Serbia has been ranked 93rd by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on its 2021 World Press Freedom Index, the media freedom watchdog organization said.
“Europe registered a sizeable deterioration in its “Abuses” indicator, with acts of violence more than doubling in the European Union and Balkans, compared with a 17% deterioration worldwide”, the report said, adding that Serbia’s position remains unchanged compared to last year’s index.
“With the political promises of previous years left unrealized, Serbia is a country with weak institutions that is prey to fake news spread by government-backed sensational media, a country where journalists are subjected to almost daily attacks that increasingly come from the ruling elite and pro-government media”, the report said.
It added that the Serbian government used the coronavirus crisis to pass draconian legislation – later repealed – under which journalist Ana Lalić was arrested at her home in April 2020 for a report about a local hospital.
“Independent media outlets, many of them local ones, continue to cover dangerous subjects such as political corruption and organized crime despite being weakened by the coronavirus crisis and omitted from the distribution state funding, which went to pro-government media”, it said.
Bosnia and Herzegovina ranked 58th among the 180 world countries ranked in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, which says that the “polarized political climate” and presence of “constant verbal attacks and nationalist rhetoric” has created a hostile environment for media freedom.
While Bosnia’s ranking remains unchanged compared to last year’s Index, RSF warns of “a dramatic deterioration in people’s access to information and an increase in obstacles to news coverage”, explaining that the coronavirus pandemic “has been used as grounds to block journalists’ access to information sources and reporting in the field.”
According to the report, Bosnia’s “polarized political climate, marked by constant verbal attacks and nationalist rhetoric, has created a hostile environment for press freedom and “editorial policies reflecting ethnic divisions and hate speech are ever more evident.”
“Journalists are attacked for their ethnic origins as well as what they write, especially about migration. Defamation suits by politicians often serve to intimidate journalists and deter them from pursuing their work. Manipulation of the media for political purposes continues, especially in the public broadcast media but also in privately-owned media (and online media in particular)”, the report says.
It noted that, although implementation of the defamation laws has seen some progress, “they continue to have a self-censorship effect on journalists.”
However, the report also says that investigative journalism “plays a major role” in society in Bosnia and noted that several online media outlets have “exposed significant cases of corruption.”
“Yet no legislation has improved the overall environment for journalists, no law on online media has been promulgated, and no progress has been made on media ownership transparency”, it said.
Bosnia’s ranks higher than most other countries in the region in the Index, only surpassed by Croatia, which ranked 56 and Slovenia, ranking 36. Other countries from the SEE region has a ranking, as follows: Albania – 83; Kosovo – 78; North Macedonia – 90; Montenegro – 104; Hungary – 92; Romania – 48; Bulgaria – 102; Greece – 70; Turkey – 153.