Government pressure on local media via inspection controls

April 2, 2018

One of the most highly-reputed and well-read local media outlets in Serbia, portal Južne vesti (Southern News), based in the southeast Serbian city of Niš, has been subjected to monitoring by two parallel inspections for the past several months, on the basis of “anonymous reports”.

In the past five years, inspectors have carried out controls of financial documentation another three times, for several months at a time, which, according to staff at Južne vesti, drained editorial staff and management.

According to personnel at Južne vesti, these controls are imposed for political reasons, or rather specifically due to its critical reporting of the local authorities, with an order to find “anything at all”. So far, however, they have not found any irregularities.

According to them, the problem is that inspections are then carried out on the business partners of the company that owns this portal, as well as those advertising with Južne vesti. As a result of this, according to their claims, there is a risk of them being left without clients who cease cooperating with them in order to avoid problems with the state, leaving the portal without financial revenue.

Some other independent media outlets have faced similar controls, such as local weeklies Kikindske and Vranjske, which was recently shut down after 23 years of operations “due to political and economic pressures”.

Also noting that inspection controls are a method by which the authorities seek to take a calculated approach to rare independent media outlets was the report of Freedom House for 2017.