In 2022 Serbia was among the European countries with the highest number of cases of harassment and intimidation of journalists, reads the latest annual report written by the Partner Organizations of the Council of Europe Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists.
The report entitled “War in Europe and the Fight for the Right to Report” says that the highest number of harassment and intimidation cases “were recorded in Russia but also in Serbia, Italy, Poland, Croatia and Greece.”
A total of 94 such cases were reported in Europe last year, compared to 110 in 2021, reads the report of 15 international organizations.
According to the report, the harassment, intimidation and smear campaigns against journalists “have become a new normal, up to the point that some journalists no longer report them.”
“Those behind the threats included private parties and representatives of public authorities. Often, perpetrators remain anonymous, making it even more difficult to seek legal redress,” it said.
Along with Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Italy and Poland, Serbia is also listed as a country in which journalists and media are increasingly sued for defamation.
Fighting fake news is increasingly being used as a pretext to initiate legal proceedings against journalists, reads the report, adding that “an increasing number of legal threats aimed at journalists have been instigated by politicians, including those currently in government.”
“In Serbia, Dijana Hrkalovic, a former state secretary at the Ministry of the Interior who is currently on trial for alleged influence peddling, filed a defamation lawsuit against the Crime & Corruption Reporting Network (KRIK) and its editor, Stevan Dojcinovic,” reads the report.
It notes that “2022 was a year defined by war” and that, in parts of Europe, “it was also a war on journalism” – since Russia launched its unprovoked aggression against Ukraine at least twelve journalists and media workers have been killed while performing their professional duties and 21 have been injured.
Assessing that there has been continued degradation of press freedom across Europe, the authors of the report said that 127 journalists were arrested last year, 60 per cent more compared to 2021.
The highest number of journalists were arrested in Turkey (52), Belarus (32), Russia (22) and in the Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine (14).
The 15 organizations that compiled the report include the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the Association of European Journalists (AEJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Press Institute (IPI), the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF).