Alternative report: The state of media freedom has not improved

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Source/Author: IJAS

The state of media freedom in Serbia has not improved, this is the conclusion of the latest Alternative Report on the implementation of the revised action plan for Chapter 23 published by the Independent Journalists Association of Serbia (IJAS). Law enforcement is ineffective, journalists work under pressure, and the state violates media pluralism.

In the report entitled “Freedom of Expression and Media Pluralism 2023” it was stated that, although according to the Report on the Implementation of the Action Plan for Chapter 23, all activities are successfully implemented, in reality the activities of the authorities, in the part that concerns the protection of journalists and media legislation, are not sufficient to contribute to a better situation in this area. As stated, “journalists and media workers are still the target of a large number of threats and attacks, as well as various types of pressure that affect them and make it difficult for them to do their job, which leads to them still feeling unsafe”.

Journalists who perform their work professionally are constantly the target of various pressures and targeting, especially by high-ranking public officials, who instead of condemning the attacks, further aggravate and encourage them. While the actions and omissions of police officers at protests, as well as years of lack of responsibility for such omissions, further affect the feeling of insecurity of journalists and mistrust in institutions, according to this document.

IJAS notes in the Report that, although the new media laws have brought good solutions, the emphasis should be placed on implementation, since the implementation of the law stood out as one of the biggest problems in the previous period.

In particular, concerns are expressed about the state’s return to media ownership and the legalization of previous violations of the law by the state-owned company Telekom Srbija, as well as the state’s influence on the media market.

The evaluations of the success of the implementation of a total of 13 analyzed activities differ in many ways when comparing the evaluations given by the competent institutions, i.e. those given by the Council for Monitoring the Implementation of the Action Plan for Chapter 23, and the evaluations given by IJAS as an organization that monitors the safety of journalists and media freedom.

 

Recommendations for improving the media environment

In the Alternative Report, IJAS gave recommendations for improving the media environment and more effective implementation of the Action Plan for the implementation of the media strategy.

As stated, it is necessary for the activity holders in the Revised Action Plan for Chapter 23 to adopt the recommendations of the Coordinating Body for the implementation of the Action Plan.

It is necessary to measure the effectiveness of laws and other documents, as well as the contribution to the achievement of general goals related to the safety of journalists and the institutional framework for the functioning of the media.

Amendments to legal acts should be implemented in accordance with the solutions from the Media Strategy. Also, it is necessary to adopt a new action plan for the implementation of the Media Strategy for the period from 2024 to 2025.

Recommendations related to improving the safety of journalists are: the full and effective implementation of all signed agreements and mandatory instructions of the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, training of police officers on the treatment of journalists and media workers at public gatherings, self-initiated submission of reports by competent authorities and their greater involvement in solving cases of murder of journalists.

The Ministry of Information and Telecommunications should strengthen capacities and activities in the process of implementing solutions from the Media Strategy and with the aim of more effective monitoring of the application of media laws.

It is necessary to create conditions for effective co-financing of media projects in accordance with new legal solutions and fully transparent functioning of the Media Registry.

It is necessary to monitor the implementation of the new Law on Electronic Media and greater independence of Regulatory authority for electronic media (REM), and the competent ministry must establish additional legal guarantees that will ensure that the influence of state ownership through Telekom does not threaten the diversity of media content.

You can read the report entirely at the following link FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND MEDIA PLURALISM.

 

Action Plan for Chapter 23

The Action plan for Chapter 23 is used to present the activities that Serbia should implement in a certain period of time during the negotiation process for joining the European Union. Following the recommendations of the European Commission from the Screening Report for Chapter 23, in April 2016, the Government of the Republic of Serbia adopted the Action Plan for Chapter 23. The Action Plan was revised in 2020.

The recommendation of the European Commission for Serbia was to “adopt one or more detailed action plans that have a harmonized schedule, clear goals and deadlines, as well as the necessary institutional framework and adequate estimates of costs and financial allocations in the areas of justice, the fight against corruption and fundamental rights “.

In the part of the Action Plan related to fundamental rights, freedom of expression, including media freedom and pluralism, are recognized as priorities.

The Action Plan states that frequent threats and violence represent a serious threat to freedom of expression and media pluralism in Serbia, which is why stronger coordination of all competent authorities and raising awareness of the importance of protecting journalists both through training and prioritizing these cases is needed.