No End to Threats Against Journalists in Serbia

January 31, 2018

During the course of just one week, three journalists received threats on social networks or were subjected to smear campaigns led against them by pro-government media in Serbia.

The reason for one of the campaigns was research conducted by NGO CRTA, which showed that government representatives received four times as much space/coverage in the media as representatives of the opposition, in the period from October last year until mid-January, when local elections in Belgrade were announced and scheduled for 4th March. After these results were published, along with the conclusion of CRTA analysts that the pre-election campaign had been launched months before elections were announced, pro-government broadcaster TV Pink presented a series of untruths at the expense of CRTA and journalist Tamara Skrozza, who is a member of this organisation’s board of directors and a research associate. Among other things, they stated that CRTA is financed by “powerful sponsors associated with [George] Soros”, that Skrozza is not objective and is politically frustrated, while several of her statements made during one TV guest appearance were altered with the intention of making it appear as though she used that opportunity to insult President Aleskandar Vučić.

A campaign was launched by tabloid newspaper Informer against journalist and Reporters Without Borders associate Una Hajdari, from Pristina, accusing her of “hating Serbs, Serbia and Vučić” after she published a humorous montage of President Aleksandar Vučić on her private Twitter account.

Similar accusations of hatred of “everything Serbian” were also lodged against Dragan Janjić, vice president of the Independent Journalists Association of Serbia (NUNS), and that was even done via a sponsored advertisement on the Facebook page ‘Srbija NAŠA zemlja’ [Serbia OUR country], where his home address was even presented. This came after Vučić called out Janjić for a tweet in which he stated that the recent killing of Kosovo-Serb leader Oliver Ivanović was politically motivated.

Threats and pressures also came in the week after Serbia was visited by a delegation of the European Federation of Journalists, who came on a fact-finding mission prompted by the worrying state of the media in the country. The president of this organisation, Mogens Bjerregård, said that President Vučić had promised during their meeting that he would “every week unconditionally defend media freedom”.

As estimated recently by European Parliament rapporteur for Serbia David McAlister, considering current EU accession negotiations, Serbia needs “clear progress in terms of respecting media independence and getting to grips with threats and attacks against journalists and the media”.