The news industry has reacted strongly to the statements of EU Commissioner for accession negotiations, Johannes Hahn, given a few hours before his departure for Skopje, in which he expressed doubt about the rankings and methodology of “Reporters Without Borders” for freedom of media.
To a question from a reporter from Serbia on the state of press freedom in that country, Hahn responded that he heard about the problems with freedom of the media, but that he needs evidence, not rumors. After the conclusion of a reporter from Serbia that the country fell 13 places in terms of media freedom, Hahn replied that he “wants to see how the rankings are done.”
After receiving the tape of the meeting, European Federation of Journalists immediately reacted.
President of the organization Mogens Blücher Bjerregaard said the alarming state of media freedom in Serbia is not a rumor, but a reality.
– Journalists in Serbia are in a constant battle for their fundamental right to freedom of expression. European Commission should remain independent and to set standards for fundamental rights when negotiating with the candidate countries. These rights are a pillar of European democracy and there is no compromise on them – said Bjerregaard.
EFJ sent a letter to the Commissioner in which it enumerates recent violations of media freedom in Serbia and requests an official meeting with Johannes Hahn.
“Reporters Without Borders” also reacted through its director, Christian Mihr, who said in an interview that journalists in Serbia are under pressure even though the country is negotiating EU membership.
Mihr demanded freedom of media to be a strong prerequisite for Serbia admission to EU.
After the fierce reactions of journalists and news organizations for the Hahn’s statements, Commissioner sought to clarify his statements.
Through a statement sent to correspondents in Brussels, he said that he repeatedly underscores the critical importance of media freedoms as a key condition for progress towards the EU.
– I repeatedly reiterated my serious concern about media freedoms in Serbia and left doubts about this view during the meeting with reporters, and I also talked with the authorities in Serbia – reads the statement.
In addition, you can hear part of the meeting with journalists in Brussels, where Hahn gave the controversial statements about press freedom in Serbia.