Media watchdog warns of pressure on independent Serbian TV

U.S. & World

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — A media watchdog group on Wednesday warned that an independent television in Serbia is facing intimidation and a smear campaign from pro-government media and officials.

Reporters Without Borders urged the Serbian government to “stop supporting and instead publicly condemn” what it described as “repeated, systematic defamatory attacks” against journalists at regional broadcaster N1.

“The sole aim of this campaign, which is based on statements and speculation that are discriminatory and offensive, is to intimidate and scare these journalists,” Pauline Adès-Mevel, head of RSF’s European Union and Balkans desk, said.

Pro-government media and officials have suggested that President Aleksandar Vucic’s health deteriorated last Friday because of questions posed by an N1 journalist.

Vucic, however, dismissed the speculation on Monday after he was released from hospital. Vucic had been admitted to the Belgrade military clinic with cardiovascular problems that he described as a “chronic” condition.

The populist Serbian leader has repeatedly faced accusations of curbing media freedoms since his governing coalition came to power seven years ago. The government has denied this.

Serbia is seeking European Union entry.

Reporters Without Borders cited smear campaigns against N1 staff as well as recent incidents when threatening leaflets were thrown in the yard of the TV station’s Belgrade offices. N1 also operates in neighboring Croatia and Bosnia.

“The situation is increasingly worrying in Serbia,” RSF group said.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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