• 2021-10-25

Debate: Social Rights and the Media


On 25 October, 2021, the Center for Democracy Foundation organised the debate: Social Rights and the Media in collaboration with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

The debate was initiated by Nataša Vučković, Executive Director at the Center for Democracy Foundation, and the opening statements were given by: Danijela Ilić-Krasić, N1; Svetozar Raković, Nezavisnost; Aleksandar Milošević, Danas; Katarina Baletić, Nova ekonomija. The debate was moderated by journalist Ljubica Gojgić.

Topics of vital importance to the citizenry are social rights and economic development, and it is questionable as to how these topics are reported on in our country and how much focus is placed on them. The media’s role in the social construction of reality is exceptionally high, reality is communicated to us through messages generated on a daily basis. During the SOCIAL RIGHTS AND THE MEDIA debate, it was our desire to talk specifically about the kinds of messages we are being sent relative to economic progress or the lack thereof, minimum wage and its adequacy, the laying off of workers in subsidised enterprises, and about strikes when then occur. How does the media talk and write about poverty, Serbia’s social protection system, issues surrounding socio-economic rights, published data, etc? What headlines are most commonly used in informing us relative to these topics?

One in ten employed citizens of Serbia is at risk of poverty. However, this topic or talk about the backgrounds of large investments and labour rights are invisible or exceptionally rarely mentioned in the media. This was highlighted during the debate.

“One in six workers in Serbia earns the minimum wage, which is not enough to cover the consumer basket”, said Nataša Vučković, Executive Director at the Center for Democracy Foundation, indicating that this is not mentioned in the media nearly enough and that it should be.

Vučković asked: Is it because we see that there is no freedom of the press, the reason why poverty is reluctantly displayed in Serbian media?

Economic editor at N1, Danijela Ilić-Krasić, said the story concerning Aptiv factory workers in Leskovac would have had no media coverage had it not been for the locals, who notified the media of the situation.

Workers signed contracts in which they agreed to work 12 hours per day, six, seven days a week, all paid labour. But this is against the law, even when its voluntary. They kept their heads down and worked, and it came down to: “either we speak up or we work ourselves to death,” indicated Krasić.

According to her, the most frequently read texts on the portal are those concerning injustice, regardless of the kind.

Economic editor at Danas, Aleksandar Milošević, said that where foreign investments are concerned, the prevailing narrative is that ‘all’s good’ and all forms of investment are welcome, and the media, including economic journalists even, have accepted this.

The only thing that matters is that we have a factory, regardless of working conditions, and the media, which is under a certain kind of pressure, is discouraged from reporting negatively, Milošević stated, while mentioning the cases of Jura and Geox.

He said the media is criticised for not ‘pushing’ these topics into the spotlight, and mentioned that the media exists to report on events and it is not the media’s job to get workers to take an interest in their rights.

“You have to have a relevant event,” said Milošević, specifying that journalists at Danas stumbled upon the Krušik story by chance i.e., the company had not paid its employees’ healthcare insurance for months, and not a single trade union reported this.

Katarina Baletić, a journalist at Nova ekonomija said it is difficult to expect a worker who spent years waiting for work and then was employed in a factory built by foreign investors, to appear in the media to talk about unfair working conditions.

She stated that workers go public once they reach the ‘breaking point’ and highlighted that herein lies the key role of local media and the trade unions.

Svetozar Raković, journalist and representative of the Independence Trade Union, said he blames the media for the fact that when the president of the state pompously announces the opening of a new factory built from foreign investments, why it (the media) doesn’t then monitor and follow-up on how this investment is implemented further. (Source: FoNet)

We organised the debate in collaboration with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation through the project entitled CENTER DIALOGUE – SOCIAL DIALOGUE.

Center for Democracy Foundation ​


Debate: Social Rights and the Media