Serbian Minister Questions BIRN Credibility Due to Foreign Funding

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Serbian interior minister questioned credibility of BIRN as the funding of organization comes only from abroad, after a week of campaign against independent investigative journalism organizations in tabloid media.

In an unprecedented live four hours long program on one of the most popular pro government national TV stations PINK, Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, KRIK – Network for Investigating Crime and Corruption, CINS – Serbia’s Centre for Investigative Journalism, were one more time labelled as “foreign mercenaries” who are participating with other actors in what the station called attack on Serbian Prime Minister Aleksansader Vucic.

Serbian interior minister Nebojsa Stefanovic questioned the good intentions of BIRN investigations “as it is strange that all the funding comes from foreign donations” and that no domestic money was ever given to the organisation.

He also argued that investigations done by BIRN and other investigative organisations in Serbia should not be taken for granted.

Dragana Zarkovic, director of BIRN Serbia, says however her organization did reserve funding from Serbian instutitions.

“Office for cooperation with civil sector, which is body of Serbian government , is one of our funders. In 2015 they were supporting our Participative budgeting programme, which enables public consultations in local budgets drafting,” Zarkovic said.

  Owner and editor of pro-government tabloid Informer, Dragan Vucicevic, who was also part of the special program, said that BIRN is “financed to overthrow Vucic’s government, in order to fulfil their campaign to have a Serbia without a Prime Minister”.

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

He also said that all investigations produced by BIRN and others are “invented affairs”, aimed to cause unrests like in the countries of the region, citing examples of Montenegro, Kosovo and Macedonia.

As a ‘prof’ Vucicevic took out financial records of BIRN, arguing that “direct payoff of the EU came in February”, just after the article BIRN published on alleged corruption in Tamnava mine.

Vucicevic was referring to a grant BIRN got through a fair competition at the EU tender for investigations as part of the program for Serbia, Media Freedom.