Serbia: B92 to drop critical talk show amidst political pressure

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) has joined their affiliates in Serbia, the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (NUNS), the Journalists’ Association of Serbia (UNS) and the Journalists Union of Serbia (SINOS) in protesting against the decision taken by the private radio and TV station B92 to drop the political talk show following political pressure.

Utisak nedelje (‘‘The Impression of the Week’’ in English) has been run by the well-known journalist Mrs. Olja Bećković. The talk show has been broadcasting for 24 years and has been well received among the audience. It is considered as one of the few programmes critically scrutinizing the government of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić.

Bećković had refused an offer by B92 management to allocate her show in a different channel.  She said that this is not ‘‘an offer’’, but an ultimatum. 

“This cannot be just an economic decision. It very much smells like censorship. We support Beckovic’s decision to refuse allocating her show to a less popular channel, B92 info in a less popular time slot,” said the EFJ.

According to the EFJ affiliates, B92 management accused Bećković of violating the company’s editorial policy and "thus making future cooperation “impossible”. 

UNS has launched an online petition  asking for public support to demand the return of the talk show. The other union, NUNS has organised a silent protest with more than 300 journalists and public figures from potlical and cultural life on Sunday in front of B92 premises.  The union (SINOS) has also issued a statement against the decision to drop the talk show.

In the past two months, two political talk shows have been cancelled by Studio B, a Belgrade TV station. In addition, a number of news portals critical of government have been hacked or under attack.