Serbia and Montenegro | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Serbia and Montenegro

Serbia and Montenegro

Freedom of the Press 2004

2004 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

40

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

16

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

12

While laws providing for press freedom are in effect in Serbia and Montenegro and in Kosovo, media independence was restricted in 2003 due to an unstable political environment, government pressure, and the threat of criminal libel suits. Following the March 12 assassination of Serbian premier Zoran Djindjic, the government imposed a 42-day state of emergency and significantly constrained press freedom. The publication, broadcast, or dissemination of information about the reasons for declaring the state of emergency and its implementation was prohibited, and several media outlets were fined or closed down (two permanently) for violating this decree. The government also enacted new and amended media legislation during the state of emergency: In March, the parliament passed amendments to the June 2002 Broadcasting Law, creating a Broadcast Council responsible for the distribution of national broadcast frequencies. Parliamentary attempts to appoint candidates to the council violated several provisions of the nomination process and led to the resignation of two council members. In April, the parliament adopted the Public Information Law, which addressed the rights and responsibilities of the media. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the law broadened "the ability of courts to close media outlets for using vaguely defined 'hate speech'" and weakened the protection of journalistic sources. The government also failed to fulfill its campaign promise of restructuring and granting greater independence to the public broadcaster, Radio Television Serbia. Libel remained a criminal offense, encouraging self-censorship. In Montenegro, despite new and improved media legislation, the government continued to exert excessive influence over independent media, and access to official information remained difficult. Journalists in both Serbia and Montenegro are subject to harassment, threats, and physical violence; no progress was made in solving the murder cases of journalists Milan Pantic (2002) and Slavko Curuvija (1999). In Kosovo, increased political friction exacerbated the harassment of and political pressure on the independent media. In response, Kosovar journalists have recently established the Association of Professional Journalists of Kosovo and the Association of Independent Media of Kosovo.