Similarities before Differences

Dates: 9 – 10 July

Country: Serbia, Belgrade

lgbt seminar serbiaOne of the participants of the “Reporting LGBT” workshop held in Belgrade used the above title to summarise what he learned about the topic at the event organised by the OSCE Media Office in Serbia.

The workshop held on 9-10 July in Belgrade was the first workshop with the topic of Reporting LGBT issues. The author of the programme was Milica Pesic, the Media Diversity Institute (MDI) Executive Director.

She insisted during the workshop that the journalists should first find it is the thing that all citizens regardless their race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation have in common and only then what makes them different from each other.

Participation and inclusion are among basic pillars of any democratic society, thus, the media, another basic pillar, should make sure journalists go beyond mainstream and look for minorities, vulnerable and marginalised groups and individuals. And regardless how different we are, we all  want to be respected,   we  all want good lives, we all want to be  heard and seen. So, look first for the common ground”, said Pesic.

Serbian journalism suffers from stereotyping, sensationalism and lack of knowledge. In most of the cases, the members of LGBT community are put into the negative context.

No one expects journalists to be promoters of human rights, but they need to know international and national regulations. They also have to be sensitive”, said one of the guest speakers, Predrag Azdejković who is an editor in chief of the Serbian LGBT magazine ‘Optimist’.

The situation is improving gradually, believes Azdejković highlighting the fact that the Government of Serbia now funds his magazine, something unimaginable only till recently.

The participants of the two-day workshop were journalists from print and online media who through inter-active exercises and open debates admitted that more practical training and – in particular – study tours to the countries where media are more inclusive and more representative of political, social and cultural diversity of their societies could be a useful learning mean for Serbian journalists to move forward.

According to the ILGA Europe report, Serbian legal framework in this field is in a middle of Europe, but even though the laws are (relatively) good, the problem with Serbia is they are not respected and truly implemented.  The homophobia is still high in the country – among its citizens as well as in the media. A recent study shows that 80% of the high schools students are not prepared to tolerate LGBT community, while most of the right wing organisations have built their image on their homophobia.

Serbia is about to start negotiating accession to the EU, and if anything else, this might made her law enforcers to use the instruments which are on their disposal“, said Aleksandar Olenik, a lawyer specialised in LGBT rights.