Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic accused N1 TV of placing fake news about a ban on the airing of N1 on Tuesday.
Answering questions from an N1 reporter, Brnabic repeated her claim that the #DaSeVidiN1 #LetN1TVBeSeen campaign is political and accused N1 of turning a business dispute into a freedom of the media and public interest issue.
N1: Are you, as a Prime Minister who is, at least in words, European-oriented, characterizing a TV station as a political party? And you said that this is a business dispute. Why then are you, if this is a business dispute, getting involved in that business dispute as prime minister?
Brnabic: “I would say that I am not European-oriented in words only, I am oriented towards Europe, that is the strategic path of Serbia and the government I head. This is a business dispute between Telekom and the United Group when the business dispute appeared I was not in the country, I was in Davos. I got involved the moment that the political campaign started – #DaSeVidiN1 #LetN1TVBeSeen when the political campaign started I got involved because you turned a business dispute between two companies – Telekom Serbia and United Group – into a question of freedom of the media and the public interest and that is not the case. Telekom Serbia asked the United Group to continue broadcasting its channels until a final agreement is reached, it accepted the price but did not accept all conditions. And it has the right to do that and I won’t enter into whether the United Group is right or whether Telekom Serbia is right. That’s a business dispute, I won’t get involved in a business dispute. But the United Group decided and explicitly ordered the Telekom to shut down all its channels including N1. No one in the authorities or from Telekom shut down N1 and please, I am asking you to make that completely clear to you and your viewers. No one. Telekom Serbia asked to continue the contract, of course with payment as it had been paying till then, while the talks were underway on the contract. Continue airing all channels, including N1. The United Group decision was for the channels, including N1, not to be aired. Until a new contract is drawn up and just one more thing – it has nothing to do with freedom of the media and I am sorry that I know that you know that this has nothing to do with freedom of the media but just talks between two companies. And it has nothing to do with N1, but with Sport Klub and you want to make this into a political campaign before the elections. Congratulations on the campaign, it is excellent, it is strong … "
N1: What exactly is a political campaign in this can you explain? And do you think that N1 should not be seen by all citizens of Serbia?
Brnabić: “No, I am in favor of #DaSeVidiN1 #LetN1TVBeSeen. I am just saying that you created fake news that someone banned the broadcasting of N1 because of freedom of the media and censorship. That is not true and you know that it is not true…”
N1: You’re telling me?
Brnabic: “No, when I say you, I mean N1, you as N1 know that it is not true. You know that no one banned N1”.
N1: The contract expired, that is why the channels were shut down, that is why Telekom Serbia refused to accept the offer of taking N1 at market price, more than favorable. Why does Telekom Serbia not want to take N1 TV and broadcast it on all cable operators? What is political in the #DaSeVidiN1 #LetN1TVBeSeen campaign for the public interest.
Brnabic: “Politics is you saying that this kills freedom of the media.” N1: It does. Brnabic: “How does it?”
N1: A news channel is being shut down. Telekom Serbia (which is state-owned) does not want to accept an offer to air N1 on all cable operators at market price and that is in the public interest of all citizens of this country. N1 has received awards for professional and objective reporting and...
Brnabic: “Good, we also fought, that is not we but Telekom Serbia for N1 to continue broadcasting until things are cleared up on the new contract. We have, you have, the entire United Group, N1 TV, everyone has the documents exchanged between Telekom and United Group in which (Telekom manager) Vladimir Lucic keeps saying daily on behalf of Telekom: It is fundamentally important to us for all your channels to be broadcast. All.”
N1: Only some of those documents are showin in public. First, I don’t know if you think it’s appropriate for part of the documents exchanged between two companies are made public and then only the part about Telekom Serbia and not all documents.
Brnabic: “Do you remember when I answered questions from MPs in parliament in July when I said that N1 is on Telekom’s offer. Do you remember your report that I was not telling the truth?”
N1: Were you speaking of Supernova?
Brnabić: “Is that Telekom’s offer as well. You said in July that Telekom is not offering N1 and that I am telling lies and today you’re saying that Telekom is shutting down N1. The Telekom that is not airing N1. When were you telling the truth? In July or today? Because you gave the citizens of Serbia completely the opposite information in July – when were you telling the truth?
N1: Don’t ask me, I am here to ask you.
Brnabic: “Since you gave opposite information where you lying then or are you lying now?”
N1: I am asking you a question and don’t tell me that I’m lying. I am asking you a question and please answer that question I asked. Do you think its all right for a million citizens of Serbia not to have access to N1?
Brnabic: “It is not. I am appealing to the United Group to reach an agreement with Telekom to continue airing the channel – because that is in the public interest – until an agreement is reached on a new contract.
N1: Are you appealing to the Telekom Serbia?
Brnabic: “I am also appealing to Telekom Serbia. Yes, absolutetly but I can’t accept the fact that the existence of a TV station can be a condition for a commercial contract and that is what you are doing now. Whatever conditions we set, if the Telekom does not accept them we are shutting down N1 and then we’ll say that this does away with freedom of the media”.