US envoy to Serbia: Independent journalists are patriots, not traitors

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Source: Tanjug/Zoran Žestić

Antony Godfrey, the US ambassador to Serbia, said on Tuesday he was upset with targeting journalists as foreign agents and media being under the State Department control.

“That’s typical Kremlin strategy, and it will lead Serbia further from the European Union. The independent journalists are patriots, not traitors. They believe the people should be informed,” Godfrey said ahead of the ‘Dialogue Culture – Civil Society and Media,’ organised by Serbia’s Ministry of Human Rights and Social Dialogue.

He added the US had supported independent journalism and the freedom of association.

Serbia’s regime and media under its control have launched a campaign against professional media and NGOs after social network Twitter labelled some pro-government media in the country as affiliated with the authorities.

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Commenting on the Twitter decision and reactions to it, Godfrey recalled that the social network was a private company that had suspended the US President Donald Trump account at one point because he failed to respect the company’s policy.

The ambassador added that his account was marked as affiliated with the government.

Godfrey refused to comment on President Aleksandar Vucic’s statements about Twitter. He said he would not talk to Vucic through media and that he was glad to have an open dialogue with him.

The ambassador also called on Serbia’s authorities to help to create a climate in which disagreements and discussions would not be seen as offensive words.

Minister Gordana Comic said today’s discussion would include the situation with media and civil society in Serbia to see who could do what.

The head of the OSCE Mission in Serbia Jan Bratu stressed the importance of free dialogue and added the OSCE worked with the authorities, media and journalists to enable the culture of exchange and free expression of different opinions.

He said the goal was to empower media and civil society organisations and that quality journalism meant “truthfulness, honesty, integrity and compassion.”

Milan Antonijevic, a legal expert, also mentioned the targeting of professional journalists and civic organisations and added that the constant attacks on them in the Parliament should be discussed too.