The real reason why N1 TV was removed from the offer of state-owned cable operators is because it is the only station broadcasting critical views and opinions, guests of the 360 Degrees talk show said on Thursday.
Journalist Gordana Susa said the decision taken by the state-owned Telekom Serbia’s subordinate cable operators to stop airing N1 TV runs counter to European conventions and the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union and Serbian laws all of which forbid anyone from stopping the free flow of information. “This is a direct violation of European and domestic practice. Why you? Because you are too critical and the authorities do not like you,” she said. Susa said that the warning from Tanja Fajon MEP that democracy and freedom of the media are in danger in Serbia shows that the international community is aware of the situation.
Susa said that the TV stations with national frequencies and the tabloids only report what the Telekom and Supernova say, adding that this is a spin technique. “First denial, then if that fails minimization and then discrediting. When even that fails they focus the public on other scandals,” she said. Susa called the public to engage themselves and not be left without information, advising them to find alternate ways of getting the right information such as (SBB cable operator’s) EON platform or TOTAL TV.
Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (NUNS) President Zeljko Bodrozic said that the situation in which the government is opening chapters in the pre-accession talks with the EU on one hand and “destroying everything that even seems to be free” on the other is “schizophrenic”. “You want to have the other side all these year which is not the case with the five TV stations with national frequencies. That means that you stick out and should not exist,” the NUNS president said.
Bodrozic recalled that the United Group launched the Nova S channel a few months ago, attracting the authors of several popular talk shows from the stations with national frequencies and added that the authorities were offended by this. “The whole thing is this brutal because of the elections. Evidently, part of the public favors the boycott (by part of the opposition), they watch N1 because they can’t get information from other TV stations (…) Despite all control, a brutal campaign, the man (Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic) is still struggling to get a majority. He should be getting 97 percent,” he said.
According to Dragan Popovic, head of the Center for Practical Policies, the state has destroyed the only platform for dialogue by removing N1 from the offer of the Telekom cable operators. He said that even the occasional appearance of lower-ranking officials on N1 was something not seen on the TV stations with national frequencies. “You stick out so far that you can’t expect anything else,” he said.
Popovic added that N1 TV has grown too strong and is viewed by so many people that it is no longer useful to the authorities as an example of democracy in Serbia that they use in talks with foreign officials. They can possibly do that with the weekly press which does not have a large circulation, he said.
There are two problems in this situation, journalist Nedim Sejdinovic said. The first is the political decision to marginalize N1 whose program is the closest to a public media service and the second is the intention of the state to achieve some kind of state monopoly over cable operators which is dangerous even in democratic countries with solid institutions, he said and added that the Telekom decision is an attempt to prevent access to commercial advertisers for N1.