Recently founded group For Media Freedom called on journalists, editors, activists and citizens to share their video in which, under the hashtag #WhyAmIHere, they explain their reasons for joining a fight for media freedom in Serbia.
Campaign organizers also shared a censored invitation to the event, in which several parts are blanked out, alluding to the alleged de facto censorship of the media. This was introductory action to the signing of Freedom of the Media Declaration. Center for Investigative Journalist of Serbia was one of the signatories.
The gathering followed the protest in which 182 of signatories temporarily blacked out their websites or went off air on September 28.
The initiative was prompted by the recent closure of Vranjske, independent weekly magazine in southern Serbia and public attacks on journalists by a ruling party. Journalists in Serbia say the media situation has been worsening in the past years despite the country’s proclaimed goal of joining the European Union, which demands press freedom.
Dozens of Serbian media outlets and non-government organizations darkened their web pages for one hour at noon, with a white inscription warning: “This is what it looks like when there is no free press!” Some newspapers appeared on newsstands with a black ribbon printed on their front pages as part of the protest dubbed “STOP media darkness in Serbia.”
Protest organizers, in a statement, said the campaign aimed to alert the public “that the media freedom in our country is dying and that we all must fight to preserve it.”
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) condemned the political and economic pressures against the media and asked for “international organisations to stop ignoring the serious problems journalists and media face in Serbia” and to act “to protect the democratic values they promote”.
Free media action was boycotted by mainstream media and the Journalists’ association of Serbia, which said the protest was aimed at dividing the press into “ours and theirs.”