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AJK continues its commitment to the project “Building Trust In Media In South Europe and Turkey” – organized by EFJ

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The Association of Journalists of Kosovo – AJK, this year is continuing the cooperation with the European Federation of Journalists – EFJ, within the project “Building Trust in Media in South Europe and Turkey”, supported by UNESCO.

In the first cycle of trainings, AJK was represented by Getoarbë Mulliqi Bojaj – Executive Director and Researcher in the organization. In the meeting attended by representatives of Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia and Serbia, she emphasized the damage that the COVID-19 pandemic caused to media.

“AJK in cooperation with EFJ has planned in the coming weeks to organize an informal meeting with freelance journalists and photojournalists from Kosovo where they will be able to present their needs,” said Mulliqi-Bojaj.

In these virtual activities, were discussed the rights of journalists in their workplaces with special emphasis on the status of independent journalists and recruitment. The work and activities of the associations and countries participating in the meeting were also presented at the meeting.

During the following activities will be held workshops on various topics, including workshops, communication campaigns, etc.

Condemnation of the attack on Zoran Sekulić and the N1 TV crew

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Foto: Pixabay

The Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia condemns the threats received by Zoran Sekulic, editor in chief of FoNet news agency and the attacks and obstructions experienced by the journalists of N1 Television, and demands from the competent authorities to react and investigate these cases and prosecute the perpetrators.

After appearing on N1 morning tv show, Zoran Sekulic received a threatening and insulting message via the social network Facebook, while N1 journalists Vanja Djuric and Filip Lukic were disturbed, insulted and shot with eggs during a protest of opponents of vaccination and extremist organizations. In case of obstruction of the work of the TV N1 team, we commend the reaction of the members of the police who enabled the journalists to continue reporting.

Unfortunately, these cases are just a continuation threat to the safety of independent and professional journalists in Serbia, which is a consequence of the negative atmosphere in society created primarily by government officials and regime media, but also the selective approach of competent authorities to attacks on journalists. Following the example of powerful politicians, many citizens give themselves the right to insult, slander and attack journalists and media workers, and the frequent disinterest and even obstruction of the competent authorities make it impossible for numerous cases of attacks and pressure to be processed and received a court epilogue.

NUNS will inform the competent authorities about the latest cases, record it in the Database of attacks and pressures on journalists and inform international organizations about them.

AJK condemns the lynchings of LDK Branch in Suhareka toward journalist Uran Haxha

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The Association of Journalists of Kosovo condemns the lynching of the Branch of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) in Suhareka toward the journalist, Uran Haxha.

The branch of the political party LDK in Suhareka last night via a Facebook post, has lynched the journalist Haxha as “the counselor from the underground of Bali Muharremaj”, the opponent of this political party, and that according to them due to Haxha’s presence in the debate, the debate devalued.

For AJK, it is extremely concerning that a political party categorizes journalists in such way and even suggests to the televisions who should be invited on the elections’ debates, for it is a direct interference in the work of media.

We call upon all political parties to refrain from the denigrating language towards journalists and to campaign within the standards.

The draft Law on Internal Affairs threatens a wide range of human rights

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foto: pixabay

The new Draft Law on Internal Affairs, if passed in its current form, will undermine the achieved level of human rights, including the right to freedom of speech and the right to privacy.

The proposed Articles 44, 156 – 158 of the Draft Law regulating data processing systems, as well as surveillance and recording in public places endanger the right to privacy of citizens and introduce total surveillance without any court control and completely contrary to the standards of the GDPR and the Law on protection of personal data.

These regulations can also have a detrimental effect on endangering the secrecy of journalistic sources, which develops the effect of self-censorship and prevents the work of journalists, primarily those who investigate and report on corruption and organized crime.

We remind you that these provisions are contrary to the goals in the Media Strategy, which envisaged strengthening the protection of journalistic sources, which can only lead to such proposals in the opposite direction.

Also, the restrictions provided for in Articles 25, 58 and 59, as well as the penal provisions in Article 355 which provide for high penalties for natural persons, both for the use of the term “police” and for revealing the identity of an police officers, jeopardize the regular work of journalists, reporting in public interest and lead to an absurd situation since the use of the term “police” must require the permission of the line minister. Revealing the identity of a police officers, who apparently will no longer wear badges with their last name but will be a combination of letters and numbers, will also be punishable, even though he is an officials whose work must be under public scrutiny.

The work on this Draft Law was rather non-transparent and the interested parties, despite the program of public hearings, which was published on the website of the Ministry of the Interior, were not informed about it.

We invite all interested individuals and organizations to take participation in the public debate to try to defend our rights together. Amendments to the proposed Draft can be sent by interested parties to the e-mail javna.rasprava@mup.gov.rs no later than September 18, 2021.

1. Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia

2. Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina

3. Slavko Curuvija Foundation

4. Partners Serbia

5. Association of Online Media

6. A11 Initiative

7. Transparency Serbia

8. European Movement Serbia

9. Youth Initiative for Human Rights

10. Belgrade Centre for Human Rights

11. Autonomous Women’s Centre

12. AS Center

13. Association of local independent media Local press

14. Anti Smoking Educational Center – RP

15. Western Balkans Institute

16. Sandzak Committee for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms

17. TV Forum

18. Center for women studies

19. Lawyers’ Committee for human rights YUCOM

20. Association of Media

21. CRTA

22. Committee for Human rights Nis

23. Alternative home

24. NGO Libero

25. Belgrade Centre for Security Policy

26. Civic Initiatives

27. Youth Center CK13

28. CEMA Monitoring and Activism Center

Hate speech is not and should not be considered free speech

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Foto: Pixabay

Freedom of opinion without polite communication can very often turn into hate speech. This happens too often in Serbia today, especially in the space of electronic media, which has the greatest influence on majority public opinion.

It is through electronic media that hate speech reaches particularly perfidious forms and is often mistakenly presented as freedom of speech. Because of this, all achievements are questioned and something that should be unquestionable, such as freedom of speech, is destabilized.

It is true that every citizen is entitled to freedom of speech. However, in the era of electronic media those who use it the most – especially politicians and public figures – forget that freedom of speech is valid only until it infringes upon the freedom of others. Hatred, in any sense, is not an appropriate fuel for freedom of speech.

The Constitution of the Republic of Serbia prohibits hate speech and those who practice it are subject to sanctions. At least nominally. Unfortunately, in practice it is different: in Serbia, regulations are not respected in a frequent or consistent manner, if at all. This is confirmed by electronic media on a daily basis.

The Regulatory authority for electronic media (REM) which is Serbia’s regulatory agency and is tasked with preventing and sanctioning the spread of hate speech and aggressive communication. REM, however, does not do its job in any segment of its jurisdiction. This results in daily examples of electronic media providing a platform for poor communication, insulting language and persecution of women (victims of domestic and any other violence, female journalists, female politicians); civil society (various civic actions, their leaders); journalists (especially female journalists); migrants (religious intolerance); other peoples living in Serbia (Montenegrins, Roma people); other peoples in the area (Croats, Albanians); opposition party members, national minorities (Hungarians); the LGBT population, all other minority groups, or, in a word, dissenters in relation to mainstream thinking or official Serbian politics.

“Unfortunately, Serbia is a country of all kinds of violence. Generations are socialized in an atmosphere of intolerance in which hatred, discrimination and trampling on all ethical norms are the usual media decor. Hate speech is cultivated and encouraged because it is an important lever in the technology of governing, and the media, as an extended arm of the government, are on a joint venture to brutalize public life,” Vesna Malisic, journalist and deputy editor-in-chief of the weekly paper NIN tells Reporting Diversity Network 2.0.

“The goal is discipline, distraction from critical discourse and withdrawal from the political space that the government wants to rule sovereignly. Of course, in this kind of perverted reality, hate speech, humiliation and disregard are presented as freedom of speech, as is the right to dissent,” she continues.

Malisic mentions that based on Article 51, REM should ensure that “the content of the media service provider does not contain information that incites, in an overt or covert manner, discrimination, hatred or violence, on the grounds of race, color, ancestry, citizenship, nationality, language, religion or political beliefs, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, property status, birth, genetic characteristics, health status, disability, marital and family status, convictions, age, appearance, membership in political, trade union and other organizations and other real, i.e. presumed personal characteristics”.

However this article is not upheld by the regulatory body.

“The paradox lies in the fact that, until September 2020, REM did not file any criminal charges against media service providers for discriminatory speech, violation of the protection of minors and hate speech in the electronic media, although that falls within the scope of its jurisdiction,” explains Malisic.

“The starting point of hate speech is politics, just as the political setups in REM are the reason for its indolence towards hate speech, which is literally rolled out on commercial television programs. When society as a whole goes beyond the institutions, into the space of “who has whom”, there are few possibilities to call for respect for the law and expect an atmosphere of basic civilized behavior,” Malisic tells Reporting Diversity Network 2.0.

TV Happy, a national frequency TV channel that has been put to spotlight by Reporting Diversity 2.0 monitors several times, frequently airs shows full of hate speech either subtle or covert or oftentimes the shamelessly open. Journalism in TV Happy is below standards and seems to be led by political incentives. Several shows invite speakers who are close to the government and the government itself oftentimes uses TV Happy to share its own political propaganda. Thus journalistic practice is reduced to tools for attacking dissidents.

A different opinion is not a “mental fallacy”

One example of hate speech on TV Happy came on the show hosted by Milomir Maric, whose guest at the time was historian Aleksandar Rakovic. Rakovic demonstrated a desire to discredit the current Montenegrin government, and the general achievements of modern Montenegrin society. Among other things, he said:

“It (Montenegro) is a society completely different from ours, so when Novo Vujosevic wrote the book “How to recognize a an utter coward”, he wrote on the example of Montenegro – and Novo Vujosevic is from Montenegro, and he is also a sociology professor at the University of Niksic – and he wrote that book, so now I fully recognize everything I wrote about myself, but I believed that there were no more of these mental fallacies among Serbs in Montenegro. However, it became apparent that they do indeed still exist… “

The whole show suggests that having a different (political) opinion is a “mental fallacy”, and that the Serbian society is better than the Montenegrin society on the basis of a banal and inaccurate remark, that in Serbia there is no “Me to you – you to me tribal political poetics”.

Hate speech is very often directed against the LGBTQ+ community. One significant example of this on TV Happy is when Dule Savic, a Yugoslavian football star was a guest. Savic said: “Now if you are a whore, fag, lesbian, prostitute, monkey, fool, you get two hours and they still pay you… “. A little later he also said: “Gordana Comic (Minister for Human and Minority Rights and Social Dialogue) is now making a law on fag marriages for you, you want to save Serbia from that. How will you do this when the leaders in Serbia are fags and lesbians and that is promoted through your realities and other nonsense…”. He concluded with: “…You make heroes out of people who don’t deserve to be mentioned…. This is regulated by not making such fools public, end of story.”

The LGBTQ+ community was similarly referred to in another show which, both bizarrely and tendentiously, merged two topics that have nothing in common – same-sex marriages and the defense of Kosovo. The show was boosted on YouTube with the title “Fierce show”, and saw the self-proclaimed sociologist Miroljub Petrovic express views which would have surely faced immediate sanction in a country with respect for the upholding of human rights. Petrovic stated:

“One of the developmental aspects of all that is economic Serbia, since we know that the gay lobby controls finances in the world, and the fastest way to get a job, is not to finish school or college, but to become part of the LGBT population. And then you quickly get a job …”, to which the host Milomir Maric asks, “is being gay a profession then?”, Petrovic continues: “You need to invest in the economy, and the best way is to become part of the LGBT population, and then investments will come and then jobs will be created …”..

Hate speech towards women on TV Happy is considered the norm, in which even women -led programs women are presented and depicted in a misogynistic and inadmissibly insulting way. For example, politician Gordana Comic was referred to as a “woman with Stalin’s mustache” and a “crazy woman”, while politician Dragan Markovic Palma, who is accused of inappropriate relations with minors in Jagodina, is called a “gentleman”.

On TV Happy, the MP of the Serbian People’s Party, Vladimir Djukanovic, in a morning show goes a step further in belittling women who have gone through domestic violence. Djukanovic says that “it is known” that domestic violence is most often reported in police stations on Thursdays, because when a woman reports a man, he is usually detained by the police for 48 hours, so he has no way out until Monday, and “she during that time”, Djukanovic explains, “goes out with his friends, she has fun.” The host of this show listened to this misogynistic monologue of MP Djukanovic without any comment, remark or question.

The solution lies in education and media pluralism

Despite all the reports, REM did not react to all these shameful narratives of hatred. When RDN tried to contact them through their website, the form was not functioning and they did not respond to any emails sent to them. The lack of engagement from REM regarding these issues prevents further pursuit of a more responsible and respectful society in Serbia.

“Hate speech decreases as society becomes more democratic and more tolerant, and when debating returns as a chance to translate social conflicts into spiritual disputes, because dialogue, as the philosopher Djuro Susnjic said, takes you out of the world of violence and into the world of freedom,” Malisic concludes.

Malisic is of the opinion that we must return to the root of the problem by challenging policy that reproduces hatred and uses it as a tool for political battle, and in which the media is like a whip swinging over the head of any citizen who thinks differently from what the leading political power has approved.

The state of human rights in Serbia is only a reflection of the state of government institutions. Serbia today is far from a tolerant society that respects different opinions and different life attitudes regarding various life decisions. The system only nominally protects vulnerable social groups that, in essence, cannot exercise their human rights, which are discredited precisely through hate speech.

Apart from the fact that it would be more than necessary for REM to finally start doing what is supposed to do including making their site functional – another possible solution for abolishing hate narratives in electronic media would certainly be education and media pluralism, i.e. opening space for others and different opinions, which, along with the non-sanctioning of aggressive communication, is currently the second biggest shortcoming of electronic media in Serbia. At the moment, electronic spaces are not easily given to anyone else who does not agree with the ruling party, as well as its leader and president of Serbia.

All this could lead to great consequences, not only for our society, but globally for the overall life of people today, especially if we keep in mind some worldwide tendencies, such as the rise of racism and xenophobia in the wider European and global context.

Note: This article includes some derogatory expressions that were said on the Serbian TV. These expressions were used for the purposes of the analysis and do not represent the ethics and journalistic integrity of the author, Reporting Diversity Network 2.0 and Media Diversity Institute Western Balkans.

A court in Mostar fined a man who damaged the equipment of journalist Oručević

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MOSTAR, September 16, 2021 – The Municipal Court in Mostar, at the request of the Free Media Help Line, submitted to the BH Journalists Association a verdict from February 2020, stating that a man with the initials I.Z. (Ivan Zovko) was fined for attacking journalist and activist Husein Oručević.

Activist and journalist Husein Oručević was attacked on June 18, 2019 in the parking lot behind the City Hall in Mostar, when two people first verbaly threatened him, and then one of them spilled a bottle of water on a journalist and tape recorder that held in his hand.

– I did not react immediately, but as the salvo of insults did not stop, I took a tape recorder and showed my accreditation of the Polish radio correspondent, approaching those men and asking them to repeat what they said into the microphone. After that, one of them took a bottle of water and spilled it on me and on my recorder, which was completely damaged – Oručević told the media at the time.

The Municipal Court in Mostar found that in this case Ivan Zovko violated the Law on Public Order and Peace and ordered him to pay a fine in the amount of 100 BAM.

 

EFJ condemned hate speech against Borka Rudic and Lejla Turcilo

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SARAJEVO, September 16, 2021 – In Sarajevo, Borka Rudic, the General Secretary of the BH Journalists’ Association (BHN) and professor in journalism Lejla Turcilo, are targeted by nationalistically motivated hateful comments on social networks. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined its affiliate in Bosnia in condemning the smear campaign and urging the authorities to investigate the case.

Ricardo Gutiérrez, the EFJ General Secretary, reacted: “We express our support to Lejla Turcilo and Borka Rudic. Online harassment and smear campaigns are not just words. We call on the BiH authorities to publicly condemn the brutal campaign and immediately investigate the case. This can’t go any longer.”

This campaign is the continuation of coordinated attacks, hateful comments and defamatory statements, which started a year ago on social media against professor Turcilo, led by several media outlets and journalist Alena Lena Demirović. Lejla Turcilo is the head of the Department of Journalism and Communication at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Sarajevo, a media analyst and a member of BH Journalists. She reported an intensification of the hateful comments in the recent weeks, which was strongly condemned in a statement by the journalists’ association.

“This is one of the proven violent ways to stop critical voices within the media and academic community of Sarajevo and Bosnia and Herzegovina,” the statement said.

Two days later, General Secretary Borka Rudic was also targeted by the same internet portals accusing her of nationalism and of being supportive of war criminals. Both women were labeled as insulting the Prophet Muhammad and stifling independent journalism. A complaint was filed to the police.

BHN President Marko Divkovic said that the attacks on professor Turcilo and on representatives of the BH Journalists’ Association “represent a brutal online violence and a violation of the right to freedom of expression and public action.”

(Source: EFJ)

AEM addressed to colleagues from Serbia: Happy TV and three Pink TV channels violate the standards

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rtcg.me

PODGORICA, 15.09.2021 – The Council of the Agency for Electronic Media (SAEM) asked the Regulatory Body for Electronic Media in Serbia to initiate a procedure for determining the responsibility of broadcasters “Happy TV”, “Pink M”, “Pink Plus” and “Pink” from Serbia, due to violations of the standards prescribed by the Convention on Transfrontier Television and the AVM Services Directive, and take adequate measures.

“The procedure is initiated because SAEM noticed that the mentioned broadcasters unequivocally and continuously broadcast content that incites hatred, intolerance and discrimination against members of the Montenegrin nationality. Frequent broadcasting (especially observed in the period August – September 2021), within the content of various forms and genres, derogatory, insulting or disturbing expression is used, which encourages intense negative emotions, expression of hostility or desire for discrimination, as well as belittling or devaluing members of the Montenegrin nationality, by denying their national identity and uniqueness, “the SAEM states.

They added that “recognizing that this is a matter of public interest, ie violation of the standards prescribed by the international documents, SAEM called on the Regulatory Body for Electronic Media in Serbia to, within its competences, take the necessary actions to eliminate them within 15 days “.

“If the violation of the mentioned media standards continues after the expiration of the mentioned deadline, the Council of the Agency will take measures to limit the rebroadcasting of the disputed programs on the territory of Montenegro,” said the SAEM.

Referring to Montenegrin media coverage, they called on electronic media to “respect professional standards, contribute to the elimination of sensationalism and misinformation, and contribute to the elimination of tensions and constructive dialogue through their reporting.”

Establishment of Fund for media pluralism planned for November

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Photo: PR centar

PODGORICA, 15.09.2021 – The Fund for Encouraging Media Pluralism and Media Diversity should be established in November, the Minister of Public Administration, Digital Society and Media Tamara Srzentic announced in an interview for the Dnevne portal.

Commenting on the media scene, the Minister said that through dialogue with the media, and in communication with representatives of the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Justice, Human and Minority Rights, they are working to identify solutions that would satisfy the entire media community and prevent the future attacks.

Minister Srzentic also says that the Government is working on amendments to the Law on Public Order and Peace in order to adequately sanction what are not criminal acts of attacking journalists but are disparaging other negative phenomena that affect the work of media workers.

“In that way, we will complete the legal framework that should ensure the safe and uninterrupted work of journalists, both in criminal and misdemeanor terms,” ​​Srzentic told us.

According to Srzentić, the government will discuss the existing criminal offenses, threatened punishments with the competent ministries, but possibly also envisage new criminal offenses in relation to the perpetrators and actors of behavior and actions aimed at media workers.

Portal Dnevne: Unlike Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic, you condemned, without exception, all attacks on journalists in Montenegro. As the Minister of Media, how do you assess how endangered the representatives of the Seventh Force in Montenegro are, and will you advocate for your mandate that journalists in Montenegro receive the status of an official?

Srzentic: This Government is committed to complete freedom of the media and these are the goals and values ​​that are clearly stated in the exposition of the Prime Minister, and I, as the line minister, have a mandate to strongly and openly condemn on behalf of the Government, the Ministry, and my personal name, further prosecute any security threats and attacks on journalists.

I recognize the issue of security, among many others, as a key problem that threatens journalists and media workers in Montenegro. That is why the Government is working on amendments to the Criminal Code, but also the Law on Public Order and Peace. In addition, the Ministry of the Interior and the Police Directorate, in cooperation with the Council of Europe, have been working for some time to develop guidelines for risk assessment of the conditions in which journalists work and which we expect to significantly help police officers improve media protection.

Portal Dnevne: From relevant addresses, findings are constantly coming that the freedom of the media in Montenegro is not at a satisfactory level. What do you see as a key problem?

Srzentic: Extreme polarization of society that spilled over into all spheres, including the media sector, more frequent attacks on journalists, old cases that remain unsolved, including the murder of the editor-in-chief of the daily Dan, a growing amount of misinformation across the region following political developments in Montenegro, and inadequate sanctions policy are key issues burdening our media scene.

The media must be independent and free to open the most important social topics from different angles. Media pluralism is a necessary segment of the forthcoming social and institutional changes. Where ethical and professional media codes have been violated, citizens have legally defined response mechanisms, and expressing dissatisfaction with media workers through verbal and physical attacks is a criminal offense and must be severely sanctioned.

In addition to changes in the normative framework, we believe that it is necessary to work on increasing media literacy, greater information of citizens about how important media freedom is. We have a continuous dialogue with the media in order to reach activities and measures to have better conditions for their work. We are aware that resolving old cases of attacks and finding the perpetrators would greatly contribute to sending the message that violence and attacks on journalists will not be tolerated.

Portal Dnevne: You announced that this year is also dedicated to the reform of media legislation. What are the key changes for the media community in Montenegro?

Srzentić: In the Government, we are aware of the challenges in the media sector, so the first Media Strategy will address some of them. This year is dedicated to the reform of media legislation. Amendments to the law on media and public service law will further strengthen the protection of journalistic sources, as well as improve the election of members of the RTCG Council in terms of independence. Also, the new law on audio-visual media services will fully harmonize the electronic media sector with the EU directive of the same name, which will further strengthen the capacities of the Agency for Electronic Media, which is one of the priorities recognized in last year’s EC report.

Portal Dnevne: When will the Fund for Encouraging Media Pluralism and Media Diversity be established, and how much money is planned?

Srzentic: The Pluralism Fund is planned to be established in November. We are currently in the final phase of drafting the Rulebook, which will be on the public discussion in October. The total amount of funds allocated to the Pluralism Fund is EUR 860,093.95, of which 60% belongs to the Board of Regulators for Audio-Visual Media Services, which amounts to EUR 516,056.37, while 40% of the funds belong to the Ministry of Public Administration, Digital Society and Media, EUR 344,037.58 for online publications and print media.

Portal Dnevne: The Ministry of Public Administration, Digital Society and Media, together with several Montenegrin media, launched a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of vaccination during the corona virus pandemic. Are you satisfied with the results of the campaign, and can more similar actions be expected?

Srzentic: Part of the Government’s responsible answer to the epidemic caused by the corona virus is informing citizens about all vaccination processes, especially due to the fact that a large number of citizens were under the influence of false news and spreading misinformation about the vaccination process. National and local authorities and the media should work together to ensure that accurate, verified and objective information based on official sources is available to the public.

This was especially important from the point of view of education and raising public awareness in Montenegro about the importance and significance of vaccination. That is why we have created a competition for the allocation of budget funds for the creation of informative and educational content in daily print media and online publications related to the vaccination process against coronavirus and epidemiological measures in 2021, which supported 22 projects with a total value of 150,000 euros.

As part of the campaign, a large number of articles, statements, interviews, and publications were published, which provided answers to key questions and challenges related to vaccination and contributed to greater visits to the official Government website covidodgovor.me.