Freedom of the Press - Serbia and Montenegro (2003)

Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 10
Political Influences: 18
Economic Pressures: 12
Total Score: 40

Population: n/a
GNI/capita: n/a
Life Expectancy: 72
Religious Groups: Orthodox (65 percent), Muslim (19 percent), Roman Catholic (4 percent), other (12 percent)
Ethnic Groups: Serb (63 percent), Albanian (17 percent), Montenegrin (5 percent), Hungarian (3 percent), other (12 percent)
Capital: Belgrade

Despite some persistent obstacles, press freedom continued to improve in 2002. Articles 36 and 38 of the 1992 constitution guarantee freedom of expression and ban censorship. The media have generally enjoyed these rights during the post-Milosevic period. While the press is primarily free from direct state interference, public officials frequently use libel suits in retaliation for critical news coverage. Consequently, some journalists practice self-censorship. In July, the Serbian parliament approved the creation of a media oversight council. The new body will enforce broadcast regulations and issue frequency licenses. In November, the Montenegrin parliament approved the implementation of media reform legislation. While several groups and press associations welcomed the initiative, some expressed concern that the regulations will require editors to consult political parties about the content of articles and restrict the numbers of stories published about parties in the run-up to elections. In both Serbia and Montenegro, journalists continue to experience harassment, threats, and physical violence as a result of their work. Although there were no reported murders of media professionals during the year, the 1998 murder of Dnevni Telegraf editor in chief Slavko Curuvija and the 2001 murder of Vecernje Novosti reporter Milan Pantic remain unsolved.

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