International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

EWB-MEPs condemn state financing of Telekom Serbia

March 10, 2023

The European Western Balkans (EWB) portal said that MEPs condemned state financing of the Telekom Serbia which gives that company an unfair advantage over independent media.

EWB claims to have seen the text of amendments submitted to the report on Serbia by Rapporteur Vladimir Bilcik by members of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs which called the European Commission to investigate a loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB) to Telekom “in view of the alleged abuse due to the dominant position on the market by the state to control the media environment in Serbia and neighboring countries”.

“There is repeated “concern” about the operation of this telecommunications platform, which is majority owned by the state, with persistent allegations that “the ruling party is using it to increase its influence on the media market in Serbia through the purchase and financing of media companies”. The amendments also condemn the fact that Telekom Srbija enabled the transmission of Russia Today (RT) and call on the Serbian authorities to oppose hybrid threats and comply with the EU Council’s decision to suspend the broadcasting activities of Sputnik and RT,” EWB said.

The EWB said that Telekom Serbia is no a profitable state-owned company and recalled that it paid almost 200 million Euro for the purchase of the Kopernikus provider from the brother of a high-ranking official of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) who went on to but two TV stations with national coverage for almost the same amount.

Telekom Serbia also paid 10 times what was paid earlier by United Media to take over the TV rights to the English Premier League which had been broadcast on SBB channels.

“Although civil society organizations, as well as opposition parties, have pointed out the controversial business of the state-owned company over the years, Telekom only became interesting to the international public a few years later. Almost all reports that mention Telekom express concern about the company’s operations and the impact on the media,” it said and added that the European Parliament first mention Telekom in Bilcik’s 2020 resolution.

EWB said that Freedom House’s Nations in Transit 2021 report said that the SNS and its leader President Aleksandar Vucic “oversaw the introduction of slanderous campaigns and pro-government propaganda”.

The first explicit mention of Telekom Serbia in a European Commission report was in October 2022: “Several legal disputes and proceedings are ongoing involving Telekom Srbija – whose majority stakeholder is the State – and private companies, both in Serbia and abroad, in the context of the high concentration of the media market in Serbia”.

Both Reporters Without Borders and the Balkan Free Media Initiative (BFMI) warned that the Serbian authorities were consolidating their control of the media through Telekom.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/ewb-meps-condemn-state-financing-of-telekom-serbia/ 

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