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Regional CNN affiliate N1 has been under fire from some allegedly state-influenced media in Serbia, for what these local outlets have said is biased reporting and “against the government.”
The feud began last week, when criticism of coverage of the anniversary convention of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) by N1 Television swarmed social media. The criticism, unbelievably, revolved around the fact that N1’s coverage of the event included only 38 seconds of a speech made at the event by the political party’s head Aleksandar Vučić, who also happens to be the current President of Serbia, while Minister of Foreign Affairs and head of the Socialist Party of Serbia Ivica Dačić’s speech got eight seconds more air time in the N1 report.
At a press conference held in the days after the convention, a N1 reporter received this response to an unrelated question from Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić.
“All of that couldn’t be heard on your television by citizens, and I could barely be heard as well, as they heard more of Mr. Dačić, becuase you didn’t like my speech. I’m sorry that American television N1 didn’t like my speech. I thought it was serious, that it was responsible, that it spoke of the direction Serbia should take in the future, and perhaps that’s why you didn’t like it,” were President Vučić’s words at the press conference.
Comments from SNS supporters included claims that N1 was trying to contribute in some way to ousting SNS from government, as well as accusations of being “foreign mercenaries,” a term commonly used by regimes in the Balkans for journalists and media who are critical of governments or its officials.
N1 fired back on October 23, by reporting on the matter in a short piece baring the headline of “The eight seconds that angered Vučić and SNS supporters.”
Days later, a piece appeared in allegedly state-influenced Alo! daily, a popular Serbian tabloid, claiming that N1, former Democratic Party Belgrade Mayor and now opposition politician Dragan Djilas, and others had wrangled state company Post Serbia (Pošte Srbije) into a dubious contract that would indirectly provide state funds for “Djilas to overthrow Vučić.”
The Alo! report claims that the contract in question, which gives Post Serbia distribution rights for 19 cable channels from the United Media cable network, was not vetted through the proper channels and procedures were ignored, leaving the current interim director of Post Serbia to sign it independently. Among those 19 channels to be redistributed by Post Serbia’s KDS cable distribution network is the N1 news channel, which Alo! has alleged will mean that state funds will indirectly be financing N1 and other media critical of the government.
N1 has also responded publicly to these allegations, calling this a “new attack on N1” and an “attempt to discredit the only independent television” in Serbia.
N1 television program director Jugoslav Ćosić made an official statement on Saturday, saying that “The regime’s tabloid Alo! has continued with attacks on TV N1 in today’s edition. Alo! tabloid has made a series of insinuations and untruths, including the well-known regime premises that TV N1 is ‘the loudest platform of the opposition’ and is ‘working to oust Aleksandar Vučić.'”
Alo! subsequently responded to these statements by by calling it a “fierce attack on Serbian journalists by American N1 television.”
Feature image source credit: n1info.com