The strength of this country is local

The election assembly of the Association of Journalists of Serbia, held in May 2021 in Belgrade, caused great public attention. Zivojin Rakocevic became the new president of the UNS, with all the accompanying vicissitudes, after a tense democratic vote worthy of an election in the United States. As an editorial office, we had the pleasure to host a dear colleague and talk to him about current, but also some topics with a longer duration.

Zivojin Rakocevic with Nenad Andric

What is your opinion on the position of local media? They were the initial founders of almost all local media local self-government, followed by privatization. Do you think that (privatization) was a good move in the long run?

Local media are in the most difficult position and their work, survival and freedom are often so endangered that they move on a thin line between extinction and survival. Talking today about the privatization of local media seems like an afterthought, so from this point of view it seems that everything would have been different if that process had not happened.

Owners of private media, who naturally strive for survival, and even profit, consider the information from the bar unattractive. Can informing the local public be made more attractive in business terms as well?

Many private media owners do not realize that local information is the essence of the freedom of small communities. They see their lives through it and have a real share in the daily needs and problems of themselves and their community. As far as sustainability, marketing and the business side are concerned, advertisers and local businessmen believe that their advertising “does” a service to the media. “I will do you a favor, I will finish your advertisement”, are the sentences that say how the media is given alms and how their role is perceived. There are, of course, other examples, but they are reduced to communities within larger urban areas. This is a kind of consciousness and an economic collapse that has been going on for too long.

What is the position of journalists in the local media today? How can doing business make them more bearable? To your knowledge, are they under pressure from local authorities?

There are two words that can explain the position of local journalists, and they are: pressure and anxiety. They contain all the nuances of repression, personal and family insecurity, economic conditions, restrictions and self-censorship, then the pressures of interest groups, politicians and all those you know who can stop you on the street at any time and “advise, warn, recommend this or that or to attack you the most rudely “…

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Zivojin Rakocevic with Aleksandar Andric, editor-in-chief of the magazine Naša mesta

Why is it important for colleagues from the local media to become (if they are, then to remain) members of UNS? Does UNS have a mechanism to protect the interests of its members?

Despite everything, the strength of this country is at the local level, and it is always waiting for its chance. After all, the margin moves civilization forward! From there comes, very often, the impetus that freedom in all its forms is the core of development. That is why it is crucial that local media journalists be members of the Association of Journalists of Serbia and that the voice of the active and free margin be available to everyone in that way and that a stunted opinion does not remain in a province. No less important are the daily representations before the courts, before the aggressive political reality, economic problems, good services and journalism schools.

In the time we are currently spending, the media have also been modified. A good part of the local media consists of portals. What is your knowledge about the often underestimating attitude towards journalists who work on portals? Do you have any insight into how many of these colleagues there are and whether they are members of the UNS?

The world has almost transformed from the civilization of the book into the civilization of the image. Consuming images in the media world is easier and faster. Portals and many media are rapidly moving towards the hyperproduction of such images. This development should not be underestimated, but it is always worth reminding of the role of editorial responsibility, ie the influence that can be exercised. The latest pandemic has shown and continues to show the complexity and importance of editing, editorial work and the exceptional social responsibility of “those who write news”. There are certainly a large number of colleagues, our members who work on the portals. I don’t know their number!

Local governments are announcing a number of competitions in the media domain. Do you monitor and analyze the implementation of these competitions and what conclusions did you come to?

Competitions of local self-governments have become heavily burdened by the influence of local powerful people, interest groups, unrepresentative representatives of the media community, secret and pre-made lists … Our position is completely clear and it reads: Allocation of two percent of the local media budget , as well as that the largest part of the budget funds remains on the territory of the local self-government that announced the competition.

If anyone has reliable information from the territory of the Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija, then it is you. Tell us, what is the current situation in the media in Kosovo and Metohija? As I ask you this, the melody “The strongest only remain”, Generation 5 …

The Media Community of Kosovo and Metohija is an exceptional part of our Association. In the most difficult times, she gave a local answer that is of world importance. Journalists of small ghetto radio stations, who know all their listeners, also produced news products that are quoted by the world’s largest agencies. The UNS branch is, above all, a place of constant dialogue and a place where different opinions provide one of the incentives for survival in the ghetto.

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In the editorial office of Naši mesta: Slobodan Reljić (left), Aleksandar Andrić, Živojin Rakočević, President of UNS, Nino Brajović, Secretary of UNS

In addition to UNS, there is also NUNS. The justification for creating NUNS at one point was completely clear. What is the relationship between the two associations now, from your perspective? Are there any indications of rapprochement (a large number of colleagues are in both) and visions of a united guild front?

It can be said with confidence that this is the moment of the closest cooperation between UNS and NUNS in their history. The problems of our members and the overall context have brought these two associations closer. I think that this cooperation is exceptional, since there are no essential disputes between us.

New times have brought new rules. Is it possible to somehow stand in the way of forced sensationalism for the sake of profit, which is often accompanied by desecration of language? Flagrant grammatical offenses, no connection between bombastic titles and content, public lynching … I’m trying to ask you as culturally as possible about the uncultured, tabloid corps. What are the defensive tools of the Association against this plague?

The bottom line is that sensation often violates all rules, norms and decency. Not to mention ethics. Thank you for noticing that our language also becomes a victim in that place. Standard, beauty and accuracy disappear in that tabloid corpus. We responded to the journalism schools, press releases and the UNS website, it must be said that taking care of the standard and norms is the obligation of the Association. There is an anecdote in which Andrić dictates a text to his associate and she tells him in a dilemma: “This is how it is written in Politics.”

I experienced your triumph at the UNS election assembly as a victory for someone who has strong cohesion capacities. Now that all this has cooled down a bit, do you have a satisfactory cooperation with the “coordinators and members of the other camp”? It was simply too tumultuous not to become emphatically peaceful now …

We defended the profession, principles and friends. We have determined the third time for the Association of Journalists of Serbia, and it consists in preserving the entity that will be neither a servant nor an activist. That’s why everything is so quiet now.

Source: Our Places, November-December 2021.


Source: Balkan Magazin – Aktuelnosti by www.balkanmagazin.net.

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