BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia’s information minister on Friday denied media reports that the Balkan nation’s government is muzzling journalists through intimidation, threats and financial pressure.
Minister of Culture and Information Vladan Vukosavljevic told The Associated Press that his agency “strongly objects” to any form of pressure on journalists and believes in media freedom.
Vukosavljevic spoke a day after dozens of Serbian news outlets and other organizations darkened their web pages and published black ribbons to warn citizens about the government pressure.
The initiative dubbed “STOP media darkness” was prompted by the recent closure of an independent newspaper in southern Serbia and public attacks on journalists by a ruling party.
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“The freedom of press must be guaranteed, and in Serbia it is guaranteed by laws, regulations and other acts dealing with that issue,” Vukosavljevic said. “I can state with full certainty that there is no censorship in Serbia, or as they put it, media darkness.”
Journalists who participated in Thursday’s public awareness campaign say the situation has grown worse despite the Serbian government’s proclaimed commitment to implementing democratic reforms.
They say the government has applied economic pressure on critical media such as preventing companies from advertising, conducting financial and tax inspections and favoring pro-government media outlets.
Vukosavljevic blamed the financial problems on the “brutal” media market. He said occasional financial inspections are routine for all businesses. Any allegations of threats or intimidation should be handled by the police and the judiciary, the minister said.
“The ministry of culture and information has repeatedly stressed that it strongly objects to any form of pressure on free media expression, especially the freedom of work for the representatives of the press,” he said.