Serbian Tabloid’s Editor Guilty of Hate Speech

Date: 30 July 2018

Country: Serbia

Serbia_Informer_Vucicevic“Informer” is a pro-government, pro-Putin tabloid that breached the Code of Ethics many times, as well as some basic rules of decency and good taste. Its editor Dragan Vucicevic was found guilty of hate speech after an NGO, Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR,) filled a lawsuit. The court decision warning Serbian media to sustain of spreading hate speech represents an important step, said the Media Diversity Institute (MDI) Western Balkans that has been running several projects on how to tackle hate speech.

In 2017, “Informer” published an article accusing some non-governmental organisation of being funded from abroad, mainly by Western countries and George Soros, with the aim of causing a conflict in Serbia. In the same article, YIHR was called a “Soros-Shiptar-Fascist organisation” featuring a derogatory term for Albanians. Last week the court ruled that those allegations constituted hate speech. The court also ordered the editor Dragan Vucicevic to publish the verdict, and to pay court costs.

“The goal of the aforementioned text was to discredit a group of people, namely members of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, and submit them to discrimination,” the court said in its verdict. MDI Western Balkans contacted journalist Tamara Skrozza who was an active member of the Serbian Press Council for many years. Skrozza dealt with complaints against Serbian media including those against “Informer.

“Hate speech appears in the pro-government media almost every day, therefore this verdict is important but it is only a drop in the sea. I would like this moment to be a positive step, but I do not see a will for systematically tackling hate speech,” says Skrozza.  She also explains that hate speech is being featured in the media under direct control of the Serbian government.

“If the state continues to allow hate speech in the media and in public speeches, the court verdict against Vucicevic and Informer would not mean much,” says Skrozza adding that some members of the Serbian Parliament use hate speech without being sanctioned.

She believes that there are ways to tackle and sanction hate speech in the media, mainly through regulatory and self-regulatory bodies.

“The media operating in accordance with the Code of Ethics don’t need to change anything. But I don’t expect that those media broadcasting and publishing hate speech will ever change. Their way of reporting has been approved of, they are rarely sanctioned or punished, usually with a symbolic fine. They don’t respect regulatory or self-regulatory bodies, but under the motto of working in the public interest, they actually work for the interest of one political option,” said Skrozza in a conversation with MDI Western Balkans.