Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (IJAS), Union of culture, art and media “Nezavisnost” and Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina (NDNV) invite all journalists and media to turn off the sound, darken the screens and silently join the international symbolic action of FIVE MINUTES OF THUNDEROUS SILENCE on World Press Freedom Day on May 3, at FIVE TO TWELVE, in order to once again warn the authorities and the wider public about the consequences of continuous endangerment media freedoms are already visible in all spheres, from the political system to the rights and freedoms of all citizens.
The systematic destruction of journalism in Serbia has only one goal – the establishment of a single mind. And the final consequences will be borne by all citizens, and they are already bearing them to a large extent, if they dare to express a position that does not fit into the official slogans, or to ask questions to the institutions about their rights – from the right to vote, the right to work, the right to health the environment…
And that is only one level of the consequences of society’s silence on the occupation of the media, judging by the dominant narrative of key regime media propaganda platforms, which mock the ethics of the journalistic profession, promoting the language of vulgarity and bullying, misogynistic attitudes and hate speech. In order to establish an atmosphere of fear, mistrust and xenophobia, they have the wholehearted support of the highest state officials, who are regular interlocutors of such media factories of hatred, as well as their financiers – either through budget co-financing, or through tax forgiveness or through the provision of commercial advertisements.
In such an environment, citizens will not only not have the protection of institutions, nor the media that will report on the violation of their rights, but they will be hostages of a system based on the rights of the stronger.
That’s why the data that we have been presenting for years about cases of threats and attacks on journalists are not an isolated problem of the media and journalistic community, but rather represent a warning about the threatened security of all citizens.
On this occasion, we point out to the public that in 2022, IJAS recorded 137 incidents against journalists: 34 verbal threats, nine physical attacks, six attacks and threats to property and 84 different attempts to put pressure on the media. And in the first three months of this year, there were 33 incidents: eight verbal attacks, three physical attacks and 22 acts of pressure on the 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.
Professional journalists are also the target of numerous SLAPP lawsuits (strategic anti-public participation lawsuits) originating from public officials, politicians, businessmen and companies.
These data are actually an indicator of the relationship of political power holders towards the public, towards all citizens and their freedoms and rights.
Independent journalists have been targeted for years, but increasingly also activists of civil society organizations, and we have also seen individual prosecutors, that is, female prosecutors, artists, university professors and assistants…
The series will certainly continue, as confirmed by the examples of all societies that surrendered to autocratic rule, if the citizens agree to give up their own freedom because they believed the propagandists of hatred and violence.
That is why free media is important. They are a measure of society’s freedom.
Because the media scene is a mirror of a society, its standards, potential, shortcomings and ambitions. And in the media darkness, dark ideologies rule.
And that is why preserving media freedom is the responsibility of all citizens.
The World Press Freedom Day on May 3 was established by the decision of the United Nations General Assembly as a reminder to the governments of all countries that they are obliged to respect and support the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Citizens of Serbia, therefore think carefully about who you trust and what the price of your choice is. While you can still choose.
GS KUM „Nezavisnost“
Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (IJAS)
Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina (NDNV)
Belgrade, May 3, 2023