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Insajder in the making: MEDIA: WAR FOR TRUTH

Tasovac: I am neither a patriarch, nor Mussolini

Tasovac stresses that he does not insist that everything started off perfectly in the media domain since he assumed office, but says he has had "enough of those whining that it has never been worse."

There was hardly any journalist who was not in disbelief to hear that Culture and Information Minister Ivan Tasovac accepted, with no problem or hesitation, the invitation for an interview with Insajder.net about freedom of the media. In the public, Minister Tasovac is perceived as a person who addresses this topic unwillingly.  

Financial pressure mechanism

According to the Anti-Corruption Council's 2011 report, the government controlled the media outlets also through top party officials-owned advertising agencies, which would buy media inventory from media outlets and then resell it to individuals at far higher rates (link to Council's report). Media outlets engage in such arrangements because of their poor financial situation, and even settle for lower amounts if paid upfront. However, according to the Council's information, advertising agencies used upfront payments to blackmail and influence the media. Based on the Council's report for 2015 (link), the incumbent cabinet continued to employ main mechanisms of exerting pressure on the media. 

At the very beginning of the interview, he stresses that he does not insist that everything started off perfectly in the media domain since he assumed office, but says he has had "enough of those whining that it has never been worse." Tasovac remarks he not sinless as otherwise he would run for a patriarch, nor is he Benito Mussolini to be able to say that the downfall began when he took the helm of the ministry. He denies the presence of alleged censorship, noting that a broad ongoing debate on the situation in the media and the freedom of expression is a characteristic of democracy.

"If we take a look at the amount of criticism this ministry has sustained during its term in office, one could get the impression that actually the cultural and media scenes, that those were two absolutely perfectly arranged systems which functioned to general satisfaction of both, the profession and citizens, all until I assumed office of culture and information minister, that is, to be precise, until I left the Belgrade Philharmonic and Sasa Mirkovic left TV B92 and was named information secretary," Tasovac says. 

Asked why he fails to always and consistently react in cases of Law on public information violations by the authorities and the media, Tasovac argues he speaks out only when believes that it could help soothe fervent reactions. 

With minister Tasovac we also talked about financial mechanisms employed by the authorities to exert pressure on the media, and also about the demands he has received from initiative "Journalists don't crouch." He observes that everything became a   performance, when journalists assembled under the initiative first issued a release saying that they will submit their demands and seek a meeting with him, but later they showed up with cameras to hand in their demands.  

"I do not see a single reason to meet with them, considering that I talk with their legitimate representatives. At this moment, we have way too many serious affairs to have the time to be involved in a performance," Ivan Tasovac noted.

The demands of initiative Journalists Don't Crouch will be addressed in detail over the coming days by Insajder.net, in section Insider in the Making "A War for Truth?" Among other things, journalists demand investigations into mechanisms of financial pressure on the media, reports about censorship, surveillance of journalists and disputed privatization of media outlets. 

 

Djilas, Saper, Veselinovic decline interview requests by Insajder.net

Dragan Djilas, owner of advertising agency Direct Media and former Democratic Party (DS) official, has declined to speak for Insajder.net about financial pressure on the media, through advertising agencies, saying that he has withdrawn from politics. Srdjan Saper, former member of the DS Presidency and owner of agency McCann Erickson, has also turned down our portal's interview request. Goran Veselinovic, according to media reports, an official of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) and owner of agency Right, had rejected a video interview for Insajder.net. In a telephone conversation with our journalists, Veselinovic dismissed his ownership of the firms mentioned in the public, insisting he owns only one, agency Right, which by no means deals with selling advertising inventory, but is exclusively engaged in public relations.   

MEDIA: WAR FOR TRUTH