Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has rejected criticisms that Serbia is stifling press freedom and imposed a state monopoly over the media. Writing in the EUobserver, Vucic responded to comments by Italian journalist Mateo Trevisan that Serbia’s ruling Progressive Party systematically violates basic media freedom.
“As president of Serbia, I have rarely reacted to media attacks on the country I lead, since … I was very aware that … other opinion(s) and criticism … serve to quickly change things in our country, to progress ourselves, and to ensure normal functioning and full respect for democratic norms and laws,” said Vucic.
On the criticism that journalists in Serbia are targeted by physical attacks, Vucic answered the question with a question of his own asking which EU countries have fewer attacks on journalists than Serbia, adding that he expects a concrete answer with concrete data.
He also denied allegations that the authorities were smothering the local media, stating that the government was not responsible for shutting down the Vranjska Novine newspaper, “even though their circulation was small” and “they were not subjected to any pressure”.
Vucic remarked that the killings of journalists Dada Vujasinovic, Slavko Curuvija and Milan Pantic, which remain unsolved, occurred 30, 20 and 15 years ago, and that the then “so-called democratic ruling power you speak so nicely about, hadn’t moved either of these cases from a standstill.”
The Serbian president added that he has been hearing for years about the killing of journalists in Serbia, while in the meantime journalists have been killed in Malta, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and wounded in Montenegro, while in Serbia, “not counting the injuries of Gordana Uzelac, inflicted by the opposition members” there were no cases with such serious injuries.
“I am aware that I am an easy target for anyone who wants to attack Serbia because of the media situation, primarily because of my short participation in Milosevic’s government 20 years ago, but I urge everyone to use facts, not a mantra created as the only way to attack Serbia, which is progressing economically, whose reputation is growing worldwide and is trying to solve important regional problems,” Vucic wrote.
Nevertheless, he added that he agrees with the critics in one thing – that the situation in Serbia is not ideal, and there is much to improve.
“That is precisely why it is important for the state to continue to cooperate with all media representatives and trade unions,” Vucic said, adding that he and Prime Minister Ana Brnabic are determined to show the political will to improve the media situation in the country.