Publication Date: June 2024
Research and Editorial Team: Tijana Blagojev; Duško Medić; Nedim Sejdinović; Snežana Milošević

The authors of Istraživanje o pritiscima na lokalne medije u periodu od jula 2022. do maja 2024 - Research on the Pressures on Local Media in Serbia July 2022 - May 2024, employed a mixed-methods approach, combining quantitative data from surveys and qualitative data from focus groups. A total of 27 respondents, representing 26 media outlets from 19 cities and municipalities in Serbia, participated in the survey. The study highlighted a variety of pressures that have proven to be continuous. Participants expressed overwhelmingly negative views on media freedom, with 74% indicating significant obstacles to media freedom and 15% believing that conditions for media freedom do not exist at all. This sentiment reflects a long-standing dissatisfaction that has persisted over the years, as indicated by comparative data from previous surveys in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2021. 

Forms of media freedom violations are as follows:

  • Unequal Treatment: 63% reported discrimination in accessing information and public funds.
  • Verbal Threats and Social Media Harassment: 26% experienced these pressures.
  • Interference in Editorial Policy: 19% faced bans on publishing certain information or being forced to include biased content

The primary sources of pressure were state institutions and political actors. Local authorities often manipulated project co-financing to favor media aligned with their interests. Prominent methods they use are threats, pre-election pressures and legal intimidations. A notable example of threats being used against the media are the ones against JUGpress: In October 2023, a local lawyer linked to the ruling party threatened to "burn buildings and people" in response to an interview published by JUGpress. Secondly, during election periods, media are operating under high pressure, with many of them being forced to engage in self-censorship. Lastly, SLAPPs are a significant method used to stifle critical reporting by burdening media with costly and time-consuming legal battles. These lawsuits are often filed by powerful individuals or organizations to intimidate and silence journalists. Such is the case of Milenijum tim vs. JUGpress: Milenijum tim, a powerful company, filed multiple lawsuits against JUGpress and its editor, Ljiljana Stojanović, for their critical reporting. In March 2023, the court ruled in favor of "JUGpress," acquitting them of all charges. This case highlighted the financial and psychological toll such lawsuits can take on small, local media outlets.

Tags: Serbia Local media Media freedom Safety of journalists SLAPP

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