SEEMO condemns pressure on Hungarian media in Serbia

VIENNA -- Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO) has condemned continued political pressure on Hungarian minority media in Vojvodina.

Subotica-based Panon Television Director Rudolf Mihok was dismissed on September 17, 2011.

According to the spokesperson of the Hungarian National Council spokesperson, the regional television did not adequately cover a Hungarian national holiday celebration, held on August 20, 2011.

On June 20, 2011, Csaba Pressburger, editor-in-chief of Serbia´s only daily in Hungarian, Magyar Szo, was also dismissed. As SEEMO reported on June 22, 2011, Pressburger was criticized for supposedly inadequately covering press conferences by certain political parties.

In both cases, it was the Hungarian National Council an umbrella organization of ethnic Hungarians in Serbia, that fired the media executives. This Council is supposed to represent the interests of the national minority. However, its members were elected as party representatives and they appear to represent the interests of their political parties rather than those of the Hungarian minority. One ethnic Hungarian political party has a dominating role.

Legally, the Council acts as a founder of non-private minority media published and broadcast in Hungarian. However, it is not clear what its obligations are, as indicated in the recent statement signed by the Independent Journalists’ Association

of Serbia (NUNS) and the Independent Journalists' Association of Vojvodina (NDNV). In other words, an institution that was conceived to protect the interests of the biggest national minority in Vojvodina, appears to represent the interest of one political party. That way, ethnic interests are equated with party interests.

“I strongly condemn political pressure on minority media in Hungarian,” said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujović. “It is time to rethink the role of the national councils as media founders. Party interests are not the same as public interests,“ he added.