Media polarisation reported to be on the rise in Serbia
Between April and June, 2016, public consultations on the Draft Civil Code, which propose a more restrictive framework for associations, foundations and endowments, were ongoing. At present, CSOs face no impediments to opening bank accounts or receiving foreign funding and state interference with CSOs is perceived to be relatively uncommon. However, tacit Government infiltration and manipulation of civil society has been documented by some groups. Regional geopolitics are increasingly reflected within Serbian civil society: some CSOs are demeaned in official statements characterising them as agents of western governments and funders; while Russian-leaning CSOs are gaining prominence and have been criticised by others in civil society for promoting undemocratic values.
Protests have taken place in Serbia recently on a variety of issues: including the demolition of buildings, government misallocation of funds, memorials of the Bosnian war media freedom and workers’ rights. There were no reports that any of these protests turned violent. Amendments to the Law on Public Gatherings enacted in January 2016 place restrictions on the freedom of peaceful assembly by allowing for selective notification processes, a problem illustrated by the denial of permits for some recent protests by the political opposition. Media coverage of recent protests illustrates the polarisation of the media in Serbia: coverage in more independent media houses tends to focus on highlighting the causes of the protests, while pro-government media tends to belittle the protesters’ cause. Officials from the EU and the OSCE Mission to Serbia stated that they are closely following the protests around media freedom.
In March 2016, a journalist from the pro-government Pink TV was verbally attacked during a rally of the Liberal Democratic Party. The Independent Association of Journalists Serbia urged relevant authorities to take appropriate measures. More recently in June 2016, employees in the Cabinet of the Director of the High School for Professional Studies attacked a reporter of Blic website and a photographer of Beta news agency with impunity. In this tense environment, media outlets recently announced that the General Secretariat of the Government of Serbia frequently ignores their requests for information. The Association of Journalists Serbia and the Independent Association of Journalists Vojvodina. The Independent Association of Journalists Serbia (IAJS) warned that statement by the editor-in-chief of Vecernje Novosti that IAJS’ members are Croatofils and Ustasha is a return to the dark days of nineties’ war hate speech.