Serbia: The government must support media freedom
The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) today joined ARTICLE 19 and the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) in launching a report detailing the findings of a recent online fact-finding mission to Serbia.
The report followed an international advocacy mission to Serbia, led by ARTICLE 19, that took place virtually from 29 January to 2 February 2021 in partnership with MFRR members and the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (NUNS).
The mission was joined by EFJ, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), International Press Institute (IPI), Free Press Unlimited (FPU) and the Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT). The Center for Human Rights – American Bar Association and the South East Europe Media Organisation also joined the mission.
While the report notes a relatively small number of positive state initiatives prompted by international pressures, including the adoption of a Media Strategy Action Plan, these are outnumbered by numerous areas of concern regarding media freedom and safety of journalists that must be urgently addressed by the government.
Minimal progress was registered with regard to media freedom, but at the same time, there was a marked regression regarding access to information. The report also raises concerns about public officials actively contributing to the polarisation of the media landscape, demonising independent media through direct verbal attacks or the use of pro-government tabloids.
Finally, it includes a series of urgent recommendations for the government of Serbia and international organisations to improve media freedom and safety of journalists in Serbia.
The mission’s partners met with key media freedom stakeholders in Serbia, including representatives from journalists and media associations, the Standing Working Group on Safety of Journalists, a selected group of Serbian journalists who have been targets of legal, physical or verbal threats or harassment, the Serbian Ombudsman, officials from the Serbian Government and representatives of international organisations.
This statement has been coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries. This project provides legal and practical support, public advocacy and information to protect journalists and media workers. The MFRR is organised by a consortium led by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) including ARTICLE 19, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Free Press Unlimited (FPU), the Institute for Applied Informatics at the University of Leipzig (InfAI), International Press Institute (IPI) and CCI/Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT). The project is co-funded by the European Commission. www.mfrr.eu