N1 reporter Jelena Zoric told the Nova.rs portal that she consciously put up her professional credibility when she decided to accept a decoration from Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, adding that she wanted to show she does not take political decisions and respects state institutions.
Zoric was decorated with the Silver Medal for her reporting on the coronavirus pandemic. Her decision drew both praise and criticism. “I am a public figure and the public has every right to criticize and praise me… I advocate freedom of speech and I have no right to criticize others even for statements that border on offensive. I won’t hold anything against anyone, especially the people following my work, they are free thinking people and I am glad I have that audience,” she said. “No one has the right to threaten me,” she said commenting the threats she received over her reporting on the Jovanjica marijuana farm case. She added that as a public figure she does not have the right to pressure institutions.
She said that she proved her respect for institutions by accepting the decoration, adding that she always advocates respect for institutions. “In my reports I keep saying that the problem is when officials fail to respect institutions so that I can draw attention to their shortcomings and abuse of power… I am under attack daily just like all my fellow journalists in independent media by officials who call us traitors and mercenaries… Contracts are being signed by state-owned and private companies to shut down N1 TV and they keep calling us opposition media and journalists… I know what I am and I have no problem in standing before even the president as a journalist,” Zoric said.
Zoric said that she is not a politician or activist which gives her the freedom to investigate even the most sensitive criminal issues which are often intertwined with politics. “But I do not have the freedom to take decisions in public about my personal political orientation.
According to Zoric, N1 has been under increasingly strong attack by top state officials for years. “I told the prime minister without hesitation that she can’t talk to N1 journalists as if they are political opponents and she can’t fabricate an affair to destroy N1’s reputation,” she said commenting Prime Minister Ana Brnabic’s claims that N1 deliberately failed to verify information from the public about vaccination efforts. “The fact that I was decorated gives me the credibility not to allow her to launch another in a series of spins against free and independent media,” she said and added that this example shows that the authorities do not respect journalists and have not changed their behavior.
“My uncompromising professional past and everything I am going to do in future gives me the strength not to be afraid when faced with attempts to discredit me. I am proud that the public don’t know my private political orientation nor even if I vote,” she said.