This is an interesting article about the state of journalism in Serbia that is worth noting. The pull quote that journalism's woes there are as "funny as a autopsy" was appropriate, but not just in Serbia that always had problems with that industry, but globally.
Freedom of speech was always a problem in that part of the world, but it was alway an overt problem in the region, stemming from its socialist influences where a regime refuses to admit flaw. It is the know-it-all patronizing authority figure who knows what is best, and if the little people don't like it, they are going to be corrected, and that's that.
The difference is Western nations have the same problems, but they are hidden from those delicate Middle Class snowflakes whose fragile self-esteem gets crushed at the slightest obstacle. In Eastern nations, you aren't fooling anybody, and they can admit it -- but they just don't know how to solve the problem.
In that regard, Eastern nations are more intellectually sturdy and advanced. Western nations have the resources to do something about it, but not the courage. The Eastern nations lack the innovation to overcome it.
The interview with Slaviša Lekić, president of the Association of Independent Journalists of Serbia, is an instructive one with a couple of interesting points. Death threats are common against journalists who still soldier on despite of it:
The case of the death threats against my father because of my journalistic activity proves that the state, if it has the will, has all the means to solve incidents of this kind.
After the first intimidating phone call, I immediately contacted the Adviser for Media of the President of the Republic, to inform him of what had happened. The President called the Interior Minister, the Interior Minister called the Head of the Department for Crimes, and he called me back. All this within two hours. One week after the first intimidation, the perpetrator was arrested and put into custody.
This case is not interesting because it involves me and my family, but because these threats were made from a phone booth – not a phone that you can track down. This person did not show up at my father's house ringing the bell, and my father did not have a chance to look him in the eye to identify him. Despite these impediments, the police still found ways to arrest him, and quickly.
That kind of governmental omnisciency can bring journalists no comfort whatsoever. You are being tracked and the state is very good at it. The West, on the other hand, makes all sorts of Big Brother threats, but when you have people outline their planned massacres and then carry them out with no problems, the negligence is no less comforting. Two extremes, but the same troubling outcomes.
I found this passage humourous:
I believe that Vukosavljević is the worst Minister of Culture and Information since the beginning of the democratic transition. There have been several idiots to fill this office over the years – feel free to quote me on this – but there has never been a minister as clueless about media as Vukosavljević. Even Velimir Ilić, the mayor of Čačak who physically assaulted a journalist on live television, had a better relationship with the media; at least he understood their essence and, above all, knew how to repress them. This one, however, cannot even do this – his ignorance in the matter is so oceanic that he can only be compared to our Prime Minister Ana Brnabić.
Despite all of the confines, you have a journalists openly slam his government, meaning there is more freedom than what is acknowledged, but journalists are not picking sides in this country: they are skeptical of any politician who arrives, something their Western counterparts have never managed to do because that would require a deviation from the binary patriarchal script, and thinking is hard. Serbian journalists are not being lead down the garden path, and see the lot realistically.
However, I do think the Lekic is mistaken thinking the problems are unique to Serbia, or that government funding is an answer. Journalism has serious and antiquated structural problems that have yet to be acknowledged, let alone address.
Still it is worth a read, and it is something to ponder from another point of view...