CEAS press release on the occasion of the publication of the analysis of the Serbian media coverage on the international conference Belgrade NATO Week

The Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies (CEAS) from Belgrade published a new analysis of the Serbian media coverage on the tenth international conference Belgrade NATO Week "THIS IS US" (autumn edition), held 15 – 17 November 2020.

Serbian news agency Tanjug - the media sponsor of this year's Belgrade NATO Week-provided live coverage of the entire event and posted 30 articles from the conference. Comparing the results of the previous analyses with the latest data, we can safely say that the pro-government media reported on this international event objectively and extensively.

The analysis finds, among other things, that the events from the Belgrade NATO Week were mentioned as many as 137 times. It is especially interesting that in the vast majority in the pro-government media - Radio Television of Serbia (RTS), Radio Television of Vojvodina (RTV), PINK TV, Kosovo-Online, Tanjug news agency, BETA news agency, Blic, B92, Kurir, Srpski Telegraf – the published and broadcast news were in a neutral and objective tone. The information was mostly taken from Tanjug's website. 

CEAS considers this to be exceptional media coverage by the pro-government media, especially if we take into account all the challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and above all the fact that the event was organized in the middle of the most severe, third wave of the pandemic in the country.

CEAS can state with regret that the trend of marginalization of CEAS in a self-proclaimed objective and professional media such as N1, Nova.rs, Danas and Direktno, continues. Despite the very high level of EU and US officials who participated in the latest Belgrade NATO week and the largest number of Serbian officials at the conference so far, as well as a high number of NATO speakers, these media published or broadcast only a couple of news items, while the Direktno portal failed to publish any.

The analysis further states: "Happy TV, another channel with a national frequency, had several segments with convicted war criminal Vojislav Seselj, who repeated slanders and insults against CEAS and Ms. Milic, which culminated on 21 November, and prompted us to publish a press release, given the gravity of the slander and insults. Bearing in mind that a series of his appearances, in which he was allowed to spread his misogynistic, derogatory insults (Jelena Milić has NATO vaginal crabs), without any reaction from TV presenters, took place exactly before, during and immediately after our conference, so we believe these attacks were timed deliberately to coincide with the NATO week event.

Kremlin supported portal Sputnik, Serbian-language service, published two news items accurately quoting speakers (taken from Tanjug's website).

CEAS assesses that the coverage of some Western donors-sponsored media, such as Balkan Insight, European Western Balkans (EWB), and others, is not satisfactory either, especially when comparing their reporting on similar events organized by other Serbian and regional think-tanks and NGOs, attended by the considerably lower-profile speakers.”

Unfortunately, the results of the media coverage survey of Belgrade NATO Week held in autumn 2020, confirm CEAS' previous findings, such as those presented in the report "Dark Side of the Moon", published in late February 2020, that the media landscape in Serbia is not as black and white as many in the West and here in Serbia wish to present, and that the image certain media or projects create about themselves often clashes with reality.

Many of those who present themselves as professional and objective, and often claim to be  allegedly persecuted, are unfortunately not as inclusive as they claim, let alone professional. CEAS fears that many of them are willing to sacrifice both professionalism and independence for the sake of support, or direct participation, in the realization of the objective to present Serbia in a way that helps achieve a predetermined desired outcome of some local and international processes. CEAS believes that this is an example of counterproductive and dangerous pressure on the Republic of Serbia, because valuable principles of Western democracies are sacrificed, which undermines public confidence in their importance, and certainly delegitimizes those who claim that the democratization process in Serbia is endangered by current government policies. 

CEAS hopes that the findings of this report, prepared in good faith, will be given special attention by international organizations such as the OSCE, and Western partners engaged in supporting media scene reform in Serbia, and above all the rapporteurs for Serbia. 

Belgrade, 16 December 2020