Director of Novi Sad-based Television Channel 9, Maja Pavlović, started a new hunger strike in Belgrade on 12th August. She opted for this most drastic form of protest due to the failure to resolve a legal dispute linked to the state fees that have to be paid by television stations in Serbia.
Pavlović has spent the last five years trying to prove through the court that the fees that must be paid by small, local television companies in Serbia are too high and unbearable for local television stations that operate on the brink of oblivion.
She’s also highlighted the unjust way that funds allocated by municipalities from the budget to the media in project co-financing contests are distributed, as they favour those who support the government. She also noted the fact that all state-owned companies that previously advertised on this television company have now cancelled their cooperation.
She was told by a representative of the Ministry of Information to close down her television company, which is unable to secure profit. However, Pavlović reminded that 125 electronic media companies in Serbia have been shut down in recent years, which proves that the problem does not lie with them, but rather with the enormous charges imposed by the state. The majority of television companies closed down after the digitalisation process, when the state imposed huge fees for the use of transmitters and frequencies.
Pavlović insists that she isn’t striking in an attempt to have the debts of her television company written off, as claimed by pro-regime public service broadcasters and other media, rather because she advocates for the rule of law to function.
She has been supported by many of her fellow journalists, but the owners of other local television stations in Serbia fear supporting her publicly and thus do so only privately, in telephone conversations with her.
Channel 9’s lawyers are preparing to file a lawsuit with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. And Pavlović says that she will accept this court’s decision, whatever it may be.
This is her third hunger strike over the course of the last 15 months. Her previous strike, in May this year, was interrupted after a meeting with Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, with Pavlović having believed promises that her demands would be met.
The meeting, which was aired directly on television, more resembled an interrogation, with the prime minister and her associates communicating in a very rough manner with Maja Pavlović, who at that moment had spent 23 days on hunger strike.
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