Serbian journalists protest alleged state pressure on media

A few dozen Serbian journalists have protested what they say are deteriorating media freedoms under populist President Aleksandar Vucic

BELGRADE, Serbia -- A few dozen Serbian journalists on Thursday staged a protest against what they say are deteriorating media freedoms in the Balkan country under populist President Aleksandar Vucic.

Members of the Independent Journalists' Association said there have been more than a hundred cases of pressure and attacks on the media in the past year.

The protest also marked a year since a journalist's house was torched outside Belgrade. Milan Jovanovic, who was investigating alleged local government corruption, escaped the blaze that burned the house to the ground.

A trial is underway against the alleged arsonists. A senior official in the ruling Serbian Progressive Party has been accused of ordering the attack, which he denies.

Serbian non-government media have repeatedly complained of pressure while accusing the authorities of fueling an atmosphere of intolerance toward journalists.

Vucic has denied curbing media freedoms and imposing an autocracy as he vowed to lead Serbia toward European Union membership.

Protesters in central Belgrade Thursday held posters with the picture of Jovanovic's burned house. A sign read: “Burned out. What are we waiting for?"

Zeljko Bodrozic, who heads the journalists' association, said the government is “creating a hostile atmosphere.”

“There are no free citizens without free media,” he added.