EU monitors media freedom in Serbia

EU monitors media freedom in Serbia

 

By Milos Mitrovic – Belgrade

Serbia has to focus to key issues – particularly the rule of law, including the freedom of expression, and the reforms of the state administration, it has been stated in the European Commission’s annual report on the country’s progress towards the European Union. The document, which has been officially released today, confirms that Serbia has improved its performance in general; however the progress in some domains, including foreign policy and media freedom, was assessed negatively.

According to the report, Serbia has adopted only 62 percent of the EU foreign policy declarations; in 2013 Serbia accepted 89 percent of the EU decisions. The document specifies that Belgrade has not harmonized its foreign policy with the EU’s considering sanctions against Russia. It adds that the government has offered EU it’s assurances that it will not take the advantage of EU embargo on agricultural products.

Michael Davenport, head of EU Delegation in Serbia, delivered today the EC report to Prime minister Aleksandar Vucic. At the press conference with Vucic (photo), Davenport said it was an important day for both Serbia and EU. Vucic said he was “mainly” satisfied with the report and that if he was to assess the progress of Serbia he would be harsher than the EC regarding some domains.

Vucic explained he was referring to judiciary and ecology.

“Of course, it’s crucial Serbia to remain dedicated to regional cooperation and to the normalisation of the relations with Kosovo, including the full implementation of the agreement with Pristina”, Davenport said. “Everybody is aware that Serbia will have to improve its efforts considering ecology and energy”, he added.

Considering EC criticism on media freedom in Serbia, Vucic said he “expects” that it should not be any pressure on the media “including those from foreign embassies”. He said that he and his team are subjected to the “dirtiest of attacks”.

When asked about taking off the air political TV show “Impression of the week”, Vucic answered with a question: “I am asking the European Commission, who, when, how and why puts pressure on the media”. Olja Beckovic, author of the show, which was being broadcasted at televisions Studio B and B92 for 23 years, accused Vucic of influencing the owners’ decision on “banning” the show. The journalists’ associations in Serbia have organized protests demanding “Impression of the week” to be broadcast again at B92, as well as two other political TV shows that have been taken from the air at Studio B.

“I will do everything I can. Immediately. But tell me what should I do?”, Vucic answered when asked how he will he react on EC claims on media freedom.

At the media conference the premier accused “Blic” daily journalist – who posed him the question – for “extremely negative reporting” about him.

Ambassador Davenport said that the providing media freedom in Serbia would be the priority and that EU will thoroughly monitor the situation.

In the progress report, EC stated that the implementation of media freedom and freedom of expression in Serbia have deteriorated in the first half of the year. The report specifies an increasing auto-censorship trend in combination with “undesirable influence on editorial policy in the media”. Non-transparent public financing and the unclear legal framework in the media sector have also been underlined in the report.

Regarding the rule of law in Serbia, EC report stressed that the “independence, impartiality, responsibility and efficacy of  the courts are questionable”. EC “still waits” for the final judgments in high profile corruption cases.

“I am especially proud because the fight against crime and corruption is valued (by the report)”, Prime minister emphasized.