National Report: New Media in Serbia – A Realm of Freedom or a Pandora’s Box?
Author: TATJANA DJUKIC
Media & Reform Centre Nis
Social media are very popular in Serbia. For many people they are a significant source of information – especially for youngsters and those who do not trust traditional media. People who want to hear the other side of the story, and generally younger people, are more likely to believe the stars of social media than the traditional media. Some think that social networks affect the public both more and faster than traditional media, but as Čoban reminds us, we must bear in mind that “the people” in Serbia also means over 50% of those who do not actively use the Internet and social networks (the older and rural part of the population). Traditional media are present on social networks, but they are still not fully adapted to the new age and the needs of social media users. In most cases, social media pages of traditional media are just copies of their online editions. Two-way communication is very rare.
Usually page administrators just publish news from web sites and do not interact with users. This also happens with social media accounts of politicians, who often use them just to state their mind, not to interact. Very often traditional media gets the inspiration from social networks, but in most cases the discourse is banal and trivial. When it comes to protests or important social events, traditional media isn’t always ready to follow social media, because of self-censorship and censorship that is widespread in Serbia. People who openly criticize the current authorities generally do not have access to traditional media, so they try to express themselves using Facebook or Twitter. Because of that, the government is trying to control the informal opinion leaders, and there are known cases of people who were brought in for activities on social networks, lost their jobs or experienced some other inconvenience like being called “an enemy of the state” or “a spy”9.
Media freedom in Serbia is a big issue and so is fake news. Another problem is that there is no serious and regular discussion on the issue of fake news. Extremely low level of media literacy in Serbia is also connected to this. Press Council could be an important factor in solving these problems, as well as constant media and digital education of all people, regardless of age.
Access the full report here.