Threats, attacks, pressure: State of media freedom in Serbia has not improved

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The state of media freedom in Serbia has not improved, reads the conclusion of the latest Alternative Report on the implementation of the revised action plan for Chapter 23 published by the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (IJAS).

Law enforcement is ineffective, journalists work under pressure, and the state violates media pluralism, the report added.

The report entitled „Freedom of Expression and Media Pluralism 2023“ says that, although according to the Report on the Implementation of the Action Plan for Chapter 23, all activities are successfully implemented, in reality the activities of the authorities, in the part that concerns the protection of journalists and media legislation, are insufficient to contribute to a better situation in this area.

As stated, “journalists and media workers are still the target of a large number of threats and attacks, as well as various types of pressure that affect them and make it difficult for them to do their job, which leads to them still feeling unsafe.”

Journalists who perform their work professionally are constantly the target of various pressures and targeting, especially by high-ranking public officials, who instead of condemning the attacks, further aggravate and encourage them.

The actions and omissions of police officers at protests, as well as years of lack of responsibility for such omissions, further affect the feeling of insecurity of journalists and mistrust in institutions, reads the document.

The IJAS notes in the Report that, although the new media laws have brought good solutions, the emphasis should be placed on implementation, since the implementation of the law stood out as one of the biggest problems in the previous period, that is, since the adoption of the laws in 2014.

In particular, concerns are expressed about the state’s return to media ownership and the legalization of previous violations of the law by the state-owned company Telekom Serbia, as well as the state’s influence on the media market.

In the Alternative Report, the IJAS also gave recommendations for improving the media environment and more effective implementation of the Action Plan for the implementation of the media strategy.

As stated, it is necessary for the activity holders in the Revised Action Plan for Chapter 23 to adopt the recommendations of the Coordinating Body for the implementation of the Action Plan.

It is necessary to measure the effectiveness of laws and other documents, as well as the contribution to the achievement of general goals related to the safety of journalists and the institutional framework for the functioning of the media.

Amendments to legal acts should be implemented in accordance with the solutions from the Media Strategy. Also, it is necessary to adopt a new action plan for the implementation of the Media Strategy for the period from 2024 to 2025.

Recommendations related to improving the safety of journalists are: full and effective implementation of all signed agreements and mandatory instructions of the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, training of police officers on the treatment of journalists and media workers at public gatherings, self-initiated submission of reports by competent authorities and their greater involvement in solving cases of murder of journalists.

The Ministry of Information and Telecommunications should strengthen capacities and activities in the process of implementing solutions from the Media Strategy and with the aim of more effective monitoring of the application of media laws.

It is necessary to create conditions for effective co-financing of media projects in accordance with new legal solutions and fully transparent functioning of the Media Registry.

It is necessary to monitor the implementation of the new Law on Electronic Media and greater independence of

Regulatory Authority for Electronic Media (REM), and the competent ministry must establish additional legal guarantees that will ensure that the influence of state ownership through Telekom does not threaten the diversity of media content, said the IJAS.

The full report is available here.