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Insajder in the making: MEDIA: WAR FOR TRUTH

Journalist solidarity in action

Vuk Bjelovuk:
Photo: Vuk Bjelovuk /

Protests under the slogan “Journalists don’t kneel” and constant calls by reporters to solidarity with their colleagues are completely at odds with the silence of a large number of editorial boards in the face of numerous examples of media lynchings that journalists go through too.

In light of this conspicuous silence, we called the editors of influential media on March 18. You can read their responses below.

 

The last in a series of examples is the Informer daily’s article on Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (KRIK) editor Stevan Dojčinović. This is not a clash between two private media companies or a matter of editorial policy, but a violation both of the Law on public information and the journalist code.

The code recommends solidarity with colleagues when professional reporting standards are under threat.

The danger of media lynchings is the fact that the target, most often of a tabloid, remains stigmatized forever.

Even if the judicial system worked perfectly and if, for example, KRIK won a lawsuit against Informer, the claims cited in Informer, based on “anonymous sources,” will be misused for years, whenever the need arises.

Informer is not the only media company used for these purposes, nor is the KRIK reporter the only victim of this dangerous pattern, but the case is a clear indicator of how far things can go when there is neither a united response from journalists as a profession nor an adequate reaction from the responsible state agencies.

As most influential media did not come out with a clear editorial position, neither on March 17 nor 18, we decided to call the editors to ask whether they would make any public statements about the case and if they think that solidarity in this or any other case can only be shown by a public stand taken by the editorial board.

Some media decided to respond only after our call. Even then, the list of those that are ready to condemn the violation of the Law on public information, the violation of the journalist code and to react in a principled way is very short:

Politika – Editor in chief of Politika Ljiljana Smajlović briefly told Insajder.net that the newspaper was preparing a story on Informer’s reporting for March 19. Her position as president of the Association of Journalists of Serbia (UNS) is in a boxout.

Večernje novosti – Asked by Insajder.net reporters whether the newspaper would make a statement as a medium about this latest case of media lynching targeting a journalist, the response we got from the editorial board of Novosti was briefly that they would not.

Danas – This daily is preparing an editorial position in response to Informer’s attack on the editor of KRIK and will run it in their March 19 issue.

Blic – Even after multiple calls and messages to Blic editor in chief Marko Stjepanović, there was no response from this newsroom to the questions of whether they would come out with an editorial stance on this latest example of media lynching and whether they feel that this is the way to show journalistic solidarity.

Kurir – The Kurir newsroom pointed out that they had run the announcement of the Independent Journalist Association of Serbia (NUNS) and the Association of Online Media. Asked by an Insajder.net reporter if they should’t respond on their own, with an editorial stand, to demonstrate solidarity, Kurir editor Ratko Femić said the daily was preparing a special feature on Informer’s attack on the KRIK editor. He also said Kurir recently posted a 20-minute video report on its website about attacks on investigative journalists.

Novi magazin – Novi magazin’s Jelka Jovanović said the editorial board would not come out with an individual position or announcement as it joins the position of NUNS, whose announcement the daily published. She said the newspaper had run no special editorial announcements in similar cases earlier, not even when their own editors and reporters were the targets of attack, including by Informer. Novi magazin stands for solidarity, it’s just a matter of the way that soldiarity is demonstrated, Jovanović said. The fact that some media have carried the NUNS announcement and some have not is very telling, as it shows who is ready to show support to a colleague, Jovanović believes.

Vreme weekly - Jovana Gligorijević of the Vreme weekly said the decision on whether and what kind of text will be run in the next issue depends on how the situation develops, but told us on March 18 the position of the weekly on the attack by Informer on the editor of KRIK:

“Informer has long ago crossed the line into tabloid journalism. There is constant talk of tabloid witch hunts, but this is far bigger, weightier and more dangerous. Since our reporters, specifically Slobodan Georgijev, were exposed to mistreatment by Informer too, we feel that, however broadly the term medium is interpreted, Informer simply cannot be a medium, rather it is a means of intimidation and pressure on various people in public life,” the editorial board of the Vreme magazine says.

Nedeljnik – Veljko Lalić, owner and chief editor of the Nedeljnik magazine, when asked by a reporter of Insajder.net whether the editorial board would respond to the latest attack by Informer on the editor of KRIK, replied briefly that he had no comment and added that Nedeljnik had never focused on media and would not do so now.

NIN – NIN editor Milan Ćulibrk told Insajder.net that the NIN editorial board had not considered the latest case of media lynching of a colleague individually, as they have a united stance that such things are impermissible. “The responsible state agencies have to respond to this,” said Ćulibrk, adding that it was impermissible for anonymous sources to be used to label and blacken a journalist’s or anyone else’s good name. “This has all gone too far and if there isn’t an urgent response, we risk sliding into a big quagmire from which the media, with the best will in the world, won’t  be able to crawl out of,” Ćulibrk stated.

Online media like Istinomer and CINS neither did stories on the topic nor came out with an editorial position, but they posted the Association of Online Media announcement on their websites. BIRN Cenzolovka has been reporting hourly on every news item from media that published something on the topic.

RTS – The Serbian Broadcasting Corporation (RTS) did not deal with the latest case of media lynching in its prime time news shows. We did not get answers during the day to Insajder.net’s questions from editor in chief Nenad Lj. Stefanović, whom we texted too for a response about the topic we were featuring on March 18.

TV N1 – Alone among influential TV stations to deal with the latest case of media lynching in its news programming. In addition to doing pieces on Informer’s attack on the editor of KRIK in its news shows, it carries announcements denouncing the lynching on its website.

RTV – Radio Television Vojvodina (RTV) only reported the announcement of the Association of Online Media, whose founders include KRIK. It was only after Insajder.net called to ask whether RTV would come out with a statement about the case that editor in chief of Television Vojvodina Channel One Marjana Jović sent our newsroom a statement which reads:

“Following the law cannot be left to the personal estimates of individuals, but should apply to everyone, including journalists and people who claim for themselves that name. It is especially dangerous when media platforms are used for the public lynching of those who think differently and there is no response from the responsible state agencies. State agencies have the obligation to enforce laws just like all citizens, and the media too, must follow them. This isn’t a media war, it’s a failure of the rule of law.”

B92 – This television station mostly carries the announcements of journalist associations, but did not focus on the article in Informer as a separate topic on March 17. By the time of posting this article we had not received responses from B92 about why its editorial board did not come out with a statement on this latest case of media lynching.

 

What the associations say:

UNS did not issue any statements yesterday about the latest example of media lynching targeting a journalist. UNS president Ljiljana Smajlović gave our reporters the position of the association and asked that we report it in full:“I believe that Informer has broken the Code of Journalists of Serbia in the Dojčinović case. But I’m certainly not in favor of the kind of boycott of the Informer editorial staff that NUNS has urged. The Association of Journalists of Serbia does not boycott media on principle, and I, as UNS president, did not boycott Kurir even when I believed it was running a dishonorable and unprofessional campaign against Politika.” NUNS and the Association of Online Media blasted the attack on March 17.

 

Ministry of Culture only now determining whether Informer is breaking the law

“I would just ask you, if you aren’t a jurist, not to use the formulation ‘undoubtedly,’ and if you are a jurist, then I apologize to you, that means you have already done the work that the expert services of the Ministry of Culture and Information are doing at this moment,” Culture and Information Minister Ivan Tasovac said in his response to Insajder.net’s journalist.

At our insistence that he say whether he agrees that this conduct by the media must cease and that this kind of reporting is not in accordance with the law, Tasovac replied that the question was a leading one and did not represent a step toward mutual understanding.


“I believe that there must be absolutely the same rules for every participant on the public stage, whether they call themselves independent, investigative, cultural, sports or fashion journalists.”

This is not a matter of editorial policy. This is a matter of breaking the Law.

The minister of information also called for more cautious use of the word lynching, but added that there is no-one in the public arena who has not gone through it.

“Trust me, you don’t have anyone in the public arena, either in power or in the opposition, who hasn’t gone through some kind of media lynching.”

 

 

Freedom of public information

 

(Law on public information, Article 4)

 

Public information is free and not subject to censorship.Direct and indirect discrimination of editors of media companies, journalists and other persons in the field of public information, especially based on their political opinions and beliefs or other personal characteristics, is prohibited.The free flow of information through the media may not be threatened and neither may the editorial autonomy of the media, especially through pressure by threat, ie. blackmail of editors, journalists or sources of information.

Position of Insajder.net: Law does not apply to privileged media

Informer is once again violating the Law on public information and none of the responsible authorities are reacting.

The Law on public information prohibits the direct and indirect discrimination of media editors, journalists and other persons in the field of public information, especially based on their political opinions and beliefs or other personal characteristics.

The Law prohibits restricting the free flow of information through the media and threatening the autonomy of the media, especially through pressure, threats, i.e. blackmail, of editors, journalists or sources of information.

The front page of the March 17 issue of Informer, the article on the editor of the KRIK website  and the March 18 article titled “The Link between Stevan Dojčinović, Foreign Spies and Serbo-Croat Sadomasochists” is occasion for us to remind the owners of all media and their editors, but also the representatives of the authorities, to follow the Law on information.

Ever since the newspaper was founded, Informer’s targets have often been people who have in any way gone public against the sitting government, or journalists who dare to publish any story that raises the question of the responsibility of the representatives of this government.

As journalists of the Insajder editorial staff, we feel that it is impermissible for representatives of the authorities to justify this privileged position of Informer with excuses like that the daily is privately owned and entitled to its own editorial policy.

This is not about editorial policy. This is about breaking the Law.

We believe that Informer is attempting to pressure reporters, which is prohibited by the Law. In our opinion, representatives of the government, whose policy Informer is defending by painting a target on the backs of various individuals, are obligated to react publicly and prevent any further invitation to lynch anyone.

MEDIA: WAR FOR TRUTH