Serbia’s Press Council, an independent, self-regulatory body that brings together publishers, owners of print and online media, news agencies and media professionals, told BIRN it has no authority so far, to sanction a text advertising a “job” in Russia’s notorious paramilitary organization Wagner published on the Russia Today Balkans website.
Gordana Novakovic, the secretary general, told BIRN that the Council rules exclusively on complaints related to violations of the Code of Journalists of Serbia and has no authority to decide on possible violations of the Criminal Code.
When it comes to violating the Code of Journalists of Serbia, Novakovic referred to the article saying: “A journalist/editor must not agree to place any form of commercial advertising or political propaganda in any journalistic form.”
Russia Today Balkans published on January 5 a text titled: “Wagners published an ad for volunteers, the conditions are more than tempting.”
The text quotes the job ad published on Wagner’s official website and their official Telegram channel. It lists the requirements and offers “benefits” to those who apply.
“It is made clear to those interested at the very beginning that all those who apply now will be sent directly to the special military operation zone,” RT Balkan said. Moscow labels its war on Ukraine a “special military operation”.
Novakovic said that, so far, the Council has not received any complaints related to the text.
RT Balkans is not on the list of media that accept the competence of the Council and Novakovic says it did not submit any request for that. She explained that since RT Balkans does not have an imprint published, “we wouldn’t be able to accept their request, even if they submitted it”.
“The Council can also decide on complaints against the media that did not accept the full competence of the Council, but we cannot oblige them to publish our decision if we determine that there has been a violation of the Code. We issue public warnings to such media,” she told BIRN.
In Serbia, going to war in foreign countries as well as organizing such deployments has been illegal since 2014. However, the track record of punishing those who went to fight in Ukraine is mostly suspended sentences.
And unlike terrorism, which it is illegal to “publicly incite” and “recruit” for, there is no clear ban on media outlets inciting going to the war in a foreign country.
In December, media in Serbia reported that Wagner announced on its Telegram channel the opening in Serbia of “resident cultural and informational centre of friendship and cooperation ‘Orly.’”
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in interview for Prva TV in late December that Wagner “has nothing to do in Serbia”.
“You do your work where you have something to do, neither you [Russians] nor NATO have anything to do in Serbia,” Vucic said. “We have to cooperate with them [NATO] because of Kosovo, because you, the Russians, left Kosovo,” Vucic said.
Since the end of 2021 Wagner has been under EU sanctions, and since the end of 2022 it is also sanctioned by US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security.
Source : Balkan Insight