The International Press Institute (IPI) expressed serious concern over the safety of journalists in Serbia on Wednesday, warning of smear campaigns and political pressure from public officials.
“The International Press Institute (IPI) today renews our serious concerns about the safety of journalists in Serbia, where independent media houses and their reporters face an intensifying and toxic climate of smear campaigns and political pressure directed by the government and public officials,” a press release said.
It cited the trespassing incident on the grounds of N1 TV by a group of people telling station staff they would face the “wrath of the people” and accusing them of manipulating coverage of protests and the pandemic. It also noted the failure of the police to react and remove the trespassers.
“IPI and our global network are shocked by the lack of an adequate response by the police to this incident. While peaceful protest must be respected, trespassing of the premises of a media house clearly warranted appropriate action from law enforcement authorities. This raises serious questions about the ability of the police to protect journalists and must be immediately addressed by the Standing Working Group on the Safety of Journalists,” it added.
IPI said the trespassing incident came in the wake of accusations against N1 and Nova S of creating “a sick atmosphere in society” made by Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) MP Nebojsa Bakarec in parliament. It said that those comments were the latest in an escalating smear campaign against United Media outlets which are viewed as the last independent news media in the country.
“IPI is alarmed by the dangerous escalation in rhetoric against critical media and journalists, which poses real life threats to the safety of journalists. Moving forward, IPI urges all government and public officials in Serbia to refrain from using hostile rhetoric and to lead by example in reducing tensions,” the press release said.
IPI called for increased international attention to the plight of media freedom and pluralism in the country.