9 December 16

BIRN Regional Director Gives Media Freedom Warning

Real press freedom ceased to exist in Serbia long ago, BIRN regional director Gordana Igric told Deutsche Welle in an article about attacks on free speech in the Balkans.

Journalists who dare to criticise the government of Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic regularly become the target of smear campaigns, Gordana Igric said in the article about attacks on independent journalists and press freedom published by Deutsche Welle on December 2.  

Human Rights Watch backed Igric's claims with official statistics from the Independent Journalist Association of Serbia (NUNS), the article added.

Figures show that, in the first seven months of this year alone, there were 33 attacks on journalists in Serbia, including physical attacks, threats and intimidation, it said.

“Even Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, seen in the West as a reliable partner, is not averse to wild attacks on independent media outlets. He has, for instance, called some online platforms, a number of which received EU prizes for journalistic excellence, ‘scum’,” it continued.

Igric told Deutsche Welle that is one of the reason for the continued problems was the EU and Germany’s "tepid message about the importance of democratic values in Serbia".

“Investigative journalist networks such as BIRN, CINS and KRIKS have been vehemently attacked by government officials and other media outlets with close government ties. Labels like ‘enemies of the state’ and ‘foreign henchmen’ were almost always part of these defamation campaigns,” the Deutsche Welle article said.

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