Media freedom in most of the SEE countries is still threatened by political and economic intervention, as this worrying trend is most prominent in Serbia, Freedom House said.
“Aleksandar Vucic’s administration in Serbia has had great success in snuffing out critical journalism, blazing a trail for populist forces elsewhere,” Freedom House said in its Freedom and the Media 2019 report on Wednesday.
The US-based organisation also pointed out that the Serbian president has consolidated media ownership in the hands of government allies, ensuring that the outlets with the widest reach support the government and undermine the reputation and interests of its opponents.
According to the report, the pro-government media influence has the negative effect of spreading further to neighbouring countries.
Among SEE states seven have a score of ‘2’ in the current ratings of the organisation, where ‘0’ corresponds to the worst state of press freedom and ‘4’ to its best state. Those are Serbia, Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Moldova. Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Slovenia show a score of ‘3’, which still means that their media is partly free.
“Common methods include government-backed ownership changes, regulatory and financial pressure, and public denunciations of honest journalists. Governments have also offered proactive support to friendly outlets through measures such as lucrative state contracts, favorable regulatory decisions, and preferential access to state information,” Freedom House noted.