Although Belgrade elections were called on January 15, the election campaign unofficially started back in fall, which reflected in daily publishing of around 20 media reports related to Belgrade elections. Within 2.215 media reports analyzed in the period October 2, 2017 – January 15, 2018 the ruling majority representatives were represented almost four times more than representatives of the opposition. Through its media monitoring analysis CRTA also recorded cases of the so called “public officials campaigning”.
“In previous election cycles, just like in this three-months period preceding Belgrade elections, unequal media coverage of electoral contestants was recorded. Considering that the media performance is a very important indicator of free and fair elections, it is of the utmost importance to ensure that the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Media reacts to the breaches of the Law on Electronic Media and secures equal representation in electronic media for all political actors, in accordance with its obligations and authority. It is also important to ensure that the Anti-corruption Agency uses its authority to prevent the public officials campaigning during the election process and thus contribute to the respect for the rule of law and free and fair elections.” – the Chief of the Election Observation Mission Rasa Nedeljkov stated.
Representatives of the ruling majority predominantly used media space to promote results of their work and give election promises, while the opposition used much less available media space for dissemination of negative messages towards the ruling majority. Dragan Djilas and Aleksandar Sapic were the main targets of the ruling majority’s negative campaign, while the opposition mainly targeted city officials and the Serbian Progressive Party with negative messages.
Ruling majority mainly talked about infrastructure projects and new investments, while the opposition mainly discussed state politics and media.
“Having in mind unequal media coverage, and differences in the tone of media reports among the most influential media, we can say that the media pluralism is lacking and that citizens have difficulties to form opinion that is based on unbiased reporting.” – Tamara Skrozza, Journalist and the Member of CRTA Governing Board stated.
Even though the Article 29 of the Law on the Anti-corruption Agency prescribes that the public official “cannot use public resources, public appearances and gatherings that he/she participates in in the capacity of public official for promotion of political parties or actors” and that he/she is “required to unequivocally present to interlocutors and the public whether he/she represents the position of their authorized institution or of their political party”, cases that point to the public officials campaigning were recorded in this three-months period preceding the elections. Out of 55 percent of media appearances announcing the public officials as the state or city officials, and not as the political party representatives, public officials gave election promises in every fourth media appearance and verbally attached opponents in every sixth appearance.
Media monitoring analysis covered the following media outlets: TV RTS – Daily news 2, Morning program and Belgrade chronicles, TV PINK – National daily news and Morning program, TV PRVA – Daily news, TV N1 – Daily news and Morning program, TV Studio B – News; dailies Blic, Vecernje novosti, Politika, Kurir and Informer; online portals blic.rs, b92.net and kurir.rs.
Once again, CRTA reminds the public of its recommendations for the improvement of the quality of electoral process in terms of ensuring the equal access of electoral contestants to the media and prevention of the “public officials campaigning” that were distributed to the institutions authorized to enable the environment for the free and fair elections in the previous two election cycles.