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Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Commissioner For Protection of Equality Established That Vecernje novosti Daily Did Not Discriminated Against Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Migrants

Acting upon Praxis complaint, the Commissioner for Protection of Equality established that the article “Asylum Seekers Even Pluck Their Eyebrows for Europe”, published by Vecernje novosti Daily on 6 August 2015, does not contain any violation of rights in accordance with the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination.

Relying on national and international legislation, Praxis pointed that disputable text contributes to spreading of fear, creating of hostile environment and deepening of social distance of the citizens towards asylum seekers, refugees and migrants, who are currently one of the most vulnerable groups in Serbia. Creating a prejudice that all migrants have huge amounts of money does not contribute to understanding their difficult situation, nor the attitude of the journalist that refugees “destroy all the beauty of this part of the city”, and that “the sight that will welcome the visitors of Belgrade when they step out of the bus or train is not pleasant” because of the presence of refuges in the immediate vicinity of the bus and railway station. 

The Commissioner for Protection of Equality is of the opinion that the text largely consists of quoted statements of entrepreneurs and employees who provide services. “The author of the text quoted and cited the statements, opinions and observations of persons who met refugees as customers and therefore the responsibility of the journalist/editor-in-chief for the statements given by another person is not justified…”. In the conclusion, the Commissioner, among others, relies on international sources and practice and cites particularly the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights, which implies that restriction of the freedom of expression must not be such to “discourage the open discussion about the issues of public interest”.

Despite the opinion of the Commissioner that there is no violation of the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination in the disputable text, Praxis believes that that responsibility of media cannot be excluded or diminished by the fact that opinions of third persons are “just” transmitted in the text. The lack of conviction of writing by Vecernje novosti Daily is yet another missed opportunity to clearly indicate the responsibility of media in reporting.

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