Serbia | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2009

2009 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

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


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

  • The constitution protects freedom of the press, which is generally respected in practice. However, there were reports of some government interference during the year.
  • Libel remains a criminal offense and is punishable with imprisonment or fines of up to US$18,000. In April, journalist Dragana Kocic and editor in chief Timosenko Milosavljevic of the daily newspaper Narodnih Novina were charged with defamation for their use of quotes from classified documents in an article. The case was still open at year’s end.
  • The parliament approved the budget of the independent Republic Broadcast Agency (RBA), a regulatory body with broad authority to revoke radio and television station licenses without the possibility of appeal. However, no national broadcasting licenses were revoked during 2008.
  • There is no official censorship, but journalists at times practice self-censorship, and many avoid politically charged topics, including war crimes and the breakaway province of Kosovo.
  • Two highly politicized events in 2008—Kosovo’s declaration of independence in February and the arrest of fugitive war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic in July—led to threats and attacks against journalists by ultranationalists, including members of the Serbian Radical Party.
  • In February and July, both foreign and Serbian reporters were injured while covering right-wing protests against Kosovo’s independence.
  • Police thwarted an arson attack on the radio and television broadcaster B92 following its coverage of the protests. Protesters also broke into the offices of some news outlets.
  • Press freedom groups criticized the government for making comments that seemed to justify attacks on the media.
  • The public broadcaster RTS was the dominant news source, operating two television stations and Radio Belgrade. However, both print and broadcast media are mostly privately owned and independent. The privatization of media owned by local governments remains incomplete.
  • While there are no government subsidies for private media, the state-owned media enjoy strong financial support from the government, as does the state-owned news agency, Tanjug. Media ownership in general remains somewhat opaque, with indications that some formal owners serve as a front for the real interests behind the outlet.
  • Internet access is unrestricted, and there were no reports of government monitoring. Over 32 percent of the population had internet access in 2008.