Summary

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Serbia Tabloid Targets BIRN, Other Media, as ‘Mercenaries’

The Serbian pro-government Informer newspaper on Monday accused several investigative media outlets, including BIRN, of working as foreign mercenaries for the CIA and others.

Serbia's notorious pro-government tabloid, Informer, on Monday - under the front-page headline reading, “America and the EU paying liars and racketeers" - accused the investigative media organizations KRIK, CINS and BIRN, as well as the daily Kurir, of being financed by Western countries to destabilise the country.

It quoted an analyst called Dragomir Andjelkovic as saying that Serbia should follow Russia's example and adopt a special law curbing NGOs in Serbia.

Russian law allows prosecutors to declare foreign and international organizations undesirable and shut them down.

Slobodan Georgijev, an editor with BIRN whose photograph was published on Informer's front page, said the article marked “another step towards the criminalization of journalists.

"We’re talking about criminalization by the people who are in power. They are creating an atmosphere to label us as foreign mercenaries in order to force us to make excuses for doing our job,” he said. 

Branko Cecen, head of CINS, said labelling journalists as spies was becoming a common way to frustrate their work in Serbia, but added CINS was going to continue with its work, despite the growing pressure.

“Russian law on NGOs has practically stopped the NGO sector in that country, so what Andjelkovic says might be a verbalization of the wishes of some in the Serbian executive,” Cecen told BIRN.

Since President Vladimir Putin took power in Moscow, 120 journalists have been killed in Russia, he noted.

Stevan Dojcinovic, head of KRIK, called the latest Informer article just “an update” on its prevous efforts in this field.

“We have two new donors this year, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Civil Rights Defenders, and it’s all public, we’re not hiding this. It just happens that they [Informer] call us once a month without reason,” Dojcinovic said.

“This has been going on for so long that you simply need to get used to it, although I am far from underestimating it," he added, referring to the tabloid.

On November 4, Informer wrote that the Serbian Security Service, BIA, had received information from Russian colleagues that the Americans intended to push Serbia into crisis.

Informer claimed the CIA was either planning to assassinate Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic and present this as a mafia war, or to kill the loudest critics of the government and blame the murders on the government.

The article caused fury on social media, with some voicing the fears that Informer might be preparing the ground for attacks on government critics and on the independent media.

Tamara Skrozza, a member of the Appeal Commission of Serbia's Press Council and a journalist for the weekly magazine Vreme, said the latest Informer report added to the feeling of insecurity among many journalists.

“I’m worried about the possible results of this campaign. In my opinion, the security of the mentioned journalists is under serious threat, so if the Prime Minister supports the rule of law, he should be the one to react to this,” Skrozza told BIRN.

She said that tensions in Serbia had risen to unprecedented proportions, creating an even more dangerous environment for critical thinkers.

On October 25, Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic said the authorities in Podgorica would investigate the extent of Russian and Serbian involvement in a alleged coup attempt there.

Twenty people, including the former commander of the Serbian Gendarmerie Bratislav Dikic, were arrested in Montenegro on October 16 on suspicion of planning to overthrow Djukanovic.

On October 24, Prime Minister Vucic said the Serbian authorities had arrested several people who were allegedly following Djukanovic and planning illegal acts in Montenegro. However, he also insisted they had no connection to the Serbian state, but had connections to a unnamed third country.

The Serbian Prime Minister also claimed the number of members of “powerful foreign intelligence agencies”, from both East and West, was increasing in Serbia. He added that a senior police officer had also been arrested for “disclosing confidential information” to a foreign intelligence service.

Amid the turmoil cased by the Montenegrin claims, stashes of arms were found near Vucic's home in Jajince.

Concerns were raised that the weapons were intended for use against Vucic or his brother, especially after Interior Minster Nebojsa Stefanovic on Tuesday said the Prime Minister had expressed fears for his brother's safety.

Informer has a history of accusing independent journalistic organisations of working against Serbia - as do some politicans.

Last week, BIRN's Georgijev was labelled a state enemy who “wanted to see something happened to the Prime Minister in terms of an assassination” by the Minister of Social Affairs Aleksandar Vulin during a debate on state television, RTS.

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Serbian Government and Press Lead Campaign against BIRN

Campaign against BIRN lead by Serbian Government and pro-government media which started in the summer 2014 and culminated in January 2015, still continues, raising wider concerns about freedom of the media and the pressure on free speech in Serbia.

November 30, 2016 - Government officials and pro-government media have repeatedly criticized independent news organizations, notes Human Rights Watch in its latest report. In November 2015, the pro-government tabloid Informer revived accusations that BIRN had taken foreign money “to bring down our government”.  In another smear campaign, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic criticized the independent online news site BIRN. Pro government media outlets TV Pink and Informer accused BIRN of being an enemy of the state and a foreign mercenary. The accusations were apparently in response to BIRN’s critical reporting of abuse of power and alleged government corruption, HRW said.

November 7, 2016 – Informer publishes the second part of the story on how the media and NGOs are funded in Serbia: “Thus Branko Cecen’s Centre for Investigative Journalism, CINS, and Slobodan Georgiev’s Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, get enormous amounts of money from the European Commission and the Dutch Foreign Ministry…”, reads the new article.

Pečat editor-in-chief Milorad Vucelic told Informer: „Here the media have been hired to work for foreign bosses. They don’t depend on the market but on donations and they are not ashamed of it…“

November 5, 2016 – Informer editor Dragan J. Vucicevic repeats in the Television Pink morning show the allegations from the article on the funding of the media and NGOs.

November 5, 2016 – In its story entitled “Foreigners Give Millions for False Scandals in Serbia”, the tabloid Informer writes that, in addition to non-governmental organizations, the “so-called investigative journalism organizations, such as BIRN, CINS, KRIK…” also get a great deal of money from the West.

November 2, 2016 – The Independent Association of Serbian Journalists releases statement: Dangerous statements by Minister Vulin

November 1, 2016 – As a guest of the RTS programme Upitnik, Minister of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs Aleksandar Vulin put BIRN journalist Slobodan Georgiev in the category of those who support the threats against the safety of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic.

September 16, 2016 – OSCE representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović called on the Serbian authorities to fully investigate acts of intimidation and threats directed at journalists. In a written statement Mijatovic said that she followed with great concern a series of incidents, including death threats, directed at media over the past three months.

September 16, 2016 – "Dosta je bilo" movement condemned the lack of the state institutions’ reaction to the threats and insults directed at journalists inSerbia on a daily basis and demanded an immediate reaction of the police and prosecutor’s office.

September 16, 2016 – The Independent Association of Serbian Journalists cautioned that the latest threats against journalists, including those against BIRN journalist Slobodan Georgiev, are a result of the atmosphere created by the authorities as well as by certain media.

September 13, 2016 – The New Party demands that the relevant bodies, the police and the prosecutor’s office, as soon as possible identify and prosecute those responsible for the threats against Slobodan Georgiev and Nedim Sejdinovic.

September 12, 2016 – The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) called on all relevant bodies to identify and prosecute, in the shortest time possible, those responsible for the threats made over social networks to Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina president Nedim Sejdinovic and Balkan Investigative Reporting Network journalist Slobodan Georgiev.

September 12, 2016 – Following many threats that BIRN journalist Slobodan Gerogiev received via social networks, the Independent Association of Serbian Journalists addressed the Special Prosecution Office for High Tech Crime asking it to urgently take all measures, in line with the law, and to determine the identity of the persons who made the threats and then to indict and prosecute them.

September 10, 2016 – In Television Pink’s morning programme Informer editor Dragan J. Vucicevic repeats that the European Union is giving huge funding to BIRN journalist Slobodan Georgiev so “he would write the things that he writes and so, say, we all saw that, a scandal would break out like the one yesterday which was serious, on social networks and in some electronic media. However, today it is practically not mentioned in the print media and only exists in Informer. Therefore we are the only ones reporting that Slobodan Georgiev, the European Union’s favourite, BIRN editor-in-chief or whatever he is, wrote that Serbia is a Fascist creation.”

September 10, 2016 – „Slobodan Georgiev, editor of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, supported, with donations, by Western embassies and the European Union has proclaimed Serbia, believe it or not, a Fascist creation!?!“, writes the tabloid Informer.

SNS official Zoran Babic comments for Informer: „This is a pinnacle of dishonour and hatred! I call on all relevant judicial and medical bodies to react.“

September 8, 2016 – As a guest of the RTS morning show regarding to Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn’s attendance at a Serbian Government sitting, Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said: „I would like to hear answers regarding the information that Europe is financing media companies and institutions that release lies about Serbia, such as story on West Tamnava released by BIRN, which was later denied by the World Bank.”

July 11, 2016 – In a new article entitled “Here’s Who the European Union is Sponsoring the Most inSerbia! Millions from the EU for NUNS, Dinko, Bojana Maljevic…”, the daily Informer places BIRN among European Union’s “favourites” and writes how much money it received from 2007 to 2015.

June 27, 2016 – In an open letter, editor of the tabloid Informer Dragan J. Vucicevic writes the following: „Paid and instructed directly by the EU, Slobodan Georgiev (the very same person who recently compared Vucic with Jihadi John), falsely presenting himself as “an investigative journalist”, at the time published the information that one of Vucic’s close associates in “West Tamnava” had stolen a great deal of money. In the end it was established, and confirmed by the World Bank: that everything was in line with the law, that the lowest possible bid of a local contractor had been accepted, and that Georgiev and his employers from Brussels had actually tried to secure the job for “the experts” from The Netherlands who asked for the dewatering as much as EUR 22.3 million more than the Serbian company!”

June 12, 2016 – In its print edition the tabloid Informer writes that the situation inSerbia is being systematically radicalized, and accuses BIRN journalist Slobodan Georgiev of being responsible for this. Informer also writes that the European Union is supporting him and giving EUR 36,500.

June 11, 2016 – Television Studio B joins Pink and Informer in reporting on journalist Slobodan Georgiev by repeating the allegations that the European Union has given EUR 36,500 for salaries for BIRN employees.

June 11, 2016 – In its national news broadcast Television Pink repeats the allegations made in the online edition of the tabloid Informer.

June 11, 2016 – „Slobodan Georgiev, EU Ambassador Michael Davenport’s favourite and editor of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network BIRN, which recently got EUR 36,500 from the European Commission to pay out salaries to its employees, compared on Twitter Prime Minister Designate Aleksandar Vucic with the well-known international terrorist Jihadi John!” writes the tabloid Informer.

June 11, 2016 – In an article entitled „BIRN gets 36,500€ fromBrussels“, tabloid Informer writes that BIRN is a concrete example of the West’s suspicious funding of the so-called “investigative” and “independent” media. Informer explains that BIRN acquired fame by launching a bogus scandal about the dewatering of the Tamnava mine, adding that “it has been taking, for years, large amounts of money from the Rockefeller Foundation but also from the embassies of theUSA, EU and The Netherlands”.

June 10, 2016 – Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said that he has no disagreements whatsoever with the USA and the EU and that, in the political sense, it was ages ago that he got over the fact that they give money to those who will make up stories such as that about West Tamnava.

„As for whether I am happy that they give money to those who will make up stories about West Tamnava, I am not happy, but I got over that, in the political sense, three years ago, and now I see it as an inflow of foreign exchange, so I look forward to us having more money in the budget because I know that, when they get the money, they will spend it in Usce and Delta City.”

June 10, 2016 – „The editor of Informer is the only one who has the courage to tell Miskovic, BIRN, Davenport, something they don’t like, while others don’t dare say a word,“ said Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic commenting on the freedom of media in Serbia.

May 30, 2016 – The daily Politika publishes BIRN’s denial of the reports by journalist Visnja Arandjelovic.

May 24, 2016 – In an article entitled „The Court Punishes Them While Foreigners Award Them“ Politika journalist Visnja Arandjelović alleges that BIRN journalist Aleksandar Djordjevic is a liar and that, in the story on pumping out the water from the Tamnava mine, he had deceived the public and the readers.

She says: „So BIRN journalist Aleksandar Djordjević kept quiet about the fact that the Tamnava project was credited by the World Bank, that it monitored it and that it established that there were no oversights. BIRN erroneously claimed that the consortium that got the job had no references, that they hired subcontractors, that it was possible to bypass the application of the Public Procurement Law…”

May 20, 2016 – Following the Prime Minister’s response, BIRN calls on him to present to the public documents on the Tamnava.

May 19, 2016 – Prime Minister Vucic reacted to the news that the European Union Investigative Journalism Award went to Aleksandar Djordjević for the article Draining the Mine and the Budget when he repeated accusations against BIRN describing the story as “a notorious lie”

“I fought for and succeeded in making it show that not only was everything clean, but that  the state did the whole thing with far less money than was realistic. The state came out of that successfully, it dramatically increased the production of coal, before the deadlines and ahead of time,”  Vučić told a press conference.

April 21, 2016 – In their 2015 media freedom annual report Reporters Without Borders write that those “who criticize the authorities the most are targets of public attacks”, and cite BIRN as an example.

March 07, 2016 – „Do I think that BIRN wasn’t telling the truth – I think it wasn’t telling the truth,” – the Serbian Prime Minister remained firm in his stance from January 2015 presented after BIRN published its investigation entitled Pumping Out the Mine and the Budget. In addition to this, in an interview with Insider.net portal journalist Irena Stevic, he said that he “supposes he shouldn’t have used the word liars” and that “such a word does not befit him as the prime minister”. In spite of this, Vucic stuck by his stance that BIRN did not write the truth.

January 15, 2016 - Serbian tabloid Informer has accused BIRN journalist Sasa Dragojlo of "spying on paintings" at the official residence of Serbia's Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, where he held a press conference on Thursday.

In a front-page story titled ‘This is how scandals are made’, Informer reports that Dragojlo "separated himself from the rest of the journalists and started making a list of paintings in the residence.”

This story is the latest smear in an ongoing campaign led by this pro-government tabloid against BIRN.

November 30, 2015 – As a guest of the RTS programme Upitnik, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic repeated claims regarding the World Bank which BIRN had rebutted in its November 14 statement.

November 14, 2015 – In its statement BIRN Serbia rebuts Vucic’s claims regarding the World Bank made during an interview with the Sputnik news agency.

November 13, 2015 – In an interview with the news agency Sputnik Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic once again called BIRN “liars”.

„(People from the European Union) were capable of giving us their comments regarding that BIRN and West Tamnava when they lied, if you remember, about the tender, when the World Bank also said that everything was clean and in line with the World Bank procedures. For those liars they called to intervene…”, said Vucic.

Even though the Prime Minister stresses that the World Bank said that everything was clean and in line with the procedures, BIRN has received no confirmation of this since the World Bank officials have refused BIRN’s request to submit the report on the tender, without a single concrete reason. Read more about this here.

November 13, 2015 - CINS and KRIK have been likened to the “fifth column” in an Informer article published today claiming both NGOs have received foreign funding by western embassies, the Rockefellers Brothers Fund, and businessman George Soros, who are all motivated by politics.

"The interest to finance anti-government media is political. Those who received the money are the fifth column in this state. Full stop," said Zeljko Cvijanovic.

It is reported that KRIK received funding from the Journalism Development Network and CINS from the National Endowment for Democracy, NED. Earlier in the week, foreign donations to BIRN were also highlighted because of alleged political motives.

On the same day, the European Federation of Journalists, EFJ, posted a blog in support of Serbia's independent media - including BIRN, CINS and KIRK - calling for the authorities "to avoid creating a hostile environment for journalists and media workers."

 

November 12, 2015Informer writes that BIRN received 25,000 euros from the Holland embassy in 2013, to "control the media" in Serbia. 

BIRN coordinator and journalist, Slobodan Georgiev said that "all of our projects, lists of donors and donations can be found on our website. We aren't hiding anything, everything is public. You can find all of the information from every project there".

 

November 11, 2015 -In today's issue, the tabloid Informer writes about finances of CINS and BIRN that originate from the US and the UK, continuing the attack on critical thinking and free media in Serbia. 

"The state is withdrawing from the media while foreign agents and diplomats go in the news organizations," Milorad Vucelic said for Pecat.

"Postmodern occupation is ongoing," Vucelic added.

Informer writes that BIRN has received around 107,000 euros for "financing false affairs and instigating unrest".

BIRN Serbia editor, Slobodan Georgiev said that "all funding received were given to us for projects, nothing else".

"For the rest of the details, you can ask those who approved the funds," Georgiev added.

 

November 10, 2015The campaign against government watchdogs BIRN, CINS and KRIK continues with Serbian tabloid Informer publishing an article today claiming these organisations are financed by foreign governments so they can keep Serbia “in the state of perpetual chaos."

Informer published financial documentation, not legally obtainable, claiming that as soon as CINS received money from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, it “launched the campaign accusing minister of defence Bratislav Gasic of conflict of interest".

Download the translated version of Informer for November 9 here.

Download the translated version of Informer for November 10 here.

 

November 9, 2015Serbian tabloid Informer published on Monday BIRN's financial documentation, which is not legally obtainable, claiming that the European commission is "directly funding attempts to bring Vucic down and instigate chaos in Serbia", continuing this newspapers attack on the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network. 

"Donation from the EU commission is just one of the payments made from abroad to news networks, who's only purpose is launching false affairs and instigating chaos," it was said in Informer.

November 8, 2015Owner and editor of Informer, Dragan Vucicevic said on television Pink that BIRN is "financed to overthrow Vucic's Government, in order to fulfill their campaign to have a Serbia without a PM", continuing attacks on BIRN.

"They (BIRN, CINS and Krik) use lies to destabilize the country, I have proof of everything," Vucicevic said on Sunday.

March 27, 2015A new report on media freedoms in the Western Balkans notes the Serbian government’s attack on BIRN in January, which came in response to BIRN’s publication of an investigation into the tender awarded for the repair of the state-owned Tamnava mine.

The report called this an example of Vucic’s “combative attitude toward the media”.

It went on to say that no one would compare Serbia today with the situation under the late strongman Slobodan Milosevic, when journalists were assassinated and there was outright censorship.

“However, there are clear authoritarian tendencies in the current government that find their most tangible expression in the instrumentalisation of the media and in relentless attacks on those who persist in reporting things as they are,” the report added.

The report entitled “Media freedom and integrity in the Western Balkans: Recent developments” was published by the European Fund for the Balkans. Read more on it on Balkan Insight.

March 22, 2015 - In an interview with the Radio Free Europe, Sasa Radulovic, former Serbian economy minister, said that he was still waiting for the court’s epilogue in the case against PM Aleksandar Vucic.

The premier accused him in August of providing BIRN with draft contract between state-owned JAT and Etihad in order to destabilise the government. Radulovic rejected these accusations and took the case to court.

March 17, 2015 - Aleksandar Vulin, Serbian Labour Minister, has asked a rhetoric question on why media, and BIRN especially, were silent on verbal harassment of the family of the PM Aleksandar Vucic in the past few months. Read the full article on Blic.

March 14, 2015E-novine is tirelessly investigating into the BIRN network in order to find some irregularities. E-novine’s ugly campaign against BIRN is again accompanied by inappropriate photo captions.

You may find the full article here. 

March 12, 2015 - content analysis covering two weeks in January (8th to 21st), at the time of an intense public debate on BIRN and on reactions to its investigative report, shows that BIRN was mentioned either directly or indirectly, through reactions of officials, analysts or the civil sector, in 294 media reports. 

Of that number, 131 were released by print and electronic media. The reporting of these media will be the subject of further upcoming analysis. Quantitative data was obtained from Nina Media Agency while the qualitative analysis was conducted by BIRN.

The topics that formed the backbone of the debatemainly involved criticism of BIRN, the relationship between the EU and Prime Minister Vucic, which had come into the spotlight because of BIRN reports, and analysis of the political situation and media freedoms. 

Less than ten per cent of the articles referred to the issues raised by BIRN’s research, that were essentially issues of public importance, namely, the threat to the power system and possible violations of public procurement procedures for the de-watering of the Tamnava mine. Only 25 of the 294 articles directly addressed the report’s findings.

March 10, 2015E-novine campaign against BIRN has culminated with a so-called investigative story on the BIRN's businesses, operations and people. You may find the full article here.

March 9, 2015Under the headline “Everything is under the government’s control”, BIRN regional director Gordana Igric talks about dealing with the pressure in the past couple of months. Read the full interview on the website of the Danas daily newspaper.

March 4, 2015In a session on February 26, the Complaints Commission of the Serbian Press Council ruled that Informer violated the section of the Code of Journalists of Serbia related to the veracity of reporting in the article entitled “Wanted to get hold of 23.2 million euro, but are still ‘reputable journalists’ and diplomats,” which it published on January 15.

“BIRN editorial is presented ‘as being part of a media mob and of racketeering the state on behalf of the EU’ and Informer did not even think that it should all be proved," the Commission said.

March 2, 2015

 

February 27, 2015While the draining of the Tamnava mine is running months late, EPS says the consortium has fulfilled its contract and will not be charged penalties. read the full article on Balkan Insight.

February 25, 2015Deutsche Welle in Serbian has published an analysis on the media freedoms and censorship in Serbia following the European Commissioner Johannes Hahn's statement. Read the full article here.

February 23, 2015Distribution of BIRN’s English language newspaper, Belgrade Insight, has been stopped at Belgrade airport and at Tourist Organisation of Belgrade centres - in what appears a continuation of the government-led campaign against BIRN.

Miodrag Popovic, the acting director of the Tourist Organisation of Belgrade, TOB, told BIRN that Belgrade Insight’s editorial concept was not appropriate for tourist info centres.

Gordana Igric, BIRN regional director, said the latest developments showed that the campaign was ongoing.

“We perceive the fact that Belgrade Insight is being kicked out of venues that have been our partners for years as continuation of the campaign against BIRN in which state institutions and companies - which by the nature of their job have to cooperate with the state - are participating,” she said.

Read the full report on Balkan Insight. 

February 19, 2015The European Federation of Journalists, EFJ, told Johannes Hahn, the European Commissioner in charge of European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiation that media censorship is a reality in Serbia following his controversial remark.

February 19 - The executive director of the Reporters Without Borders and one of the authors of the report about media freedom in the world, Christian Mihr, told Cenzolovka that censorship in Serbia is neither direct nor transparent, but that it is easy to prove. 

February 19, 2015 - Ivan Tasovac, Serbian Minister for Culture and Media, denied media censorship claims.

February 18, 2015BIRN's response to Johannes Hahn on media freedom: “The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network would like to express its alarm and serious concern over the statement of Johannes Hahn, the EU's Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations who has said that he needs to see evidence of declining media freedom in Serbia.” Read the full response here.

February 18, 2015According to the tabloid Informer, BIRN, OSCE and the Anti-corruption Council in Serbia have united to prove that censorship exists in the Serbian media scene. 

February 17, 2015European Commissioner Johannes Hahn said in Brussels that he was determined to follow every claim that the position and freedom of the media in Serbia had declined to its root, but also made it clear that for this he needed proof and demonstrable findings.

When asked by reporters whether he regarded as proof that the freedom of the media in Serbia was worsening the fact that the international Reporters Without Borders organization had claimed in its latest report that the position and freedom of the media in Serbia had worsened, Hahn replied that "one needs to see on which basis they gave such an evaluation." 

February 13, 2015 - Freedominfo.org, the global network of freedom of information advocates, is writing that the World Bank, despite being a major supporter of “open contracting,” restricted access to its own reports on “post-procurement reviews” in the Tamnava mine case.

"Bank officials confirmed the existence of a report on the procurement process, but told journalists from BIRN that they would not release the report," the website said. 

February 13, 2015 The media in Serbia are exposed to censorship and self-censorship that is without precedent in the Balkans, but journalists must resist pressure and continue to defy, stated the participants of the panel discussion, titled "Free the Media."

Gordana Igric, BIRN regional director, said that freedom of speech and critical thought in Serbia had been extinguished and that they were unaware of the scope of that fact until they published the article on the pumping out of water from the Tamnava Zapadno Polje strip mine.

She pointed out that very few media had conveyed this report and that a campaign against BIRN was under way for a month after its publishing, which turned into a conflict between Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic and the European Union.

February 12, 2015 - Those who missed "Free the media" debate today can watch it here.

February 12, 2015

 

February 12, 2015A recent media analysis shows that there were 294 reports on BIRN in the Serbian media from January 8-21. Only 25 out of them were related to the main findings of the Tamnava mine investigation.

Pink TV and Politika daily paper were in the forefront of the attack on BIRN. Read the full analysis in Serbian here. 

February 11, 2015 - According to E-novine, BIRN is an "unlimited company for mafia money laundering."

February 11, 2015“We are alarmed and particularly concerned by what appears to be a clearly deteriorating situation of media freedom in Serbia. In democracies, one should expect journalists to act as watchdogs of all public bodies (including the government) enabling the people to make informed decisions on the issues of public interests. The colleagues from BIRN deserve to be supported and protected by the Serbian and the international community for their intensive investigative reporting,” said Ricardo Gutierrez, EFJ General Secretary.

 

February 11, 2015BIRN Regional Director Gordana Igric has sent a letter on behalf of the network to more than 30 international human rights and media organisations including the Committee to Protect Journalists, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights and International Press Institute to highlight the continued pressure on BIRN in Serbia.

"BIRN and its partners are deeply concerned that the situation is likely to deteriorate further and we therefore appeal to you to express concern over these issues," the letter says. Read the letter here.

February 10, 2015 - Vreme weekly paper has published Transparency Serbia documents showing that damage with the Tamnava mine is several times higher than the value of public procurement. Read the full article on Vreme.com.

February 10, 2015 - Following the attacks, BIRN and Human Rights House in Belgrade are organising a debate on press freedom entitled “Free the media” on February 12. Everyone is invited to come. Follow the link for more information.

February 9, 2015 - Borko Stefanovic of the Democratic Party said that his team for Serbia’s SYRIZA would include ombudsman Sasa Jankovic, BIRN’s Slobodan Georgijev, sociologists Vesna Pesic and Jovo Bakic, as well as renowned professor Srbijanka Turajlic.

February 9, 2015 - Transparency Serbia said on Monday that the public tender for de-watering of Tamnava mine was carried out in line with the national legislation, and not by the World Bank rules. Read the full article on B92.net.

February 9, 2015Not realising that BIRN is quoting everybody as saying something related to the attacks on BIRN, E-novine is now saying: “Greed for EU money is such that even Milovan Brkic [editor in chief of “Tabloid”] is a good friend of Gordana Igric and her BIRN junta.”

February 8, 2015 - Under the headline “Nostalgia for the Nineties,” Ljiljana Smajlovic, editor in chief of the daily paper Politika, is saying that it turns out that BIRN should not be criticised by the government, even when it is responsible for sloppy reporting. 

February 6, 2015 - Vesna Pesic, Serbian renowned sociologist, is praising the work of the so-called “traitors” like BIRN, ombudsman Sasa Jankovic and Humanitarian Law Center. Read the full article on Pescanik.net.

February 6, 2015 - E-novine is now ironically saying how touching it is that the only thing BIRN cares about is the public interest, and not money or grants. There is also an accompanying photo to illustrate the thought. It shows an envelope full of money with description: “Cash as BIRN’s favourite public interest.” 

February 6, 2015Zoran Panovic, Editor in Chief of the Danas daily paper, said that Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's spin doctor, was paid from EU funds to give a PR lecture to the Serbian government officials.

“How come that the Serbian Government can take money from the EU, and someone else, like BIRN for example, cannot,” Panovic asked.

February 5, 2015 - "Tabloid" is critising the Politika daily paper for attacking BIRN. 

“We are not BIRN, [Politika's editor in chief, Ljiljana] Smajlovic proudly wrote (…) Indeed, Politika is not BIRN. When you say Politika, you think of a trash,” Tabloid said.

February 5, 2015 - In a special ceremony, BIRN Serbia received Jug Grizelj Award for investigative journalism for 2014 not only for the investigation into Tamnava mine, but also Air Serbia and advertising agencies.

Dragana Zarkovic, director of BIRN Serbia, said that the organisation will continue with critical reporting towards every government.

"We believe that it is our job to ask difficult questions and work in the public interest," Zarkovic said.

February 4, 2015US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Melia said that Serbia should be happy to have organizations like BIRN and the Humanitarian Law Fund because it is important for every government to listen to organizations publishing important information and to take measures based on that information. Read the interview with Melia in Serbia on N1.

February 4, 2015 - The pro-government Informer daily paper said that BIRN won the prestigious Jug Grizelj award for investigative journalism by spreadng lies.

February 4, 2015 - E-novine continues with its dirty campaign against BIRN. This time, Gordana Igric, BIRN regional director is "under money" (referring to the "BIRN under fire"), while E-novine is suffering to get grants and thus struggling to survive.    

“The only good thing is that Gordana Igric is happy; despite so many "attacks, censorship, campaign, bullying," miss Igric and her BIRN have never been to court (…) and a pair of wagons for the "threatened” is already underway to many countries where BIRN has its labyrinth,” the website said.

February 3, 2015E-novine has yet another article devoted to BIRN, now calling it a monstrous NGO in the form of a giant vacuum cleaner for taking money from EU funds. 

February 2, 2015 - Hard working has paid off as BIRN Serbia won prestigious award for investigaive journalism "Jug Grizelj."

February 1, 2015 - E-novine continues to badmouth BIRN and its regional director, Gordana Igric. According to the website, we have launched this page "BIRN under fire" in order to get more donations.

January 31, 2015 - Dragan Dj. Vucicevic, editor in chief of the pro-govt paper Informer, is now saying that the Western powers allied with domestic “traitors” like BIRN are trying to create a chaos in Serbia.

January 30, 2015In his hard-hitting critique, Branko Cecen of the Centre for Investigative Journalism, CINS, looks at Aleksandar Vucic’s attack on BIRN and the sorry state of the nation's media, and asks who’s really interested in accountability and real reporting in Serbia today. Read the full article on the Global Investigative Journalism Network. 

January 30, 2015 - Under the headline "How I became an enemy of the state," BIRN's Slobodan Georgijev wrote a column in the weekly paper Vranjske.

“Imagine that an article on the pumping out the Tamnava mine can overthrow the government! I believe that [Serbia’s PM] Vucic does not believe this is possible, and journalists would like to be so strong and powerful that their work can lead to some major changes in society, but it almost never happens,” Georgijev said.

January 30, 2015 - Cenzolovka made a timeline of the key events regarding the attack on BIRN. Greatly appreciated.

 

January 29, 2015 - James Ker-Lindsay, senior research fellow on the politics of south east Europe at the London School of Economics, believes that in the light of the latest attack on BIRN, press freedoms in Serbia will be discussed in Brussels and noted in this year’s EU progress report. See the full article in Serbian on Danas.rs.

January 29, 2015 - “The attack on BIRN has shown what will happen to anyone who asks an unpleasant question - the prime minister will discredit you and denounce you as traitor.” So says Gordana Igric in an interview with Frankfurtske Vesti. Read the full interview in Serbian here.

January 28, 2015 - In a debate on the American TV series Newsroom held in Belgrade's Parobrod cultural center on Tuesday, BIRN was singled out as the only media outlet doing proper invsetigative reporting in the country.

January 28, 2015 - In a column in the daily paper Politika, Vladimir Milutinovic, editor of Filozofija.info, is questioning the level of democracy in the Serbian society when the Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucuc can denounce some journalists as liars and engage himself so much in the control of media.

January 28, 2015 - 

 

January 28, 2015The orchestrated campaign against BIRN in Aleksandar Vucic’s Serbia was a prime example of the new authoritarianism sweeping the Balkans, which is the rolling back the democratic gains of the 1990s, Balkan expert Florian Bieber said in London on Tuesday.

Speaking at the London School of Economics on the “Crisis of Democracy in the Balkans”, Bieber, a Professor for Southeastern European Studies in Graz, said the case fit “a regional pattern of authoritarian temptation”. This has seen the rise of governments with marked authoritarian and anti-democratic traits, which are not to be confused with classic dictatorships, however.

Read the full article on Balkan Insight.

January 28, 2015 - In its own style, E-novine continues with nasty campaign against BIRN targeting Gordana Igric, BIRN regional director, under the “witty” headline “The English patient.”  You may find the full article here.

January 28, 2015

 

January 27, 2015Analyst Jovo Bakic said that the Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic had re-introduced dirty rhetoric in the political scene with the BIRN case encouraging thus other members of the ruling coalition to follow in his footsteps. Read the full article on Blic.rs.

January 27, 2015Dragan Dj. Vucicevic, editor in chief of the pro-government paper Informer, has dubbed BIRN "phantom parajournalistic organisaiton"

January 27, 2015 - In her new article on Pescanik.net, Nadezda Milenkovic is saying that according to the Serbian government, the cabinet is criticised for money and praised free of charge.

BIRN journalists are obviously one of those paid by the EU to write against the government, just like the country's lawyers were paid by controversial businessman Miroslav Miskovic to protest for months, Milenkovic cynically concluded. 

January 27, 2015

 

January 26, 2015 - We (BIRN) have called on the Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic to put an end to the "labelling" of journalists, as well as to confusing and misinforming the public, and instead urge his close associates, energy minister and director of the power company, EPS, to answer the questions BIRN asked before. Read the full BIRN's response to the latest Serbian PM's accusations here. 

January 26, 2015 - Marinko M. Vucinic of the New Serbian Political Thought (NSPM) magazine has empathised with BIRN journalists following their mine tender investigation.

“After the Prime Minister Vucic’s attack on BIRN journalists, they did not get a chance to present their version of the story, except on the N1 TV (…) for them, all the media were closed, and investigative journalism has received a clear message, that their voice will not be heard far away, neither will have an important impact on the formation of attitudes in our public, thanks to the Progessives’ official media," Vucinic wrote on the NSPM website.

January 26, 2015 - Frankfurtske Vesti, Serbian newspaper in diaspora, has joined the attack on BIRN by singling out a quote of Gordana Igric, BIRN regional director, in a box out of any context, adding three big question marks.

The quote says: “I always thought that the Belgrade taxi drivers are more precise in measuring public opinion than many well-paid agencies.”

January 26, 2015 - PM Aleksandar Vucic on Sunday repeated his allegation that BIRN was “telling lies” in its mine tender investigation and said that he had managed to defend his country by speaking out against misinformation spread by EU-funded journalists. Follow the link below to read the full article:

 

January 26, 2015 - The Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said that BIRN lied three times. Read here in Serbian what he was referring to

January 25, 2015 - Biljana 77 wrote a blog on B92 citing many reasons why she is not BIRN:

”I am not BIRN because I do not know how it is to be exposed every day just because you are doing your job professionally and honestly.”

“I am not BIRN because I have never felt any pressure coming (not for the first time) from the most powerful people in the country and their printing offices.”

“I am not BIRN because the photos of me are not in the headlines with heinous accusations.”

January 25, 2015 - Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic has continued accusing BIRN of unconstitutional action today on TV Prva. 

It seems that Mr. Vucic is not aware of Article 8 of the country’s Public Information Act, adopted in August 2014.

“Elected, appointed or nominated holder of a public and political function is required to tolerate critical thinking, which is related to the results of his work, or policy implemented in connection with the performance of his function, regardless of whether he/she personally feels offended by that opinion,” the Article says.

January 25, 2015 - The attacks on BIRN continue. Ljiljana Smajlovic, editor in chief of the Politika daily paper, has accused Gordana Igric, BIRN regional director, of trying to discredit Politika’s reporting by saying that the paper is funded from the state budget.

“As if she caught us in a sloppy and selective reporting on 'Kolubara', and not that the World Bank [caught] her [in a sloppy and selective reporting],” Smajlovic noted. Read the full article on Politika.rs.

January 24, 2015 - Gordana Igric, BIRN regional director, has written a diary for Danas daily newspaper. Follow the link to see how Mrs. Igric was dealing with the attack on BIRN coming from the state and its media allies. Her moods were shifting from being upset, confused, hungry to laughing, being touched, and calm. 

January 23, 2015 - A variety of options to fund the de-watering of Tamnava mine were seemingly ignored - causing major loses that a later World Bank loan will only partly cover. Read the full story on Balkan Insight.

January 23, 2015 

 

January 23, 2015 - The German daily paper Tageszeitung is very critical about the press freedoms in Serbia and the PM Aleksandar Vucic as the main culprit behind that one. 

"Those who criticize Vucic are automatically qualified as an enemy of the state, as someone financed by the mafia, bloodied tycoons or from abroad in a bid to topple Vucic and destabilize the country," the paper said. Read the full article in Serbian on Deutsche Welle.

January 23, 2015Istinomer has an interesting article on whether we should trust the Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic or our own eyes. The question of trust can also be asked in the case of BIRN's investigation into Tamnava mine. Read the full article here.

January 23, 2015 - The attack on BIRN has hit a new low -- E-novine portal has called BIRN regional director, Goca Igric, a pole dancer for Michael Davenport, EU Delegation head in Serbia. See the article here and the photo caption below:

January 23, 2015BIRN has filed a complaint against the Informer daily newspaper at the Complaints Commission of the Serbian Press Council. 

"In the midst of public debate regarding our article "Pumping out the mine and the budget," Informer published a series of false information, slander, and not substantiated allegations, intentionally or unintentionally ignoring the substance of the topics we dealt with, thus jeopardizing our professional credibility and personal integrity, and the safety of our journalists," BIRN said.
 
In the same artcile, Informer accuses BIRN of "racketeering" the state on behalf of the EU.

January 23, 2015Read the Euronews analysis by Mark Davis about the emergency situation in terms of freedom of expression in Serbia under the headline "Freedom of the press: war of words between EU and candidate country Serbia." 

"Aleksandar Vučić, who took office last April, has accused the EU of orchestrating a media campaign against him and paying journalists to slander his government," the article says.

January 22, 2015 - Rightist analyst, Djordje Vukadinovic, wrote in his column in Politika daily paper: "I do not mind (on the contrary!) criticism against politics and behavior of foreign representatives. But I also think that some of the questions BIRN asked deserve an answer, not a scolding and insults."

January 22, 2015 - One more victory for BIRN: Following the initial denial, energy minister Aleksandar Antic confirmed in Kaziprst TV program that the winning consortium did not have previous experience in the field.

January 22, 2015 - After campaigning against BIRN, Politika daily paper went to the Tamnava mine and saw that the job has yet to be done and that the Dutch company is doing the job.

January 22, 2015Zlatko Jelisavac is ironically asking how "these mercenaries and servants of the EU" dared to doubt the regularity of the Tamnava mine tender. "And what does that BIRN even know about the pumped water?" he wrote. Read the full article at Autonomija.info.

 

January 22, 2015

 

January 21, 2015According to Branko Cecen, Director of the Center for Investigative Journalism in Serbia (CINS), BIRN’s story fully meets the investigative journalism definition by David Kaplan, Director of the Global Investigative Journalism Network.

In his book “Global Investigative Journalism: Strategies for Support”, Kaplan says that although the definitions vary, there is broad agreement on its major components: “Systematic, in-depth, and original research and reporting, often involving the unearthing of secrets.” Follow the link to read why BIRN's story fits into this.

January 21, 2015Vesna Pesic, renowned Serbian sociologist and former politican, says in her article on Pescanik.net that the country's PM Aleksandar Vucic is dubbing EU mercenaries those pointing to his government's thievery.  

January 21, 2015Milan Antonijevic of YUCOM says that there is a pressure on the civil society organizations in the country, and BIRN case is the latest example.

January 21, 2015 - Pescanik.net is criticising Oliver Antic's (advisor to the Serbian president) attack on BIRN in the Saturday edition of the Politika daily paper.

According to Antic, "BIRN is poisining the public" and attacking the government. But, Bojan Gavrilovic wrote on Pescanik that the advisor cannot make a difference between the attack and criticism.  

January 20, 2015 - Milos Vasic of the Vreme weekly paper also sided with BIRN, saying that both Air Serbia and Tamnava investigations were factual. Read his full story on journalists' apologies in Serbia here.

January 20, 2015World Bank representatives in Serbia have once again reiterated today that the instutiion stands behind what it said before in the row over BIRN investigation into Tamnava mine, but cannot reveal a copy of the internal review, which gave the controversial mine tender the all clear.

January 20, 2015Branko Cecen of the Center for Investigative Journalism in Serbia is asking “what exactly is investigative journalism in Serbia?”

“The next time someone mentions investigative journalism, ask yourself whether you think of BIRN or some irresponsible tabloid,” Cecen said on Cenzolovka referring to tabloid Informer, which published on Saturday fake naked photos of the newly elected Croatian president, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic.

 

January 20, 2015Zeleni Telegraf, blog on environmental issues, says that BIRN's investigation into Tamnava mine is in good direction. You may find it in Serbian here.

January 20, 2015Dragan Vucicevic, Informer editor in chief, was again discrediting BIRN and Tamnava investiigation in his TV show on the Pink TV last night.

"I would commit hara-kiri, if I were BIRN," he said.

January 19, 2015BIRN Director has sent out a letter to the Serbian editors across the country asking them to jointly press the authorities to answer on BIRN's five questions in the interest of the people of Serbia. 

January 19, 2015In his new article on Pescanik.net, Sasa Ilic said that PM Vucic’s behavious over BIRN investigation shows his split between the discourse of the Radicals’ imagining of foreign mercenaries and the Prorgessives’ commitment to European values.

“That is why the replica (calling BIRN journalists ‘liars’) from the press conference sounds like a mutant of the past, which shows a high degree of nervousness which causes should be sought in a catastrophic functioning of Vucic’s cabinet work on remediating the consequences of the May floods,” Ilic wrote.

January 19, 2015Draza Petrovic wrote a funny little poem in Danas daily paper: "Peace between Davenport and Vucic: peace peace peace, no one is BIRN..." (referring to "Je suis BIRN")

January 19, 2015Italian press also condemns PM Vucic's reaction over BIRN investigation. Read the full report in Italian by David Denti here.

January 19, 2015

 

January 18, 2015Transparency Serbia said that everyone seems to be talking about everything else but not the actual content and facts presented in the BIRN article.

“Now it is important for public to get answers to the question of how much has been done within the agreed term, whether there were objective reasons for it (e.g. More work than originally envisaged) or not? Is there a legal ground to continue with the work, since it is has not been reported that changes in the contract had been made?” Transparency said.

January 18, 2015For Zoran Panovic, editor in chief of Danas daily paper, PM Vucic’s reaction on the BIRN’s investigation looked like his throw back to the 90s.

But, soon after, Vucic showed he is back on the tracks by meeting with the EU delegation head in Serbia, visiting Kosovo Serbs and getting a greeting card from US president Barack Obama, Panovic noted.

January 17, 2015Movie director Emir Kusturica has joined the attacks on BIRN dubbing the media outlet “neo-colonial organization.”

The filmmaker does not seem to have read the investigation into the Tamnava mine.  

January 17, 2015Oliver Antic, advisor to the Serbian president, strongly condemns “BIRN’s attack” on the country’s government saying that BIRN is “poisoning the public."

“BIRN is harshly attacking the government for having saved 23 million euro of the Serbian tax payers,” Antic said in Politika daily newspaper.

January 17, 2015 - Follow the link to see five questions BIRN asked the Serbian government and power company, EPS in an open letter.

January 16, 2015About 40 civil society organizations in Serbia have called the country’s institutions to investigate BIRN’s findings. Read the full report on Istinomer.

January 16, 2015The World Bank has declined BIRN's request to see a copy of the internal review, which gave the controversial mine tender the all clear. Read the full article on Balkan Insight.

Here you can see the questions BIRN asked the World Bank Headquarters in Washington D.C. on January 12 and 14.

January 16, 2015Cenzolovka published a funny fiction story with so-called Mr. BIRN and other persons from the media and political scene as main characters. Read the story in Serbian on Cenzolovka.

January 16, 2015Citizens' Oversight of Public Finances has called on the Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic to reveal the amounts of money going from the state budget to the media.

“Making this data public will provide a clear insight into the causes that led to the restriction of media freedom and the expulsion of critical thought from the media,” the organization said. 

January 16, 2015

 

January 16, 2015The attacks on BIRN have now culminated in the Serbian parliament with Mirko Atlagic of the ruling Progressives saying that the media attacks on Vucic have become very dangerous for the PM’s personal safety.

According to Atlagic, some people are even calling for the PM’s murder.

He said that with the Tamnava investigation, BIRN has joined these attacks on the prime minister. Read the full report on Blic.rs.

January 16, 2015 - “Tabloid” praised BIRN’s investigation and Slobodan Georgijev’s work.

January 15, 2015 - "Pressure on journalists is unacceptable, and heated debates between the authorities and journalists are not unusual for any democratic society," said OSCE's Dunja Mijatovic. Read the full article on B92. 

January 15, 2015 - Follow the link to tell your opinion on the BIRN’s investigation.

January 15, 2015 - Serbian NGO Birodi (Bureau for Social Research) has called on the country’s Prosecutor’s Office to examine the claims from the BIRN investigation.

“Instead of the expected reaction from the Prosecutor’s Office, we are faced with "media discrediation” of those who point to the (possible) abuse and violation of the law,” Birodi said in a statement.

January 15, 2015Follow the link to see how the Vreme weekly newspaper covered the attack on BIRN.

January 15, 2015 - Read the article that triggered the attacks against BIRN in English

January 15, 2015 - Follow us on twitter and join the discussion #VucicVsBIRN https://twitter.com/birnbalkans

January 15, 2015Vucic-friendly tabloid daily Informer lashes out at BIRN on the front page, calling BIRN journalists "media mafia" that wanted to seize 23,2 million euro. 

“Head of BIRN, journalist Slobodan Georgiev, instead of apologizing for the lie, he continues to attack the government over censorship, and claims that he is being persecuted!?!” Informer said. 

January 15, 2015Take a look at the entire clipping arhive with media attacks on BIRN >>

January 14, 2015 - BIRN’s Sloba Georgijev on the Tamnava tender on N1 TV.

Janaury 14, 2015 - Website “Cenzolovka” sides with BIRN by saying that everyone is talking about BIRN investigation but has anyone actually read it? Read the full article on Cenzolovka. 

January 14, 2015 - Analyst Jovo Bakic reveals why BIRN’s investigation has made Vucic so angry? Read the full article on Politika.rs.

January 14, 2015 - Slobodan Georgijev of BIRN told the B92 news programme that BIRN did not manipulate
information and that the media outlet stood behind what it had published.

“We did our job in the best way, professionally and in the public interest,” Georgijev said.

A statement by a representative of the World Bank that the tender was in line with rules had not been published on the website of the World Bank, he noted.

“We did not deal with the World Bank in the text, so I did not understand from what perspective the institution’s representative, Vesna Kostic, commented on our text,” Georgiev said on January 13.

Vladimir Djukanovic, parliamentarian of the ruling Progressives, told the same news programme that one can doubt the credibility of the World Bank. “This is dilettantism and if one really believes  that the World Bank is not credible, God bless him," Djukanovic said.

January 14, 2015 - Gordana Igric, BIRN Regional Director, talked about the investigation into the Tamnava mine on the Radio Television Vojvodina, RTV. You can see an insert on the RTV’s YouTube channel.

January 14, 2015 - Under the headline “We are not BIRN,” Ljiljana Smajlovic, editor in chief of Politika daily newspaper penned an editorial on January 14 accusing BIRN of sloppy reporting in the case of Tamnava mine.

“There are a million ways for a journalist to make a mistake, but only one good to correct it - to acknowledge the mistake as soon as he realizes it, and to apologize if someone has been damaged. Otherwise, there is suspicion that the mistake was not accidental,” Smajlovic wrote.

She was referring to the statement on BIRN’s investigation from the World Bank, which said the tender procedure was in line with the law. Therefore, BIRN could learn something from such notorious Serbian tabloids as ‘Tabloid’ and ‘Kurir’, she added not citing what exactly.

She added that while BIRN is not well known to a wider audience, it obtains significant funds from Western donors, especially the EU.

Smajlovic concluded that BIRN had turned out not to be a proper replacement for the mainstream media, in response to a statement by BIRN’s Slobodan Georgijev, that BIRN is important as Serbia’s mainstream media act as government allies.

“In a few weeks we will know where we are on the latest list of Reporters Without Borders. But on the list of ‘investigative reporters without borders’ we have definitely progressed,” Smajlovic ended the editorial, ironically.

January 13, 2015 - A journalist of Radio Free Europe in Belgrade has written a short, mocking poem under the headline “Vucic told BIRN: Read useful books and not harmful contracts!” Read the poem in Serbian on Radio Free Europe’s website.

January 13, 2015 - The EU Delegation to Serbia said political interference in the media community and different forms of abuse, like violence against journalists, were still major issues in Western Balkan societies, and, to rectify the situation, a cultural change and different behaviour in politics, judiciary and the media were required.

“Political interference in the media, economic problems like media concentration, different forms of abuse, like violence against journalists, remain major issues in the Western Balkan societies and Turkey,” the Delegation reported on January 13.

“To rectify the situation requires more than a mere transposition of EU rules. It requires a cultural change and altered behavior in politics, judiciary and the media,” it added.

The Delegation recalled that no state could join the EU if it was unable to guarantee freedom of expression as a fundamental human right.

“The EU expects the authorities to guarantee the environment that would favor the freedom of expression and media. Critical media are vital to exercising the realistic responsibility of elected governments; governments, on the other hand, should readily accept criticism and study it in a transparent way,” the Delegation said.

January 12, 2015 - This is how Serbian cartoonist Marko Somborac sees Vucic-EU row over BIRN investigation.

January 12, 2015 - Slobodan Georgijev from BIRN Serbia has expressed hope that his media outlet is not a particular target of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic’s, saying the recent pressure reflects the Prime Minister’s desire to keep all the media under control. 

In an interview with Seebiz.eu, Georgijev said Vucic was probably exerting tighter control over the media than any other Prime Minister in the country’s history.

According to Georgijev, Vucic believes that it is not important what he is actually doing but what people believe he is doing.

“There is no old and new Vucic. For 20 years he struggled to come to power and now we see him in full capacity for the first time,” Georgijev said.

According to Georgijev, Serbia has no mainstream media continuously monitoring government policies, as they have turned into a channel celebrating of the life and work of Vucic.

“If there is no free media that have to struggle with their readers and viewers for freedom, then there is neither a free state,” Georgijev concluded.

January 12, 2015 - Reuters reported on how Serbian PM accused EU of backing anti-government media. Read the full article on Reuters.

January 12, 2015 - The Serbian Interior Minister said the row with the EU over the BIRN investigation had shown that only members of the Serbian government were not entitled to their own opinion.

“Not even when they want to protect the interests of Serbia and its people,” Stefanovic told Vecernje Novosti newspaper.

According to him, the government did not allow a far more expensive company to win the Tamnava mine tender, and so a local firm won. “We did not want to throw away 23 million euros of the Serbian  people,” Stefanovic said.

The minister accused the Progressives’ coalition partner, the Socialists, of failing to support Vucic in this critical situation.

January 12, 2015 - Boris Tadic, leader of the Social Democrats and former President of Serbia, has called Prime Minister Vucic’s reaction to the dispute with BIRN “exaggerated."

“Strained relations with the EU due to legitimate journalistic questions are counterproductive and irresponsible, bearing in mind the interests of the people in this country,” Tadic told the daily Blic newspaper.

According to him, even if the authorities consider some journalists are not responsible and objective, they should respond in a democratic and institutional manner, rather than by calling them liars and mercenaries.

January 12, 2015 - The Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies, CEAS, said Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic was treating voters irresponsibly by engaging in a controversy with representatives of the EU over BIRN’s investigation.

CEAS said that Vucic’s accusations, made “at the expense of an active diplomat of the European Union”, represent “an insult to the institution he represents”.

It is “all the more surprising,” the statement added, that the Prime Minister told a news conference on Friday: “Tell those liars that they have lied again.” CEAS said leaders in Serbia did not genuinely want Serbia to advance towards the EU, “knowing… how their autocratic rule and Serbia’s ‘Putinization’ would be affected by the European practice of respect for freedom of speech, a free press… which luckily are still the predominant environment in the EU, despite these values being undermined by politicians within the EU who Vucic obviously wants to look up to.”

January 12, 2015 - BIRN asked the World Bank headquarters in Washington D.C. to clarify the institution's
involvement in the Tamnava tender and verification procedure of the winning consortium.

January 12, 2015 - The World Bank said the tender for pumping water out of the Tamnava mine was conducted in accordance with applicable regulations and practices.

Vesna Kostic, spokesperson of the World Bank Office in Serbia, said the World Bank had agreed to carry out this procedure according to Serbian laws, not their own rules of public procurement, due to exceptional circumstances, meaning the recent floods.

“Pumping water out of the Tamnava mine is financed by the World Bank. Whenever and wherever the World Bank finances projects of such value, a tender is mandatory,” Kostic said.

“I am very unpleasantly surprised that someone who presents himself as an investigative reporter did not come to these data, although they were available to the public from the beginning,” she added.

January 11, 2015 - Analyst Dejan Vuk Stankovic sees the dispute as a mere exchange of views, which is a normal part of democratic life. “In a democracy, it is possible to have different views on the same topics,” Stankovic told Tanjug.

According to him, freedom of expression was guaranteed in Serbia, since BIRN could investigate, publish, and, through that process, influence the public.

January 11, 2015 - Analyst Dusan Janjic said the dispute between Brussels and Prime Minister Vucic was a test of Vucic’s EU orientation, while Dejan Vuk Stankovic said it was a mere exchange of opinions.“This in fact is pressure on Vucic… to say whether he is still a partner of the EU or not,” Janjic told Serbia’s Tanjug news agency.

“This should certainly be seen as additional pressure from the European Union to determine whether the Prime Minister is moving towards the union, or has joined the trend of stopping the negotiation process, which President Tomislav Nikolic announced,” Janjic added.

According to him, there is real tension between the government, the OSCE and the EU on the issue of freedom of speech and of the press.

January 11, 2015 - The President of Republika Srpska, the mainly Serbian entity in Bosnia, said the row between Vucic and the EU over the BIRN investigation was not about freedom of the media but about the “lies of the European Commission.”

Milorad Dodik said the European Commission had never said whether it would check to see whether the NGO - BIRN - that it was supporting was telling the truth or not.

“As a rule, synonymous now with freedom of speech for the European Commission should be a lie,” Dodik told Pink TV on January 11. He said that he fully understood Vucic on the issue.

January 11, 2015 - Labour Minister Aleksandar Vulin expressed surprise with the EU reaction to the row between Vucic and BIRN.

“Nobody has the right to give orders to the Prime Minister except the Serbian people who gave him the right in elections to fight for their interests and for the interests of the country,” Vulin said.

The minister said he did not understand why the same rules did not apply to Serbia as to any other country, referring to Serbia’s right to fight for its interests and economy and to respect its own laws.

“The Prime Minister has the right to think, speak and respond to journalists’ question, but he also has the obligation to fight for the interests of Serbia and its people," Vulin said.

January 11, 2015 - The Serbian Ministry of Mining and Energy said BIRN’s investigation did “not match the truth” in key segments.

“The bidder who offered the lowest price and the shortest time frames, but also complete documentation with full banking guarantees of good execution of the job, was selected for the tender,” the Ministry said.

The ministry said information that an offer made by a foreign company was rejected for administrative reasons was incorrect.

“This bidder gave a price that was three times higher for pumping out the water, and in a non-binding offer, without the necessary banking guarantee and the necessary accompanying documentation," it added.

January 10, 2015 - Serbian legal expert Vesna Rakic Vodinelic has described Prime Minister Vucic as an “unbalanced autocrat” in connection with his accusations against BIRN journalists.

Under the headline “Je suis BIRN,” Vodinelic said that Vucic had managed in the same day to pay homage to the victims of the terror attack in Paris while accusing journalists at home of being paid liars.

She said he did not understand, or perhaps did not care, “that freedom of speech is the freedom of the people to the strongman and against him, not vice versa,” she wrote on Pescanik.net website.

“We do not have the right to decorate ourselves with the honorable epithet ‘Je suis Charlie’ if we are persistently silent or relativize the absurd decomposition of the form (not mentioning the substance) of parliamentary democracy in Serbia,” she added.

January 10, 2015 - The Independent Association of Journalists in Serbia, NUNS, has issued a statement accusing Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic of putting pressure on BIRN.

“Calling BIRN’s journalists liars with the accusation that they have received money to ‘speak against the government’ is vocabulary that belongs to past times and is unacceptable for a democratic society and for a state that, as Vucic himself often says, wants to become part of the EU,” NUNS said.

The statement said such behaviour represents open pressure, not only on BIRN journalists, endangering freedom of the media.

BIRN's Stories

Attacks on Balkan Media Unchecked, HRW Says

Western Balkan governments and the European Union have over the past year failed to take action to address the issues hindering media freedom in the region, the NGO Human Rights Watch, HRW, said in the 2016 update of its media freedom report.

Summary of the findings in Balkan Insight text.

Commission Warns Balkan States on Freedom of Expression

All six countries in the Balkans aiming for EU membership made “no progress” in meeting the Freedom of Expression criteria for EU membership, according to country progress reports published by the Commission.

"Threats, violence and intimidation against journalists remain an issue of concern,” the report stated referring to Serbia. The overall environment is not conducive to the full exercise of the right to freedom of expression, the report added.

Read the full article on Balkan Insight.

Vicious Attack or Freedom of Speech?

The truth is that journalists who do not support Vucic‘s politics do not have space to work. That is the situation in Serbia’s mainstream media, which has been documented and reported on in annual EU progress reports and in other reports of organizations that deal with censorship and freedom of speech. The truth is that real “debate” about many things that are happening in Serbia today takes place only on Twitter or Facebook. That is why Vucic, during his legendary extraordinary press conferences, regularly refers to things mentioned only on Twitter, never in the “regular” media.

Read the full article on Balkan Insight.

Slobodan Georgiev: People Can Be Killed in Different Ways

The BIRN editor, journalist and programme coordinator as well as NGO activist has for long been marked by the pro-government tabloids as a foreign mercenary and a traitor.

In the last three months, his own situation - and that of some of his colleagues - has deteriorated from one in which they faced a hostile media campaign to death threats.

Interview with him is on Balkan Insight

Attacks on Serbia Media 'Aim to Cut Their Funds'

After the pro-government Serbian tabloid Informer again attacked BIRN project coordinator Slobodan Georgiev - calling him one of those "paid by the EU" to cause “chaos” in Serbia - journalists say such attacks are probably intended to pressurize donors to stop financing them.

They believe the Serbian government and media close to the government want to cut outside funding for the independent media since they are aware that - without funding from the EU and other donors - they might close, leaving the government without real supervision.

Serbian Government Puts Its Media ‘Enemies’ on Display

The Serbian ruling party’s new gallery exhibition, portraying itself as the victim of lies spread by a free media, suggests that the government would like even more control over the press.

The exhibition, which has no named curator, contains screenshots from Twitter, laser-copied front pages of newspapers, articles and videos from YouTube and cable TV station N1. The material is intended to show that there is no censorship in Serbia, but the country’s media actually mostly write bad things about Vucic, and on top of that, they constantly make up lies and create scandals, all intended to overthrow the government.

Read the full article on Balkan Insight.

Serbian Ruling Party Makes Exhibition of ‘Media Lies’

Serbia's ruling Progressive Party opened the new exhibition, entitled ‘Uncensored Lies’, at a Belgrade gallery on Monday, saying it wanted to document wrongful attacks on the government it leads, not to target journalists that are critical of it.

Serbia’s EU Progress Report: No Progress for Press Freedom

Serbia’s lack of media freedom is raising some fundamental questions about the country’s democracy.

On 8 November Andrija Rodic, the owner of the Adria Media Group – which publishes 18 magazines including the daily tabloid Kurir – came out with a public apology to Serbian citizens for his role in producing overly favourable coverage of the situation in the country, alongside 80 per cent of Serbia’s other local media owners.

 

Read the full article on Balkan Insight

Smear Campaign Against Media in Serbia Revs Up

Serbian tabloid Informer, which has links to Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, has used a feud between the government and rival tabloid Kurir to resurrect its on-going campaign against independent media organisations BIRN, KRIK and CINS, which is gaining traction in local press.

 

Read the full article on Balkan Insight.

Translated versions of Informer

These are the translated versions of the pro-government tabloid ‘Informer’ where a series of allegations about the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, CINS and Krik was published.

You can download the translated version of Informer for November 9 here.

You can download the translated version of Informer for November 10 here.