Coalition for Media Freedom: Announcement of Shutdown of O radio is Attack on Media Freedom and Public Interest of Young People

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Source/Author: IJAS

The Coalition for Media Freedom calls on the management of Radio and Television of Vojvodina to declare their intentions regarding the further functioning of the provincial public service Youth Radio (O radio).

It is absolutely unacceptable that the employees of the O Radio newsroom learned about the RTV General Director’s “plan” to cancel that media from other media, without anyone from the management addressing them beforehand or explaining such a “decision”.

Publicizing the alleged decisions of the RTV management to shut down the RTV Youth Radio through third parties is unprofessional, frivolous, but also dangerous – because it reminds of the methods characteristic of authoritarian systems prone to autocracy.

If such a decision was really made, the way it was communicated is also unacceptable from the point of view of the RTV management’s responsibility towards the citizens who finance the provincial public service.

Such a decision, if it was made, contradicts the legal role of public services, the public interest and threatens media freedom.

We underline that the Law on Public Media Services specifically emphasizes the role of public service in achieving the public interest, and O radio is an example of media content that serves the public interest, an example that should be followed by other RTV media programs, and above all when it comes to informative content.

O radio is a multimedia platform intended for young people, which promotes the highest standards of ethics and profession, which does not hide reality and does not glorify political and other powerful people – that is exactly what a public service should do and what other program units should do as part of Public media institutions of Vojvodina (RTV).

The special value of O radio is that it addresses a young audience, a population that is absolutely marginalized in the public space, as confirmed by numerous relevant studies.

This year, this youngest media within the composition of RTV, was supposed to mark ten years since its establishment, and in the first decade of work, they were more than successful, which was recognized by the professional community.

They won the international competition of the European public services Radio battle in 2016. Twice the female journalists of O radio received the prize of the Novi Sad School of Journalism for the best young journalist.

They received the “Reflexia” award twice for ethical reporting on poverty, and were awarded several times for ethical reporting on mental health. They also received the “Hilda Dajč” award for 2023.

O radio is also part of the international network of Danube radio stations “Danube streamwaves”, which consists of media from Germany, Austria, Hungary and Serbia.

In the annual reports of the National Youth Council of Serbia (KOMS), O radio is repeatedly highlighted as a youth media that objectively and professionally deals with young people and topics that interest young people, primarily in the field of ecology, activism and mental health. It was especially pointed out that more than 90 percent of their content is a media initiative, that is, content and topics that they initiate themselves.

In less than ten years, around fifty young journalists have passed through O radio, most of whom, unfortunately, due to the “employment policy” did not get the opportunity to stay at O radio and RTV, but were forced to leave the provincial public service and today work in numerous other media.

The Coalition for Media Freedom expects a response from the management of RTV regarding the further status of O Radio and the employees in that newsroom.

We will inform the OSCE, the EU Delegation in Serbia, and all relevant journalistic and media international organizations about the events in the provincial public service and the announcement of the shutdown of the media aimed at young people – thus denying the realization of the public interest of this population and collapsing media freedoms.

The Coalition for Media Freedom: the Association of Media, the Association of Online Media (AOM), the Independent Association of Journalists of Vojvodina (NDNV), the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (NUNS), the Business Association of Local and Independent Media “Local Press”, the Slavko Curuvija Foundation and Branch Trade Union of Culture, Arts and Media ‘Nezavisnost’ 

Novi Sad – Belgrade, February 11, 2024