N1 accuses: Government hinders independent media

The regional television network N1 – known for its independent stance – says it fears Serbia’s government is mulling banning its work in the country.

TV N1’s news director in Serbia, Jugoslav Cosic, has warned that Serbia’s Ministry of Culture and Information is preparing a media strategy that he says could eliminate the presence in the country of CNN’s news channel affiliate in the region.

The ministry is drawing up plans “which would disable N1,” Cosic told BIRN, adding that this is probably because its journalists unsettle the current regime, which “cannot accept the concept of even a relatively free media in Serbia”.

N1 said that, according to its information, the Ministry is preparing a new media strategy and laws containing a proposal that cable distributors of television channels and their related entities cannot produce and own their own channels at the same time.

N1 is owned by Adria News, part of United Media, which is a member of United Group – the same as SBB, a cable television and broadband internet service provider in Serbia.

Cosic said the Ministry should make clear whether it backs such a plan or not. He added that, if necessary, N1 would ask EU media authorities to intervene.

A secretary in the Ministry, Nino Brajevic, told BIRN that Cosic’s claims were absurd and the aim was not to eliminate any media outlets.

“Strategies are documents that determine the objectives for the development of certain areas. In the media field in Serbia, ‘the elimination of media’ is not and cannot be a development goal,” Brajovic said.

Cosic also added that while their journalists were trying to work professionally and as best they can, officials have continued spreading falsehoods about the network and insulting them.

Launched in October 2014, this TV station airs from Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia, and has become known for its professional journalism and provocative questions.

But while N1 journalists win numerous awards for their work, Serbian officials are often hostile to them.

“When we ask them questions which they don’t like, in most cases what follows is discrediting [the journalists] and moving the goalposts, so they don’t answer the questions,” N1 journalist Jovana Stetin told BIRN.

During the last election night, on April 23, Gordana Bjeletic, a reporter from N1, was pushed out of the local headquarters of ruling Serbian Progressive Party in Zajecar, when she asked about the procedures for reporting.  

In his reaction a few days later, Progressive MP Aleksandar Martinovic asked ironically: “How is it possible that something bad happens only to N1 journalists?”

Another N1 journalist, Maja Nikolic, recalled how in 2015, when she tried to question Vucic about the latest Anti-Corruption Council report, he “started to shout at me, telling me that I can’t shout at him, which I didn’t. I was talking so quietly I had to subtitle myself,” Nikolic told BIRN.

On a video published by N1,  Vucic can be heard telling Nikolic that he will decide who asks the questions, and N1 journalists will get their opportunity when he allows.

Since taking power in 2012, Vucic has been regularly accused of undermining free speech and freedom of the press.

In its latest 2017 report, the watchdog organization Reporters Without Borders said that Serbia was among the countries with the worst decline in media freedom over the past year.

By Maja Zivanovic

(Balkan Insight, 05.05.2017)



This post is also available in: Italiano

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