Aleksandar Vucic, the President of Serbia told the “Crisis of Media Freedom” panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday he was proud with economic results his country had achieved, but not with media situation, promising the state would “do everything” so he could be happy with freedom of media and speech in two years, N1 reported.
Addressing the panel, Vucic said he probably did not deserve to be invited to speak about media freedom since Serbia had been receiving “not so good marks” by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Freedom House in the last two years concerning the area.
N1 reporter Hrvoje Kresic asked Vucic why he branded N1 as an “American TV” and Vucic replied that since an N1 reporter asked him not to do that he stopped, adding N1 has been criticising the government 24/7 without suffering any consequences.
Speaking about the case of a local Serbia's journalist Milan Jovanovic whose house was burned down, he said the organiser and the suspect were arrested, but that “the main man” who inspired the attack wasn’t behind bars.
“I think we know who that is and I expect that we will close the case after we gather all evidence,” Vucic said.
He added, “we have to be brutal in cases like that.”
Officials from the RSF said they discussed the worsening atmosphere in the country and the safety of journalists with Vucic, according to the head of that organisation’s Balkans and EU desk Pauline Ades-Mevel.
I an interview with N1 she said they were there to talk about safety after the recent attacks on Zig Info portal journalist Jovanovic who reported on alleged corruption in the local authorities. “We are not convinced that he is fully taking this case into consideration,” she said.
Ades-Mevel said they had told the Serbian president that it was important to end the practice of impunity and hold masterminds to account so that journalists can feel safe.
“We welcome the president’s willingness to admit that the situation in Serbia is not ideal, but we do not share that view,” she said and expressed the hope that their discussion with Vucic would be followed by concrete action.
Vucic told the panel he had “ask them (the RSF) to help us, brings along experts especially those who deal with the state aid to media, since it seems crucial.”
Concerning the false news, he said they were not a crime in Serbia because if they were, it could be understood as the curbing of freedom of expression.
Vucic said that “today the emotions are what sells media, not the facts, and it’s always easier to sell negative emotions.”