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“Freedom of media in region incomplete” (B92, Beta)

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The freedom of the press the West Balkans is incomplete, the European Parliament’s research service said in a report, Beta reported.

The states of the region have faced politicization, problems in the implementation of law and intimidation of journalists, together with growing self-censorship, the report said.

This year’s report, Western Balkans: Media Freedom Trends 2017, says that self-censorship was triggered by both subtle and overt factors, hindering quality journalism, and favoring “tabloidization” instead.

Intimidation of journalists has been described as “pervasive,” and the report warns of impunity for crimes against journalists, illustrating the point with three long-unresolved cases in Serbia.

The EP “deplores the political pressure, the merging of the media, political and government activities, and the widespread self-censorship. The EP urges the aspirant countries to create a safe media environment, conductive to objective and accurate reporting, and calls for […] an efficient judicial system,” the EP says in the report, published ahead of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

The EP recalls that freedom of the media is a core EU value and a cornerstone of democracy, as well as an EU enlargement priority, which is why the EU closely monitors its aspirant members’ media landscape, mainly through the European Commission’s annual country reports, but also through acquis chapters 10 (information society and media) and 23 (judiciary and fundamental rights), once the accession negotiations have started.

The report describes the media legislation in the West Balkans as quite modern and in line with EU standards, but notes that lack of implementation of the existing rules leads to a media environment not conductive to the full exercise of media freedom.

The EP warns that the lack of transparency of media ownership and funding sources remain a concern.

The EP specified that, in Serbia, unclear ownership structures and state financing, especially at the local level, have been an issue since the privatization of state media, while in Bosnia and Herzegovina most of the media don’t disclose information on their finances and actual ownership. In Macedonia, some TV stations are owned by individuals allegedly connected to the government.

See the European Parliamentary Research Service briefing on Media freedom trends 2017 in West Balkans at :  http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/ATAG/2017/603888/EPRS_ATA(2017)603888_EN.pdf

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