conference by members of the pandemic Crisis Staff have to be sent in by e-mail before the daily briefing begins.

“Because of the increasing concern of journalists, photographers and camera crews for their health and after complaints of danger at media conferences by the president and members of the government as well as experts, journalists will ask their questions online for the daily news conference at 3:00 pm,” a government statement said. It did not explicitly ban journalists from attending the news conferences.

Live coverage will be provided by the state TV (RTS) and Tanjug News Agency, the statement said, adding that “everything will be done to provide answers to all the questions” sent in half an hour before the news briefing.   Only the RTS and Tanjug have had cameras at the daily news conferences for the past few weeks and their live feeds have been re-broadcast by other media. Journalists have always been seated at a safe distance from each other and there have been no complaints of safety.  

Cautionary measures have been introduced already by governments across the world and the World Health Organization with no journalists in the room. Journalists call in with their questions which can be heard in live feeds and they can ask follow-up questions.  

The Serbian government issued a decree late in March, limiting the release of all information about the coronavirus pandemic to members of the pandemic Crisis Staff which is headed by Prime Minister Ana Brnabic. The decree was withdrawn after the arrest of Nova.rs portal journalist Ana Lalic who reported on the situation in the Vojvodina Clinical Center.