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Holandski tisak o e-novinama

Antifašisti i antinacionalisti

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Čeznem za konstruktivnom kritikom: Boris Tadić rukom objašnjava slobodu štampe
Čeznem za konstruktivnom kritikom: Boris Tadić rukom objašnjava slobodu štampe
Photo: FoNet/Aleksandar Levajković

U holandskom listu NRC Handelsblad ovih je dana objavljen veliki tekst o slobodi medija na Balkanu, s naglaskom na situaciju u e-novinama. Našim čitaocima predstavljamo tekst u engleskoj verziji, uvereni da će ih interesovati kako našu situaciju vide inostrani novinari...

The journalists of online newspaper e-novine fear they may soon go out of business. Since their main sponsor withdrew its support last fall, they have been without structural funding and salaries. They are now calling on their readership of 200,000 visitors a month to donate money to support the critical news site.

E-novine's tiny editorial staff is housed in a modern apartment in Belgrade. The ten workstations and the seating area for guests don't represent the "rock 'n' roll journalism" chief editor Petar Lukovic aspires to. Lukovic has put his computer in the smoking room, from which he shouts jokes and suggestions for headlines to his young staff. One of his concerns since launching the site two years ago has been finding advertisers. It has proven an impossible mission, he said. He does not believe the economic crisis is to blame, but rather the critical tone of his reporters. All advertising revenue goes to media who are positive about the government, according to Lukovic.

Marketing and advertising in Serbia is controlled by three large firms, all in the hands of members of the Democratic Party (DS), the dominant member of the coalition government. The mayor of Belgrade, Dragan Djilas, owns one company, the other two are run by the PR advisers of president Boris Tadic: Nebojsa Krstic en Srdjan Saper.

Who controls who?
Journalists of several publications in Serbia concur that media hold back on negative reporting on DS and Tadic for fear of losing advertisers. "This is the easiest way of censorship without calling it that," said Lukovic.

Serbia is not the only former Yugoslavian republic struggling with hidden censorship. In Bosnia Herzegovina, the biggest Bosniak media tycoon, Fahrudin Radoncic, recently set up his own political party. He takes pride in being compared to Italian prime minister and media magnate Silvio Berlusconi. The president of the Serb minority in Bosnia, Milorad Dodik, owes part of his power to the support of the two major papers.

Economic and political interests in the Balkan are strongly intertwined and the media are used as powerful weapons, or at least useful instruments, of influence. "Everything seems normal and the EU considers these issues domestic affairs," Lukovic said.

According to the veteran journalist, fundraising was easier in the turbulent 1990s than it is now. The armed conflicts and the dictator-like rule and propaganda of president Slobodan Milosevic in those days made everyone respect journalists for the hard and dangerous work they did. Post-communism, dictatorship and war, it is harder to see who controls who and the role journalists play in the power game.

Threats of death and violence
Death treats on journalists are common in the region. Serbian Brankica Stankovic has been under police protection since death threats followed a TV programme she made for B92 channel about ties between football hooligans and the mafia a couple of months ago. In Kosovo, Jeta Xharra, who hosts an in-dept interview show has also received threats to her life: they were published in local newspapers.

Croatian journalist and publisher Ivo Pukanic was killed in a bombing in October 2008. Journalists in took to the streets in December to protest the government's persistent attempts to censor them, in a country on the brink of EU-membership.

Organisations that support independent press, Netherlands based PressNow and the Bosnian journalists association BH Novinari, say the circumstances under which reporters in Bosnia work have deteriorated. The organisations reported 40 incidents IN 2009 where journalists were threatened with violence or death, often by politicians.

Strateško prijateljstvo: Maja Gojković i Srđan Šaper, drugari
Photo: BETA/Vladimir Gogić

"I am concerned such conduct by officials goes undisputed," said Zoran Djukanovic, who researched the threats for PressNow. The journalists he interviewed described a climate of increased political radicalisation and reborn religious nationalism where "people can just have their way with journalists", said Djukanovic.

Cloud the real problems
These attacks draw attention from abroad, but they cloud the real problems with media in the Balkans, said Svetlana Georgieva, a journalist for the Bulgarian Dnevnik. She wrote a critical analysis after the murder of radio host and crime writer Borislav Tsankov in January. She was surprised press agencies referred to him as an investigative reporter, "when he was really a criminal". She attributes the confusion to "sensationalist newspapers that will print any lie". Unlike in the West, citizens in the Balkan countries are poorly informed more easy to manipulate for politicians, said Georgieva. "There is no such thing as investigative journalism."

Objective journalism is not what e-novine claims to practise either, it deliberately wants to be an opposition voice in Serbia. It devotes substantial attention to war crimes and the country’s relations with its neighbours. Lukovic said his staff has a sensitive radar for fascism and nationalism because of the wars. "We refuse to publish fascist statements, or we add our own commentary to them." When asked about investigative journalism, he burst out laughing and gives the cynical reply: "I hate so-called 'objective journalism'. What matters is that we are not afraid to write what everybody secretly knows."

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