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Slippery slope of public speech: Media situation in Serbia

Media panel on our conference „Freedom and Reforms“ covered the situation with media in Serbia, questions of censorship, political pressures...
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On May 27th, Libertarian Club – Libek organized a panel discussion called „How does government spend our money“ at Hilton Belgrade.

Media panel on our conference „Freedom and Reforms“ covered the situation with media in Serbia, questions of censorship, political pressures and changes in media laws.

Slobodan Kremenjak, lawyer and participant in drafting of new media laws said that it is necessary to change the way media laws are composed. „Key matters of judicial reform are resolved in the end which is why the process lasted so many years. In the beginning it is important to define goals of law making, not just to get people in the same room and say: draft a law; also, organizing a public discussion before the law is passed, not after“, stated Kremenjak and added that one of positive sides of new laws is that they enable better control of media financing.

Director of Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CINS), Branko Čečen, stated that CINS is under various pressures: „Media is dependent due to small amount of available funds. I do not think that things will change while the media is being directly blackmailed“, said Čečen and ascertained that there is no law that deals with those who jeopardize freedom of expression. He presented media dependence through research done by CINS concerning disputed functioning of firms owned by Miroslav Mišković: „This research was posted only on CINS’ website until it became politically attractive. After that B92 published it and after that Mišković pulled off all the commercial on that television, causing severe problems for functioning of B92“.

Slobodan Georgiev from BIRN believes that investigative journalism is impossible in societies that are underdeveloped and disordered. „Everyone calls you a spy here. Editors of biggest media do not come to these types of gatherings because for them everything is ok. They believe that they are the ones that control the creation of public scene in Serbia. Solidarity among journalists does not exist. We became spies according to Informer when we released the research concerning „Etihad“, and today on front pages of tabloids actor Goran Jevtić is being portrayed as a pedophile and rapist. It is ludicrous“, concluded Georgiev.

Present at the panel was the author and host of „Utisak nedelje“ – Olja Bećković, who responding to a question whether during the shift of government undesirable journalist have to „go down“, said: „I think we all „went down“. Fact that „Utisak“ was shut down speaks enough about what I think whose government brough the worst upon media. Aleksandar Vučić has come from first viceprimeminister (PPV) to PPV – First Private Owner of all media“.

Representative of OSCE in Serbia, Miroslav Janković assessed that media in Serbia are at a great turning point. „European Commission report mentions as key problems questions of selfcensorship and unacceptable meddling into editorial policy. Still, for the condition of media liberty not only those on the outside are to blame, but also journalists themselves for their nonprofessionality“, said Janković.

Nikola Jovanović, entrepreneur and internet activist known as @peckopivo, spoke about possibilities coming from social media. „Praxis of „botting“ on web portals was introduced by DS and URS, with organized appraisals for their own parties and criticism of others. This was continued and improved by SNS party members“, said Jovanović and opened the question of offline pressure on people for their online activities through contacting their employers. He concluded his speech by offering two advices to activists, especially young ones: „Don’t be affraid to speak out and pick your battles. Think steps ahead“.

Panel was moderated by Nikola Parun, PR Manager at Libek.