RSF: Serbia has more issues with media freedom, Ana Lalic's arrest was brutal

RSF: Serbia has more issues with media freedom, Ana Lalic's arrest was brutal

RSF: Serbia has more issues with media freedom, Ana Lalic's arrest was brutal Izvor: Shutterstock

Serbia fell on this year's Reporters Without Borders (RSF) list of media freedom due to many problems in the area, a not only because of a single incident, as President Aleksandar Vucic said about the report, Pavol Salaj, from RSF told the Voice of America (VOA) on Thursday.

Serbia fell three places on the list, RSF reported.

Salaj, in charge of media freedom in the European Union and the Western Balkans, said the position of a state was determined based on two parameters – the current situation in a particular country and the attitudes of other nations.

"Regarding the situation Serbia in 2019, we noted several problems. One is the slow process of the trial for the attack on Milan Jovanovic (the journalist whose house was burned down in 2018). Besides, there are other issues – discrediting campaign against independent media conducted by the pro-regime tabloids and on the Internet," Salaj said.

Commenting on the RSF report which put Serbia three down on the list to 93rd position out of 180 countries monitored, Vucic said he understood it was because of Jovanovic's case and added the ruling was expected soon.

Salaj added that Serbia's authorities did not take measures to protect media freedom during the coronavirus pandemic.

"The attempts to silence the investigative media which critically report on coronavirus is profoundly wrong. We at RSF believe that such medical crisis cannot end without strong protection of the media. That's why we addressed the UN saying the right to correct information is also an elementary right as it's the right to health," Salaj said.

Recalling the case of Nova.rs website journalists Ana Lalic who was detained for a critical report about the situation at the Vojvodina Clinical Center, Salaj that "she went through a brutal arrest."

Salaj said that the most severe crisis was caused by "the authoritarian regimes which try to control media in different ways, violating their freedom."

 "(Her) phones and computers were confiscated. She was not only harassed, but her sources could have been compromised. We are glad that Ana Lalic was released, but we still insist that her sources are protected and that all charges against her be dropped," Salaj told VOA.

He added that the independent media and whistleblowers should be protected, reiterating that those media were under the attack by the pro-regime outlets aiming to discredit them.

"That's a general situation which needs to be changed. It seems that in certain cases the authorities encourage the campaign of harassing journalist," Salaj said.

He added that the journalism has been targeted in several other crises before the pandemic broke out and that the outbreak only worsened the situation.

Salaj pointed at the link between the position of a state at RSF index and the measures introduced at the expense of media freedom.

"An example is China, the country among the last ranked (on the list). Instead of allowing free reporting, China is suspected of hiding information which strengthened the pandemic attack. The second example is Iran which also empowered the censorship," he added.

Salaj said that the most severe crisis was caused by "the authoritarian regimes which try to control media in different ways, violating their freedom."  

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