Both Serbian and Kosovan journalists’ associations reacted today on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day. Journalists’ associations in Serbia warn that once again this day is celebrated in the „media darkness“ in which all citizens are jeopardized. They also called on authorities to deal with threats to journalists. The Kosovo Journalist Association presented similar demands.
The Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (NUNS) pointed out that the public scene is dominated by false news and propaganda, which is often created by people in positions of political power.
„Without the freedom of the media and the independent journalistic profession, it is not possible to hear the voice of the disenfranchised nor of those who are exposed to pressure and repression. When we have media darkness, everyone is endangered,“ this association said.
NUNS warned that „hate speech“ has become normal in politics.
„The information blockade makes it impossible to encourage critical awareness. Information is becoming a key lever for manipulating public opinion. The forces of such propaganda are also numerous quasi-media and anti-journalists, who are in fact spokespersons of populist and anti-democratic policies,“ NUNS underlined.
They add that attacks on journalists are often preceded by provocations of state officials or local politicians, which in turn incite oppressors and violence against journalists.
„Citizens must be aware that these threats are a direct attack on their freedoms as well. And that is why they should raise their voice,“ the association said in a statement.
If citizens give up free media, there will be no one left to inform them that they are subjects
Under the slogan „You are not alone“ (Niste sami), NUNS marked this day by releasing a short video drawing attention to the increasing number of threats made against journalists in Serbia, which make their job even more difficult.
On the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day, the Serbian Ministry of Culture and Information, as well as international institutions and officials in Kosovo also reacted.
The Journalists’ Association of Serbia (UNS), together with its branches – the Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina (DNV) and the Association of Journalists from Kosovo and Metohija (DNKiM), marked the World Press Freedom Day with the traditional ‘Five Minutes of Thundering Silence’ at 11.55 am in Novi Sad and Gracanica.
This year’s UNS declaration was read in front of the Cultural Center in Gracanica, after which an organized selection of caricatures, aphorisms, and illustrations was held.
The declaration was also published on numerous portals at exactly 11.55, after the five minutes of thunderous silence, during which the portals, as well as television channels, blurred their screens.
UNS called prosecutors and police to efficiently investigate all the threats against journalists and media and inform the public of their findings.
It called journalists to report any security threats and pressures immediately.
They also reminded that the Serb community in Kosovo still has no independent TV channel covering all of Kosovo, and that the portal of the RTK2 television channel is not edited by the Serbian editorial office.
In the declaration, UNS made several demands:
1. Misdemeanor proceedings against all journalists who reported on environmental protests should be suspended
2. Prosecutors and police should effectively investigate all threats to journalists and media workers and regularly inform the public about the results of these investigations. Journalists and media workers should report security threats and pressures immediately using the Permanent Working Group on Journalist Security and the Working Group on Security and protection of journalists and SOS telephone;
3. The protection against unrealistic monetary damages that endanger the freedom of the media (SLAPP lawsuits) should be prescribed by law.
4. To prescribe by the law and rulebook on project co-financing of media content the criteria that must be met by organizations and associations that propose members of commissions for project co-financing of media content of public importance as well as individuals, media experts;
5. The new Government of Serbia should support the proposals of the Commission for the Investigation of Murders of Journalists in order to issue an indictment for the murder of journalist Milan Pantic as soon as possible and clarify the circumstances of the death of journalist Dada Vujasinovic;
6. The Special Prosecutor’s Office for War Crimes should start dealing with the fate of more than 40 journalists and media workers of Serbian newsrooms killed in the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, during the NATO aggression in 1999 and Kosovo and Metohija from 1998 to 2005.
7. Kosovo institutions and the international administration in Kosovo should urgently establish an International Expert Commission requested by the European Federation of Journalists, which will include representatives of journalists’ associations, to investigate the killings and abductions of journalists and media workers in Kosovo from 1998 to 2005. We also demand that all Kosovo’s negotiations on visa liberalization with the European Union be conditioned by the results of these investigations.
Today, the Kosovo Journalists Association (AGK) also sent similar requests to the authorities and politicians.
This association called on politicians to immediately stop boycotting the media, start informing the public regularly and respecting laws on access to public documents. AGK also urged them to stop attacking and inciting hatred against journalists, while calling for conditions for an effective fight against impunity for attacks on journalists.
„Constant and orchestrated attacks by the current government, often carried out in ‘politically correct’ language, degrade the journalistic profession like never before. This behavior, combined with the closure of institutions and the lack of transparency that has prevailed over the past year, makes the job of journalists very difficult. Attempts by politicians to cover up scandals by attacking journalists with a well-orchestrated narrative of ‘they are slandering, they don’t trust them’ are dangerous and force journalists to pretend to be enemies of the country. When this narrative becomes an everyday occurrence, it poses a direct threat to the safety of journalists.“
AGK marked this day with the slogan „Media are not the enemy“ and a press conference held in the building of the Kosovo government, where they presented the same demands.
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