Serbia: Support for N1 journalists facing increasing threats and intimidation
Around 30 people broke into the courtyard of Serbian television channel N1 to express their discontent with the media coverage of the channel, on 30 May 2023. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined its affiliate the Independent Journalists Association of Serbia (NUNS) in denouncing the failure of the authorities to promptly react and calling for the safety of N1 media workers to be guaranteed.
The smear campaign against N1 television has been intensified by public officials in recent weeks and culminated with a protest of about 30 people for around three hours in the courtyard of the building where the newsroom is located.
The protesters introduced themselves as the “People’s Headquarters” and held speeches with sound systems and banners. While the group didn’t enter the newsroom, journalists were threatened, disrupted in their work, and employees were not feeling safe leaving the premises. N1 reported on its website: “They called N1 staff to come out of the building and said that the station is not telling the truth. According to them, the wrath of the people would catch up with N1 TV.”
According to N1, several plainclothes policemen were present in front of the building but didn’t react because they had not been ordered to identify the demonstrators or remove them from private property. N1’s editor-in-chief reported the incident to the police.
NUNS denounced the lack of response from the police and the prosecutor’s office: “N1 television is under massive attack, both from representatives of the authorities and from extreme right-wing groups (…). N1 television and its journalists are said to be the cause of tragic events, newsrooms and journalists are regularly threatened, and events such as this rally, if allowed, only increase the tension and the level of threats against journalists.”
In the days leading up to the protest against N1, MP of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) twice blamed media of the United Media (UM) group – especially N1 and Nova S – for the school shooting that happened in Belgrade earlier this month. He suggested that journalists were creating “a sick environment conducive to such tragedies”.
EFJ President Maja Sever sent her support to N1 journalists and urged government representatives and political leaders to stop harassing, insulting and attacking media outlets: “We are concerned about the negative climate prevailing in Serbia, fuelled by invective, hate speech and denigration, which is endangering some journalists and media workers.” The EFJ further calls on the Standing Working Group for the Safety of Journalists to assess the situation and take additional institutional measures to guarantee the safety of N1 workers.
This statement by EFJ is part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries.