The premiere of the documentary “Police and Media” was on 23 of January 2017 on the regional N1 television.
Many barriers have been noticed in the communication between the media and the police, with the greatest problems happening in Serbia – this was the outcome of the conversations which BIRN conducted with journalists and media experts in the region. Depoliticization of both the Police and the media remains a precondition for better cooperation and communication.
Unlike the journalists, police representatives from Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo share the opinion that solid communication with the media is nurtured. The Serbian police did not answer BIRN’s calls for holding an interview.
Most of BIRN’s interviewees argue that a selective approach towards the media, information leakage from investigations and their subsequent politicization, as well as the stigmatization of certain journalists, represent the greatest problems in the relationship between the media and the Police.
Also, political instrumentalization is seen as the greatest obstacle to cooperation, as it results in the purposeful and systematic channeling of information from investigations into specified media- so-called information leakage. Information leakage and the consequential usage of this type information for political purposes have to lead to the tabloidization of the entire media space.
Vukašin Obradović, president of the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia, states the following: “The Police and the Public Prosecution both have persons whose task is to hand out information to certain media if they deem that this could be beneficial to one of the political parties, one person, or a center of power”.
The relationship between the media and the Police in Montenegro is a lot similar to the one from Serbia, as the process of tabloidization, even though not as extensive, was imported from Serbia. Journalists from Podgorica warn that even though there have been certain improvements in the formal communication with the Police, nevertheless privileges still exist for some media.
Dušica Tomović, from the Montenegrin BIRN, explains that “pro-government oriented media acquire from the Police information with political connotation which could potentially be harmful to the opposition”.
Sarajevo journalists, whom BIRN conducted interviews with, point to information leakage as one of the crucial problems, even though it is not as extreme as in Serbia. They emphasize that as there are no privileged media, everybody is faced with the same problems. Only sketchy information which does not come close to adequately informing the public can be received through the official police channels.
Information leakage is however not labeled among the prevailing problems in Kosovo. The Police, being the youngest institution there, strive to build an image of itself as a transparent body. Even though Kosovo journalists do face pressure, it does not come anywhere near to the situation in Serbia and other countries form the region.
Jeta Xharra, BIRN Kosovo, highlights that “there are a number of obstacles that appear in the communication with other state institutions, such as the Public Prosecution, Government, municipal mayors; compared to them the Police is pretty much open.” She added that “information leakage is not necessarily a bad thing, but journalists always need to be aware of whether they are being manipulated by publishing a specific story, and whether the public interest is more important than the individual interest of the person who is handing out this information”.