Serbian journalist and media owner on hunger strike to protest against economic pressure


UPDATE: After 19 days of hunger strike, Pavlović interrupted the protest after meeting with the President of Serbia, who promised to contact the relevant institutions in the next ten days to resolve the problems of the independent regional TV Kanal 9, in accordance with the law.

 

Maja Pavlović, the owner of the independent regional TV Kanal 9 in Serbia, has been on hunger strike for 14 days to protest against the economic pressure the station facing the broadcaster. The European and International Federations of Journalists (EFJ-IFJ) join their Serbian affiliates UNS, NUNS, SINOS, in backing Maja Pavlović’s demands.

With this hunger strike, the third in 15 months, Pavlović is denouncing the excessive fees charged by the music authors’ organisation (SOKOJ), the phonogram producers’ organisation (OFPS), the regulatory authority for electronic media (REM) and the Broadcast Network Operator (ETV). She demands more affordable fees for local broadcasters to be consistent with their income. She also requested a meeting with Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić.

Maja Pavlović has filed lawsuits in the past three years to look into the legality of these fees but no ruling has been made yet. The Novi Sad based TV channel’s signal was shut down in May 2018 for a week and had its bank account frozen, due to overdue payments. Since then, Pavlović reckons none of her demands to the state institutions have been met.

“The problems she and other regional TV stations face date back to 2014 and were further exacerbated by the move to digital television broadcasting in 2015, when all local TV stations became regional. As a result, it increased their broadcasting expenses in an unfavourable advertisements market,” explained the president of the Journalists’ Association of Serbia (UNS), Vladimir Radomirović, in a letter to the EFJ.

The Union of Journalists of Serbia (SINOS) believes that the competent institutions should, “as soon as possible, make a decision to reduce unreasonable duties on Kanal 9, which are disproportionate. Unless the issue is urgently addressed in a fair manner, it will be clear that this is a further state pressure on the local media.”

In a letter to MEP David McAllister expected to be in Belgrade today, the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (NUNS) denounces “unreasonable regulations decisions of state authorities” and believes that “resolving the demands of Pavlović would significantly facilitate the economic position of all local and regional broadcasters, especially those with an independent editorial policy that objectively, critically and impartially inform citizens.”

Credit photo: UNS