THE IMPACT OF OUR STORY by Slobodan Georgijev

THE IMPACT OF OUR STORY by Slobodan Georgijev

After the investigative story: TV Viewers Force Fed State Spin.

BIRN Serbia published an investigative story about Serbian media buying agencies, in March 2014, when ruling Progressive Party took more power on early elections for Serbian parliament, and Aleksandar Vučić became formal leader of Serbian government.

The story proved that people around Vučić overtook the whole media buying market in Serbia, as a first step to secure his power over almost every single media in Serbia, which was meant to guarantee that critique or bad news about Vučić’s governance never get published while he is in power. We also proved that ruling parties see this market as an instrument to pressure businesses by controlling their advertising money, i.e. these agencies are used for providing funding for the activities of the ruling party. The story published by BIRN also damasked the role of one of the Vučić’s closest associates, Goran Veselinović, in the schemes of controlling media outlets in Serbia.

As for the impact of the story – the good recognition that we got was the award for the best investigative story in Serbia for 2013/2014 in the annual competition organized by Independent association of journalist and supported by US embassy in Belgrade. A good indicator is also that the story was taken over by other media. Namely, at the end of October 2015 Belgrade based tabloid Kurir reprinted the article, which contributed to its reach, although it seemed to have been done as a repayment against Goran Veselinović, who actually had stopped adds for this tabloid, despite the fact that it has the biggest circulation and the biggest impact within the media market.

We have mixed feelings about another result of the story – journalists of BIRN are suffering an orchestrated odium and campaign, involving accusations that we are bringing down the country under the influence of foreign governments. Of course, some media also took their part in this campaign.

Most importantly, publishing of our investigative story did not fix the system: everything stayed as it was; the whole market is controlled by people close to the ruling party, but it opened the debate on the need for a new advertising law to tackle the problems we reported on.