Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called the Serbian government to implement European Commission recommendations aimed at improving media regulations and combating Russian disinformation.
A press release said that Serbia must revise media reforms to respond to disinformation challenges in line with EU calls.
“The Serbian parliament recently passed two media laws but, in the European Union’s view, progress in this area is still limited. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges the Serbian government to adopt the European Commission’s recommendations in order to improve media regulation and combat Russian disinformation more effectively,” the RSF press release said.
It recalled that the European Commission’s latest progress report noted that Serbia made limited progress on media freedom because of frequent and virulent verbal attacks against journalists by public officials, the lack of independence of the Regulatory Body for Electronic Media (REM), the lack of transparency on media ownership, and the dissemination of Russian disinformation by many media outlets. It added that newly adopted media laws allow the state to buy media outlets via the Telekom Serbia company.
“We welcome the adoption of these two media laws in Serbia, which contain real solutions for improving press freedom. However, these reforms are not up to the challenges. The possibility of a return to state ownership of the media and the lack of a real overhaul of the REM are prompting concerns about renewed pressure from the Serbian authorities and a prominent place for Russian propaganda. As a candidate for accession to the European Union, Serbia must be more ambitious in its reforms. We call on the government to review these laws in light of the recommendations in the European Commission’s report,” the press release quoted RSF EU-Balkans desk chief Pavol Szalai as saying.
“RSF calls on the Serbian government to follow the European Commission’s recommendations to: take measures to combat the dissemination of Russian disinformation, ensure the independence of the REM and protect journalists against all forms of violence and intimidation.
RSF also recalled that the two new media laws were put forward by the government at the last minute and were adopted late at night with by-laws still to come. “The government could still improve or, on the contrary, toughen some of the laws,” it said.