The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), observes increasing pressure on local media in Serbia. On March 9, 2012, the president of the city council in Zagubica, (170 kilometers southeast of Belgrade) reportedly decided that the local TV broadcaster As should not film a municipal gathering and allegedly expelled the crew by hitting the camera, as a video appears to show. Asked why the reporters were not allowed to film, he apparently replied: “Because I say so,” according to the same video.
In a separate incident, a day earlier, a city councilor in Sremska Mitrovica (76 kilometers northwest of Belgrade), allegedly verbally insulted a local journalist who asked if it was true that she was resigning. “Why do you care?” the councilor, who is in charge of education, culture and sport, reportedly replied. She then proceeded to criticize the local TV station, Sremska Televizija.
On March 7, 2012, SEEMO reported another incident: the authorities of the municipality of Becej (110 kilometres north of Belgrade), allegedly prevented Nened Jovovic, a journalist with the regional public broadcaster Radio Televizija Vojvodine (RTV), from attending a municipal meeting. City councillors were discussing local security issues.
These alleged incidents represent only a fraction of the pressures on reporters. Many reporters do not report what they must go through on a daily basis.
The recurring incidents and pressure on local media coincide with an electoral campaign for parliamentary elections, scheduled for May 6, 2012.
“I observe mounting pressure on local media in Serbia,” said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. “I am led to believe that local politicians are not aware of the role of media, or of the right to information. I call on Serbia’s authorities to protect reporters from the arbitrary behavior of local politicians, and organise training for politicians and civil servants on public information and the role of media in society.”