World Press (Non) Freedom Day

May 4, 2017

WORLD PRESS (NON) FREEDOM DAY - press release-1On the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day, the Belgrade Center for Human Rights and Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM) warn about the very alarming state of the media in Serbia and appeal for the immediate halting of the collapse of freedom of media as one of the basic guarantees of human rights and freedom in a democratic society.

We would like to highlight that the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia clearly guarantees each citizen the right to be truthfully, completely and timely informed about issues of public significance, and that all modes of public informing are obliged to adhere to this right.

The recent long-lasting economic crisis negatively affected the financial position of the media, additionally worsened by the effects of media privatization as well as the apparent negative results of co-financing media content from the state budget. The aforementioned ultimately leads to ever greater political and economic pressures on the media. Apart from this, the journalist profession is subjected to constant attacks that cause great insecurity and auto-censorship. Concurrently, the continuous tabloidization of the media is further destroying professionalism in the media and the reputation of the journalistic profession.

We would like to point to the fact that, for a number of years now, there are still unresolved cases of murdered journalists and that those trials, when they occur, last too long and without any apparent progress in the respective investigations.

The media blackout in which our society has found itself, prevents not only the freedom of the media to report objectively, but it also prevents the public to be informed on time, objectively
and without bias about all the crucial aspects of social life, thereby slowing down democratic processes.

Especially worrying is the intent by the Ministry of Culture and Information, through the adoption of a new media strategy and by amending media laws, to legally prevent cable TV providers from producing or owning their own channels, which would threaten media houses that report professionally and responsibly regardless of political pressures. The Government and relevant ministry have an unclear definition of media policy, where the recently opened issue of the television station N1 banning and activities of the relevant ministry regarding this issue can additionally show the picture of pressure on independent media and hinder their further work.

More and more justified criticisms appear on account of media freedom and its abuse in Serbia on both a national and international level. The UN Human Rights Committee expressed its concern regarding allegations of public denigration and intimidation of media and journalists by public officials, the reduction of space for debates and, especially, the pursuit of journalists and civil society actors for expressing free and critical opinions.

It is necessary for authorities in Serbia to halt the pressure on the media and immediately take action with the aim of providing efficient protection from all forms of media and journalist intimidation, to ensure effective investigations and adequately sanction the perpetrators of all cases of attacks and murders of journalists.
We appeal to State Authorities to bring back to each citizen of Serbia their right to know and to be informed on time, objectively and without bias