The SafeJournalists Network presented the Journalist Safety Index at the EFJ Assembly

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Source/Author: IJAS

Members of the SafeJournalists network presented yesterday the Journalist Safety Index for the countries of the Western Balkans at the Assembly of the European Federation of Journalists, which was held in Pristina from May 23 to 24.

The results show that the countries of the Western Balkans are mostly in the middle of the scale between “1” and “7”, which means that they have almost equal positive and negative sides and that none of these aspects predominate.

The main goal of the Safety Index is to measure the “safety environment for journalists” in the countries of the Western Balkans.

It is based on the already existing monitoring of the environment in which journalists and media work in WB countries.

It is based on international standards and best practices.

Serbia

Although they are guaranteed by law to practice their profession freely, journalists are under various kinds of pressures that prevent the stability and protection of their work. Although they are formally protected, journalistic sources are a special target, and institutions send a clear message to sources that the disclosure of information is not welcome and that the system will not allow it. Access to safeguards is simple and good, but most procedures are rejected or stopped at further stages.

Although journalists have good access to protective mechanisms, the practice of not condemning threats and attacks, along with encouraging citizens to make threats by representatives of the authorities, raises mistrust and deters journalists from reporting.

The competent authorities, despite certain shortcomings, still have a good data collection system in place, but the system is still not efficient. The various results of the conducted investigations still give the impression of a selective approach. Harassment on social networks is becoming the biggest problem in the protection of journalists. The prosecution and especially the police are under pressure and influence from the authorities, which makes the processing mechanism ineffective.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Systematic legal changes in Republika Srpska; Legal interventions in the area of access to public information at BiH state level; Developement of legal regulation against hate speech and disinformation in Sarajevo Canton.

No special legal mechanism for protecting journalists from violence in an efficient manner, nor criminal legislation for hate speech and safety threats to journalists.

Political influences to the judiciary and the police as key points for the protection of journalists.

One positive thing: contact points in the police and prosecutor’s offices have been appointed, which can influence more effective investigations of attacks to journalists

Montenegro

RTCG director reelected despite numerous Court decisions, prosecutor open the case.

No special mechanism regarding hate speech protection.

Political instability affected Police Administration, while new Supreme Prosecutor open to media.

Cases of attacks on journalists are being investigated more promptly.;

Politicians continue to pressure the media;

SLAPP lawsuits are filed against those who hold critical views;

The material conditions are unsatisfactory, journalists are leaving the profession.

North Macedonia

In general, the perception in 2023 is that defamation and insult lawsuits were used more as a pressure tool in the past than they are today.

A positive change is the appointment of competent prosecutor Dejan Petrevski, who came as a replacement for the current prosecutor Iskra Hadži Vasileva, who was promoted at the end of 2023. Prosecutor Petrevski will monitor the proceedings in cases where journalists were attacked.

The Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office in cooperation with the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM) and the Independent Union of Journalists and Media Workers (SSNM) appointed three new special public prosecutors for the new three appeal areas of Tetovo, Bitolj and Štip. Through the established special line for communication with the Public Prosecutor’s Office, journalists will be able to be informed about the course of the procedure for physical attacks and violence. However, there are still no specific instructions from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Prosecutor’s Office for effective detection and prosecution of perpetrators of attacks and threats against journalists.

In 2023, the number of attacks on journalists decreased compared to the previous year. However, although the number of verbal and physical threats is generally decreasing compared to the last 10 years, it is worrying that journalists and media professionals are increasingly exposed to threats and harassment in the online space, That is, on social networks, some of which are serious threats to the physical safety of journalists. who work on investigations of corruption and other negative social phenomena.

Kosovo

During 2023, Kosovo has experienced an unprecedented decrease in terms of media freedom and journalists’ safety. In comparison to 2022 where there were 33 reported cases, the number of attacks on journalists has increased by 41, making 2023 the year with the highest number of violations of media freedom and attacks on journalists. Journalists reporting in northern municipalities have encountered life threats, verbal and physical attacks, as well as damage to personal and professional belongings.

Additionally, in June, there was a move by the government to revoke the operating license of one of the country’s largest national television, Klan Kosova. This reevaluation of the license was prompted by findings in the paperwork of the owning corporation by the Ministry of Trade, Entrepreneurship, and Industry. Local civil society organizations, in collaboration with the international presence in Kosovo, successfully prevented this decision from being implemented; however, it marks a significant threat to media freedom in Kosovo.

Throughout 2023, members of the ruling party conducted an online smear campaign against the media, journalists, and media freedom activists. Furthermore, the appointment of the director of the first channel of the Public Broadcaster of Kosovo was seen as political due to Mr. Rilind Gervalla’s affiliation with the ruling party, Levizja Vetëvendosje. Although heavily opposed by the community, Mr. Gervalla continues to hold the position of RTK1 director to this day.

Finally, the budget received by the Public Service Broadcaster is entirely determined by the Assembly, leaving it vulnerable to political influences. The allocated budget for 2023 is the lowest in recent years, posing a direct form of pressure as the Kosovan PSB can now only afford the salaries of its employees.

This year, the regular Assembly of the European Federation of Journalists is being held in Pristina on May 23 and 24. During yesterday’s day, in addition to the presentation of the SefeJournalists network, a round table entitled “Reporting in times of war” was held, and an invitation to participate in the mapping of the Media Freedom Platform (MFRR) was also presented. After that, the regular court procedures were started.

A round table on the topic “Fighting against SLAPPs” was held today.