European Federation of Journalists writes to Serbian president

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) has sent a letter to the Serbian president, urging the solving of murders of reporters, better protection and working conditions for journalist, and implementation of a media strategy.

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The letter reads as follows:

Mr. Boris Tadic

President of the Republic of Serbia

Brussels, 8 April 2011

Re: Media freedom in Serbia

Dear President,

We write to you on behalf of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the regional group of the International Federation of Journalists representing more than 260,000 journalists in more than 30 European countries, including all European Union Member and applicant States.

We have already had the opportunity to meet with you in September 2008 and talk about the media situation in Serbia.

We believe that press freedom in Serbia is still seriously compromised: the local press is suffering from the consequences of the economic crisis and the lack of vision on the future of the industry, while the financial position of journalists is deplorable. In some parts of the country, there is no local electronic media.

Press freedom and safety of journalists are also among our concerns: in Belgrade and Loznica, investigative journalists live under 24-hour police protection, and these are not the only places where their safety is threatened. Independent newspapers are struggling against economic pressure and political interference, sometimes even against undue judiciary pressure through Court decisions.

The names of our late colleagues Slavko Curuvija and Milan Pantic honorably adorn the signs of two streets, but we are still wondering why there has been no satisfactory and independent investigation into their murder.

The EFJ and its affiliates in Serbia; the Association of Journalists, the Independent Associa tion of Journalists and the Union of Journalists consider this situation utterly unacceptable. It is one of the reasons why we have decided to hold our Annual Meeting this year in Belgrade on 15-17 June.

We are aware that Serbia faces many challenges and that you are awaiting the decision from Brussels on the country’s candidacy for EU membership. In this extent, we wish to remind you that the Copenhagen criteria for EU membership established in 1993 at the Copenhagen European Council stated that freedom of the press and freedom of expression should be fully respected and enforced through relevant legislation in applicant states.

In addition, we believe that Serbia, like many other countries across Europe, needs a clear media strategy to be implemented in cooperation with the professional organizations. Press freedom, safety of journalists, independence of the media in particular at public broadcaster RTS, respect of author’ rights in the digital environment, fair and decent working conditions through collective agreements and innovative business models for journalism constitute the core elements journalism to be considered as a public good.

We therefore urge you to conduct a frank, transparent and constructive dialogue with media professionals in order to implement the necessary reforms so that journalists in Serbia stop living in poverty, corruption and fear.

Following our meeting two years ago, we are glad to be able to have this dialogue and we hope there will be a more constructive result of our communication.

We thank you for the attention with which you will consider this letter and we are ready to meet again with you on the occasion of our Annual Meeting on 15-17 June to discuss these concerns.

Yours sincerely,

Arne Konig

EFJ President

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