Intervista con la direttrice e caporedattrice della Radio Televisione di Pancevo, Ofelija Backovic. Testo in inglese.
At the beginning of the nineties, actually in year 1992, a group of employees working at the RTV Pancevo were fired. The director and editor in chief of Radio and Television Pancevo, Mrs. Ofelija Backovic described these people as participants, at that time, already involved in existing anti- war protests and demonstrations.
" I find that it was then we were fired, not because of non co-operation with the "insane" authority, but because of the non involvement in war propaganda, which was then the predominant force, determining all segments in the work of Serbian media at the beginning of nineties", explained Backovic.
It was after several years, in 1997, when Coalition "Zajedno" came in power in Pancevo, that the fired journalists, together with Mrs. Ofelija Backovic came back to their work places in RTV Pancevo. Even though the municipal government in Pancevo was formed from the parties in opposition to Milosevic' s regime, under the name Coalition "Zajedno" ("Together"), there was still the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) that was dominant and controlling. Backovic explained the situation, during the previous four years, as being very unpleasant. " It all started with the various kind of inspections that occurred on a daily basis. For instance there were financial inspections, work control commission, ecological inspections, firemen, etc. I can not even recall all of them", said Ofelija Backovic. These visits maintained a constant pressure and professional discomfort for the RTV Pancevo employees. The former regime was able to invent the most unimaginable ways of hindering the work of the independent media.
"Also there were another ways of putting on the pressure", continued Backovic. "The syndicates in the firm were manipulated by the regime, therefore they were the ones starting to protest against the new conception of the RTV Pancevo, after the coalition "Zajedno" came to power in 1997. One of their arguments was, for instance, that RTV Pancevo was covering events globally and not just from a local Pancevo point of view, etc."
"Nevertheless it was our duty to cover events, other than just those occurring in Pancevo not only because Pancevo is very near Belgrade geographically, but also because our listeners and viewers were in Belgrade as well", commented Ofelija Backovic.
" Of course one of the most dramatic moments, was that in year 2000, when the emitter (broadcasting equipment) of RTV Pancevo, was taken by the authorities", stressed Backovic.
"During the NATO strikes in 1999, RTV Pancevo lived its most peaceful of all phases from the period of the reign of Slobodan Milosevic. It may be said that in the spring of 1999 there was no longer any censorship in RTV Pancevo that was implemented by the regime. At first the previous regime tried to close RTV Pancevo, as it succeeded in doing with other independent media immediately after the NATO strikes started. However they gave us permission to work, mainly because of the fear that the chemical industry in Pancevo might be a potential target (which it was). Hence they needed us to instruct the people in these incidental situations", explained Backovic.
"After the NATO strikes the pressure coming from above was again becoming stronger. That culminated in the spring 2000, with the shutting down of Studio B, and taking the emitter (situated in Visnjica in Belgrade) from RTV Pancevo, as I have already mentioned".
"So the most precise overall description of the past ten years would be to say that there was constant pressure", stressed Backovic.
Mrs. Backovic also mentioned some problems occurring in co-operation with the coalition "Zajedno". "The politicians from the coalition "Zajedno", also wanted us to speak affirmatively about their policy, and not to criticise them", said Backovic. However, she explained this as a result of the political culture under which these politicians were formed, in the previous 50 years. She stressed that the main problem was above all the relations with the Milosevic regime.
"It was the atmosphere of animosity present all the time during the previous decade", concluded Backovic. When commenting on the situation in Serbian independent media today, Backovic said that it is obvious that at the moment, and in the period after the 5 October 2000, the situation is better. However, anyone who has the power is always trying to control the media.
"It is certain that new government is not putting on the kind of pressure, as it was the manner of the previous regime", commented Backovic.
Backovic said that still the new government wants less criticism from media and more tales about their successes. She commented on this by saying that she finds authorities are always trying to control the media, and it is the media's job to escape it.
"It is on us, at RTV Pancevo, as a public service to say what is wrong, and it's the government's role to be responsible for everything they are doing", explained Backovic.
Backovic also mentioned the importance that the consciousness of people living in Serbia starts to change. That people must start expecting from the politicians to be responsible for their acts and to comprehend that they are the one having the right to ask the politicians for explanations. "When this kind of thinking is established the better would be the chances for the Serbian media to function properly, and to keep its professional integrity", explained Backovic.
Backovic also commented that the current law on the local government, is very bad for the municipality of Pancevo, and therefore for RTV Pancevo as well. She stressed that Pancevo is in the group of Serbian municipalities that are giving much more than they receive in a financial feed- back. Backovic commented that for Pancevo it is the same whether the money is controlled by Novi Sad or by Belgrade.
The future of the Serbian independent media
Backovic said that the future development and progress of the independent media in Serbia depends on both professional integrity of the journalists and maturity of the people surrounding them.
She also stressed the importance for the independent media to stay independent against the new government, in the same way they were under the previous regime.
"Some surroundings in Serbia are more developed in that way, hence they will far easier accept this kind of media, and support it", commented Backovic.
At the end Backovic expressed her optimism. She explained her optimism as being based on her belief that the journalists who have succeeded in defending their profession during the past decade, showed that here in Serbia, as she said, the journalism has been far better than that existing in the all ex YU region. Backovic also mentioned the privatisation as being the important factor in the future development of the Serbian media.
Here Backovic underlined the difference between the privatised media and those in public service, stressing that she would like for RTV Pancevo to stay in the second group, and by that stay out from the field of interference of the authorities as much as it is possible.