Serbia has dropped 14 places on the 2019 World Press Freedom Index and now ranks 90th on the list of 180 countries, the Reporters Without Borders global media watchdog said on Thursday.
The authors of the report warned that Serbia is not safe for journalists. “Within five years of President Aleksandar Vucic in effect governing the country, Serbia has become a place where practising journalism is neither safe nor supported by the state,” the report said and warned of a rise in attacks on the media.
Serbia’s Interior Ministry (MUP) State Secretary said on Thursday MUP was taking all measures to protect journalists. Biljana Popovic Ivkovic told the head of the OSCE Mission in Belgrade Andrea Orizio that MUP reacted immediately upon receiving reports on threats against journalists. Orizio said the safety of journalists and freedom of media were the OSCE priorities.
“The number of attacks on media is on the rise, including death threats, and inflammatory rhetoric targeting journalists is increasingly coming from the governing officials. Many attempts on journalists’ integrity have not been investigated, solved, or punished, and the aggressive smear campaigns that pro-government media orchestrate against investigative reporters are in full swing,” it said.
Ministry of Information State Secretary Aleksandar Gajovic said he doesn’t see why Serbia fell on the Press Freedom Index. “I have to admit that I doubted the reports by Reporters Without Borders earlier even though I don’t underestimate their information but I always have a dose of scepticism and caution with this type of information,” he said.
The report noted the arson attack on the home of investigative journalist Milan Jovanovic in a Belgrade suburb following his reports on corruption at the local level.
Reporters Without Borders said that “some courageous journalists continue to cover dangerous subjects such as crime and corruption, but because of media ownership concentration, their stories are usually with a limited reach”.
“Collusion between politicians and media, widespread government-tolerated fake news, and a lack of pluralism in the print and broadcast media are also all sources of a big concern,” the report said.