Case Study: B92 (Media blackout and censorship in Serbia)

Case Study: B92

Media blackout and censorship in Serbia

We study the state of media by a case study, that has been enhanced through a primary semi-structured expert interview with CEO of B92, Veran Matic : by comparing the past and current situations of the state of media in Serbia. B92 is a radio and television broadcaster in Belgrade, Serbia. “ B92 is the pioneer of independent Yogoslav broadcasting” (BBC, 2000). We have interviewed Mr. Veran Matic, the CEO of B92. He is also the president of Commission for investigating killings of Journalists in Serbia. There are two key soul men in our project. They are Slobodan Milosevic and Alexander Vucic respectively. Slobodan Milosevic became Serbian regional Communist Party President in 1986 and found dead in the jail in 2006. We focus on his dictatorship during his tenure. It is because “During the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s, B92 was one of the very few sources for news not controlled by Milošević regime – it became an exemplar of a free media” (Calebonia, 2013). Therefore, B92 become our target to study. However, even B92 is an independent media, it is still in troubles for so many times.

Interview with Veran Matic: Extract 1

Veran Matic: “Well, I believe you might know that I am in the media and act as editor in Chief B92 since 1989, so for 26 years now, and during Milosevic’s time, all independent media were gathered round Association of independent Electronic media (ANEM). And I was the president of this association back then and during that time, the number of media kept growing and in time of Milosevic’s fall from power, there was over 100 electronic media in ANEM, So, B92 tried to make some kind of parallel system to that of Milosevic and a lot of media campaigns, and we have tried to establish movements and civil society and in the process, B92 was banned for 4 times. But we always managed to somehow find a way to come back on the air. I was under arrest during the bombing, more precisely, I got arrested on the first day of air raids.”

(…)

Bojana: “B92 was closed down and Mr. Veran was taken to prison in 2000. After that ban, we changed the strategy and we placed transmitters around the neighboring countries, so the programme was aired from there and it was… illegal actually. But, It was aired. It couldn’t be banned.

Mandy: What do the citizens know more or less about the truth at that time? How they know the truth at this time? Do they find it easy to get the information at that period?”

Veran Matic: “In Milsevic’s time it was hard to find the truth about the killings that took place on behalf of Serbian people in general. But the citizens were able to find the truth if they followed independent media, although those media were not as powerful as the state media, so many of them were not in position to find out the truth.

If to trace back the history, Slobodan Milosevic was arrested because of the ethnic genocides during his tenure. In 1993, United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed the cases that have to interrogate the guilt of Milosevic in Hague Tribunal. B92 at that time did live trial via Satellite that let Serbian know what mistakes they have done. Several televisions broadcast stations at that time, only B92 insist to show the trial to citizens. B92 broadcasted the trial for 2 years continually that make people suspect there is a powerful organization or people supporting them. Where is the funding from B92? Why are they so rich? B92 got the funding from foreign source of donation- USAID. “The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the United States federal government agency primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid. The organization’s goals include providing economic, developmental and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of the foreign policy goals of the United States” (USAID, 2014). However, why the funding is from America?

From here, we can see during the era of Milosevic, the information is quite free. However, the situations keep changing to be worse. Alexander Vucic is the current prime minster since 2014. “Alexander Vucic is the most important and the only one who has influence and he really makes all the decisions of this country and that is frightened and that everyone knows” (Beckovic, 2015). As Veran (2015) also supported “The state of media in Serbia is rather complex and not so simple to describe because in Milosevic’s era it was all black and white and there was government and authority and the resistance movement and now it is all vague and rather complicated”.

Interview with Veran Matic: Extract 2

Mandy: From 2008 to 2013, there are around 348 attacks on media professionals happened in Serbia. Do you think communication could be changed to prevent these things?

Veran Matic: So the journalists face plenty of threats on a daily basis here, and we don’t have threats, but also attempts of assassination, I think you may know that assassination was attempted on our colleague Dejan Anastrasijevic, and the other days journalists were severely beaten up and the journalist killers were never found, the one who committed this assault was never found.

Interview with Journalism students: Extract 3

Another interview we have done are from the Journalism students in University of Belgrade found out what students are thinking about B92 and the current status of the state in Serbia.

Student2:        B92 would be one of my favorites.

Esme:             Its got quite a history of er, especially journalists as well.

Student2:        Yes but they change. Also, B92 is from the 90’s they changed a bit.

Student3:        They changed a lot.

Esme:              How did they change?

Student3: They became like fox news.

Esme:              So from the American influence?

Student3:         No! Just unprofessional and bad reporting I think it has to be much better and now they deleted the good shows. Like celebrity shows.

Student1:         And they become more commercial television than Fox! The television B92 was the only one you could say ‘ok they do investigate you’ journalism but todays there nothing.

 

Lena:               They have just done of the most important TV shows, political shows.

Esme:             This is with Olja Beckovic? We are meeting with her on Thursday.

 

Group:            Aww!

 

Student1:   She is really great!

 

Helena:            Lucky you!

Interview with Journalism students: Extract 4

Student 1:       Well, Olja Beckovic was a good journalist.

Esme:              Why did they shut her down?

Lena:              Well, it was ratings or something like that. But I think it was, its our government.

Natalia:           She raised a lot issues and subjects somebody from the government didn’t like that very much.

 

Lena:               The prime minister.

 

Helena:           ‘Alexander the great’. (Laughing)

 

Student3:         The prime minister in the 90’s was like the minster of communications and promotions and he learned how to control.

Student1:         That was the time of the biggest media blackout in Serbia and you can assume why the freedom of media within Serbia is at low rates.

(…)

The show that the students mentioned about is named “Impression of the week”. It is a political show that ran for more than 20 years until last year. Impression of the week is one of the most notable regular TV programmes by B92. To apply the example of panopticon from Bentham, the state of Serbia utilized the media power to ruin the relationship between the state and citizens. The citizens are living in a panopticon that is monitored by the prison administrators (people who have power in the state of Serbia). The prison administrators are located in the centre of a panopticon, so that they can monitor the mode of all prisoners (citizens). The prisoners only know they were monitored, meaning that the citizens could not know what is behind the state of Serbia. However, the state of Serbia government has the power to supervise every citizen. Foucault stated there is resistance where there is power. For example, “Beckovic has begun openly speaking about receiving telephone calls from Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, pressuring her to change guests and topics on her show”. (Radisic, 2014). Beckovic (2015) has indicated ‘ Belgrade is a very small country and Serbia are in different ways corrupted. Like the little newspaper stores, you need to be members of Alexander Vucic’s party’. The little newspaper stores she is talking about named ‘Moj Kiosk’. Our group sees these stores everywhere. Pavlovic (2014) also supported “Serbia is a country devoured by corruption and robbed of its resources through shady privatizations”.

Moj Kiosk (little newspaper store)
Moj Kiosk (little newspaper store)

Reference:

Pavlovic K. (2014). Living the Serbian dream: a look at Aleksandar Vučić’s election victory.Available:https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/koč-pavlović/living-serbian-dream-look-at-aleksandar-vučićs-election-victory. Last accessed 15th April 2015.

CaledoniaB.(2013).MediaWars.Available:http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2013/10/06/media-wars/. Last accessed 15th April 2015.

Radisic, D . (2014). The Silent Crackdown on Serbian Media. Available: https://globalvoicesonline.org/2014/11/25/the-silent-crackdown-on-serbian-media/. Last accessed 15th April 2015.

PUSHING SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY FOR A BRIGHTER FUTURE. Available: http://www.usaid.gov/philippines/press-releases/mar-6-2014-pushing-science-and-technology-brighter-future. Last accessed 15th April 2015.

Radisic, D . (2014). The Silent Crackdown on Serbian Media. Available: https://globalvoicesonline.org/2014/11/25/the-silent-crackdown-on-serbian-media/. Last accessed 15th April 2015.

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Case Study: B92 (Media blackout and censorship in Serbia)

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