Media organizations throughout the Balkans have used World Press Freedom day to highlight major press freedom concerns.
The organizations have called on authorities to address rising threats to journalists, treat threats with a higher priority, and ensure a safer environment for the work of those in the media.
The head of the Association of Journalists (AJK) in Kosovo, Xhemajl Rexha, held a press conference where he raised concerns over the treatment of cases of violence against journalists.
In the past five years, the AJK has recorded 120 cases of threats against journalists, with a full 33 cases recorded in the last few years alone.
“Attacks on journalists not only represent criminal charges as such, they also affect one of the basic freedoms- freedom of expression,” Rexha said.
Media organizations in Serbia called on journalists and media to turn off audio and screens, and join in the international “Five Minutes of Thunderous Silence” in order to highlight press freedom concerns and warn authorities and the public against inaction.
According to the Serbian Journalists Association, some 137 incidents of attacks on journalists were recorded in 2022. In the first quarter of this year, 33 incidents took place, including eight verbal attacks, three physical attacks, and 22 incidents of pressure on media and journalists.
“A large number of these attacks were inspired by the performances of the highest state officials who, because of critical reporting, target journalists and certain media as traitors and foreign mercenaries,” read a joint press release.
During a presentation on press freedom in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country’s Association of Journalists warned of poor levels of journalistic safety. According to the survey presented, more than one quarter of respondents in Bosnia approve of attacks on journalists, and half of respondents agreed with the statement that media are dependent on political parties.
“An environment has been created in which journalists literally fear for their lives. This is a red alert and alert sign,” explained Sinisa Vukelic from the BH Journalists Association.
The Bosniak member of Bosnia’s state presidency, Denis Becirovic, said it was vital for the media to have a safe environment to operate in, and for journalists to work without pressure or threats.
“In the last few years, several small online media have been very energetically trying to produce truly independent journalism,” said Augustine Zenakos, a journalist with the independent outlet Manifold.
“We like to refer to it as a new ‘ecosystem’ of public interest journalism, but the truth is we are fighting an uphill battle and we still have a long way to go in order to do our work in a way that is viable, stable and secure,” he continued.
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