IJAS: The announced agreement between Telekom and Telenor endangers media pluralism in Serbia

IJAS expresses serious concern over the announced agreement between the state company Telekom Srbija and the mobile operator Telenor, owned by the PPF investment fund, which could further disrupt media pluralism and increase the state’s existing monopoly in the media sphere.

Documents available to the public show that the main goal of the agreement between Telekom Srbija and Telenor is to push SBB off the market, that is, to prevent professional media from the United Group, primarily Television N1 and Nova S, from reaching the widest audience.

The state-owned company Telekom Srbija, despite legal restrictions, is already deeply involved in the production of news programs and is an actor in several projects and investments in the media industry that are marked by the public as suspicious and illegal: from the purchase of  the cable operator Kopernikus for 195 million euros from a person close to the Serbian Progressive Party, which then bought televisions with national frequency – Prva and O2 – for almost the same price, through financial support to the controversial businessman Igor Zezelj for the purchase of the tabloid Kurir, to participating in founding of several new cable television channels.

IJAS publicly protested against these acquisitions of Telekom Srbija, because outside the public, contrary to the law and under dubious economic justifications, the state interfered in the media sphere with the intention of expanding its influence and imposing a complete monopoly in the media.

The announced agreement between Telekom Srbija and Telenor raises our fears due to the fact that it is in complete contradiction with the goals from the Strategy for the Development of the Public Information System until 2025, which relate to the establishment of a functional, sustainable and fair media market protected from political influence, which aims to improve the quality and diversity of media content that meets the information needs of different social groups.

Also of concern is the fact that Telenor’s owner, Czech businessman Petar Kelner, was previously accused by journalists’ associations and the public in the Czech Republic and Slovenia of stifling media freedom in these countries in cooperation with the ruling parties.

IJAS will inform the international journalists’ and media organizations about the announced agreement, because it endangers the already disturbed media pluralism in Serbia.

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