European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi has said that "a positive transformation of the media environment" needs to be carried out in the countries of the region, and that Brussels considers media reform very important in the enlargement process.
Speaking at the online conference titled Media Freedom in the Balkans, organized by the EURACTIV Bulgaria website on June 3, Varhelyi said that media freedom, freedom of expression and media pluralism were crucial in the process of accession to the EU, that they were important for a free, open and informed debate and were pillars which every democracy was built on.
"Democracy cannot function without free and independent media," said Varhelyi. He recalled that the last European Commission report on European integration had noted that efforts were still necessary to ensure media independence and freedom of expression across the Western Balkan region.
Beta News Agency Director Radomir Diklic said that the situation in Serbia where media freedom was concerned had never been as bad as it was today and was getting worse every day, while Europe, if it had the political will, could do more to help than it was doing now.
Diklic said that nearly all the media outlets were controlled by people close to the regime, i.e. to the ruling party, that all television stations with nationwide coverage were controlled, whereas the only independent television - N1 - was under pressure day and night. "The result is that the majority of citizens do not have real information about what is happening in the country, region, Europe and the world," said Diklic.