April 27, 2017

A free society requires independent media and investigative journalism, so the Center for Anti-Authoritarian Studies (CAAS), an Atlas Network partner based in Belgrade, recently held a conference, which examined the state of press freedom in Serbia and attracted more than 100 participants. Held on March 25, the conference was the culminating event of the CAAS School of Journalism, a three-month educational program that used workshops and lectures to train 20 young journalism students and social activists in research methods, economic principles, presentation skills, and more.

“The conference was officially opened by Ratko Nikolić, the president of the Center for Anti-Authoritarian Studies, who welcomed the visitors while stressing the importance of free press for the preservation of democracy and its institutions,” CAAS explains. “As CAAS’ main goals, he noted the protection of free speech, promotion of independent journalism and empowerment of young journalists. He also spoke about how these goals are embodied in CAAS’ two main projects, its School of Journalism and the conference which was organized with the aim of notifying the public about the latest developments within the Serbian media sector, promoting journalism as a profession, as well providing a networking opportunity for young journalists.”

The conference included a panel featuring Serbia’s leading investigative journalists, who pointed out that the relationship between the media and government institutions has declined in recent years, making it more difficult to obtain significant public information. Another panel on press freedom noted that the only real press freedom in Serbia is found online, because mainstream print publications “are either directly or indirectly controlled by the Prime Minister and the ruling party,” and reiterated the need for journalists to stand up for their freedom against the powerful controlling forces of government.

The conference also included a panel featuring alumni from the CAAS School of Journalism, two of whom were subsequently hired by the Crime and Corruption Investigative Network (KRIK), the leading investigative journalism organization in Serbia. Both the conference and the School of Journalism were funded in part by a grant from Atlas Network, and were co-sponsored by European Students For Liberty.

“What I loved the most about the CAAS School of Journalism was the ability to learn through practice,” said Milica Vojinović, one of the two School of Journalism students who is now employed by KRIK. “By practically applying what we’d just learned, I had the opportunity to finally confirm to myself that journalism is something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. As far as the most important thing I learned is concerned, that would definitively be the need to confirm your findings through multiple independent sources before publishing anything.”

Additional photos and videos featuring the conference panels and speakers (in Serbian) are available on the CAAS website.