The Serbian Culture and Information Ministry said on Thursday that it would launch misdemeanor proceedings against the independent weekly Vreme for publishing pictures of the front pages of pro-government tabloids who were in violation of the law on public information and the media, prompting the weekly to say that the charges were a form of pressure.
The Ministry launched proceedings against several pro-government tabloids last week after they published details of the kidnapping and alleged rape of a 12 year old girl. Vreme included pictures of their front pages in a story titled Evil Lurking in Newsstands in its January 16 issue.
The ministry said Vreme had also violated the rights and interest of the minor by carrying the front pages of the tabloids which were already under misdemeanor proceedings and added that the weekly violated the articles of the law which state that minors cannot be recognizable in reports which could harm their rights or interests.
The statement said that the ministry would continue to react in line with its competencies every time that media laws are violated and in cases when the integrity of minors is in question.
Vreme weekly said in a press release that the goal of the misdemeanor charges is to exert pressure on independent media and control the damage done by regime tabloids.
“We can’t believe that the Ministry of Culture and Information will file misdemeanor charges against our weekly for pictures included with the story Evil From the Newsstands in issue 1515 which explicitly condemns the media vulture regime tabloids,” the press release said and added that it’s “completely incomprehensible how we could have violated the rights or interests of minors after the tabloids freely violated them every day on all newsstands in Serbia”.
The Ministry of Culture and Information responded to the Vreme statement saying that the weekly did not understand the reasons for the charges and specified that Vreme had done exactly the same thing that the tabloids had done. “The context in which this was done, that is the content of the story whose pictures are disputed, is irrelevant in this case from a legal point of view,” the ministry said.
“Huge, incorrigible damage has been done and Vreme only revealed and documented the depth of the evil in this media abyss. We expect the ministry to withdraw the misdemeanor charges against our weekly,” the press release said.
Vreme replied to the second ministry statement saying the ministry response to its press release was depressing. “The pathetic justification by the ministry for the charges against Vreme were to suck up to regime tabloids. The ministry allegedly insists on the law being equal for all and is trying to make us equal to them. There’s not other way to explain their need to deal with us all day, unless it’s to justify themselves politically because Vreme praised the ministry for its reaction against the regime tabloids,” the weekly said, adding that unlike the tabloids it does not produce disputed content but has been fighting against that for decades.