IJAS: Public Officers to Stop Discriminating Against Media and Journalists

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Source/Author: IJAS

The Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (IJAS) condemns the behavior of the local authorities in Indjija and Loznica, who prohibit journalists from attending events of interest to the public, as well as the behavior of high officials of the Serbian Progressive Party, Aleksandar Sapic and Ana Brnabic, who refuse to answer journalists’ questions. We remind the government representatives that discrimination against journalists and the media is prohibited by law and that they should provide conditions for their unhindered work.

Today, the journalist of the In medija portal from Indjija, Verica Marincic, was kicked out of the Indjija municipality building because she “wasn’t on the list” to monitor the conference regarding the residents’ protest against the abolition of the railway station in Cortanovci. In the video published by N1 television, you can see a member of the security forces throwing the journalist out of the building using physical force.

Verica Marincic says that she came to see off the protest that was announced earlier, and when she saw that Indija journalists were entering the building, she followed them, but was met at the entrance by the chief of staff of the municipal president, who told her that she could not go to the conference.

“I took my phone to record what he was saying to me and he grabbed my left upper arm because I had a phone in that hand and squeezed me expecting the phone to fall out of my hand. Because I didn’t want to let go, he took my phone. When he saw that it was all being recorded by a journalist from N1, then he withdrew. After that, a man from security came out and started pushing me to go outside,” stated Verica Marincic and added that the whole case was reported to the competent authorities.

The same thing happens to the journalists of the Pakt info portal from Loznica. Namely, since the constitution of the new convocation of the Loznica Municipal Assembly, they have been forbidden to attend sessions even though the work of the Assembly is public, and they have been accredited since 2012 and regularly receive material for monitoring the Assembly.

The journalist of this portal, Miroslav Mijatovic, says that on January 28, they received an invitation to attend the constitution of the new convocation of the assembly, but that they were not allowed to enter.

“We showed up there and the security guards waited for us at the door, they told us that we didn’t have accreditation and that they couldn’t let us in. The very next day, we asked to see the decision by which we were forbidden to enter, that is, the decision of a municipal administration authority that it is necessary to be accredited for the assembly. We referred to the statute that ensures the public in the work of the assembly. However, we did not receive an answer and we are conducting proceedings before the Commissioner”, says Mijatovic and adds that the same thing happened to them on February 29, when the appointment of the mayor was on the agenda.

High-ranking officials of the Serbian Progressive Party, Aleksandar Sapic and Ana Brnabic, do not forbid journalists from following the events they participate in, but they refuse to answer questions from “unfit” journalists. In any case, those who are obliged to answer to the public for their work, refuse to do so.

The practice of banning journalists from attending public events, as well as the refusal of public officials to answer journalists’ questions, must stop immediately. Power holders must provide all journalists with unhindered coverage of events that are of public interest.

In addition, we strongly condemn the use of force against the journalist Verica Marincic and call on the competent authorities to protect her and to react in accordance with their powers.

The media must not be political pamphlets that will only convey political statements. The job of journalists is to ask questions, and it is up to officials to answer, regardless of whether they like the question or not. Representatives of all levels of government should know that journalists ask questions on behalf of the public.