“On circumstantial evidence alone, media freedom seems to have packed up and caught the last train out of Serbia.”
We are suspicious of good news.
I have been involved in and surrounded by news-gathering in Serbia since 2002, since almost the day I arrived. At that time, there was a feeling of cautious permission to write about almost anything – government scandals, ministerial misdeeds, and even satires. The feeling was that the free press had been restored, at least to a certain extent.
I started writing a column in a (now defunct) English news magazine and, at first, wrote it under a pseudonym – warned as I had been that the “authorities” could make trouble for me if they did not like my often critical satire or sarcasm. But that lasted only a short time and I resumed under my own flag within a few weeks.
The dread “authorities” either did not care or were not paying attention to my scribbling. I became more daring – I launched the occasional attack on governmental foolishness. I likened politicians to animals and arch-criminals. During that time, which spanned through recent years, I was only castigated a few times for one or another politician’s disgruntlement. But the reprimands were toothless. Uninspiring of fear.
As I go through the news and headlines and articles in the Serbian press these days, however, there is something which I have not experienced before. There is a smell of fear. This is not universal – some daring journalists and editors seem to ignore the scent – but it is there nevertheless. Continue reading