After six years under the leadership of Aleksandar Vucic, first as Prime Minister and then the President, Serbia has become a country where it is often dangerous to be a journalist, reads the latest Reporters Without Borders report on media freedom. According to RSF, Serbia fell three places in its media freedom ranking list in 2020, taking 93rd place. On the other hand, Kosovo was up five places – from 75th to 70th. The media in Kosovo, however, remains “divided along ethnic lines” – the report revealed.
Speaking about countries in the region, RSF ranked Slovenia at 32nd position, two higher than in 2019, while Romania was one place down and ended the year in 47th position. Bosnia and Herzegovina rose five places, up to 58th position, as well as Croatia which was ranked as 59th.
Greece retained its position (65), while Albania dropped to 84th position, two lower than last year.
Northern Macedonia took 92nd position, three places up than last year.
Of the European countries, only Russia (149), Belarus (153) and Turkey (154) ranked lower.
The best-ranked countries in Europe were Norway (1), Finland (2) and Denmark (3), which hold the first three places. Germany’s ranking increased two places – up to 11th position.
At the bottom of the ranking lists were Iran, China, Eritrea, Turkmenistan and North Korea.
Dangerous to be a journalist in Serbia since Vucic came into power
According to the Reporters Without Borders, after six years under the leadership of Aleksandar Vucic, first as Prime Minister and then the President, Serbia has become a country where it is often dangerous to be a journalist and where fake news is gaining visibility and popularity at an alarming rate.
“While authorities are succeeding in prosecuting those responsible for the murder of journalist Slavko Curuvija in 1999, most other investigations into attacks on media personnel have stalled or been shelved,” the report read.
RSF cited, as an example, the attacks against journalist Milan Jovanovic, whose house was set on fire in December 2018 while he and his wife were asleep inside.
The report says that the number of verbal attacks by politicians on media has risen sharply, and that officials “increasingly use inflammatory rhetoric against journalists.”
“Some courageous journalists continue to cover dangerous subjects such as crime and corruption. However, due to the high concentration of media ownership in the country, their stories are usually only available on the Internet,” RSF report on Serbia said, adding:
“Collusion between politicians and media, widespread government-tolerated fake news, and the mistreatment of a whistleblower, Aleksandar Obradovic, also remain a great source of concern.”
As with almost everything else, the media in Kosovo remains divided along ethnic lines
According to Reporters Without Borders, the media in Kosovo, as almost everything else in the country, “remains divided along ethnic lines.”
“The access to information is often limited to one ethnic or political group, with the majority of media reporting predominantly on issues concerning their own nationality. Some of the shared concerns are physical and verbal attacks on journalists, cyber-attacks on online media as well as the lack of transparency of media ownership,” the report said.
RSF pointed out that many media in Kosovo are not financially stable, which makes them “susceptible to political influence,” often resulting in self-censorship.
“Many minority media are on the verge of extinction, surviving mostly on foreign donations.”
The fates of numerous journalists in Kosovo remain unknown to date, including those journalists who went missing or were abducted during the 1999 conflict – the RSF report underlined.
RSF: Rumors and lies spreading like a virus
Reporters Without Borders assessed that the coronavirus pandemic represents a threat to media freedom around the world, AP reports.
In its annual report, RSF noted the authorities could abuse the fact that the public is disturbed and that protests are out of the question to introduce measures that would not be possible in normal conditions.
The pandemic has intensified the spread of rumors and lies at the same rate as the virus is spreading, Reporters Without Borders warned.
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