Serbian journalist ends hunger strike after 23 days to save local TV news

May 8, 2019

By Renata Rat

The owner and director of a Serbian TV network went on hunger strike in protest against state licensing fees which she says are killing regional news. She has ended the strike after 23 days following a meeting with the Prime Minister.

Maja Pavlovic manages the Novi Sad TV station Kanal 9 and refused food from 15. April until 7. May. She was admitted to hospital at one point and re-hydrated but continued her fast until the authorities met some of her demands. She claims that her TV channel  and other local TV stations face financial ruin due to enormous taxes on author’s rights. Another sore point is that  in 2015, Kanal 9’s local television frequency was withdrawn and it was forced to use a regional frequency which further increased the taxes that the station had to pay.. Pavlovic initiated court proceedings against that decision before the Administrative Court in 2015 but is still waiting for a verdict. She announced that she will not end her hunger strike before four out of nine of her demands are met.

It was not the first time the journalist from Novi Sad has gone on hunger strike. One year ago, she protested against the laws and regulations that make it hard for local media to exist due to punitive taxes. She ended last year’s hunger strike after representatives of the Ministry of Information and Telecommunication and several other media regulators promised improvements..  The promises made were not kept.

Maja Pavlovic during her hungerstrike (N1 TV)

On Tuesday, 7. May, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and Pavlovic met for a dialogue. Brnanoc emphasised that she cannot interfere in the proceedings between the TV station and the Administrative Court since the judiciary is independent from the government. At the end of the meeting, the Prime Minister suggested that the government and the journalist together should put pressure on the court to accelerate the proceedings. Pavlovic agreed to that.

Even though not even four demands were met, Maja Pavlovic ended her strike after the meeting with the Prime Minister.

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