Financial crisis extinguishing regional media

02/07/2012

The Croatian weekly Nacional published its last issue on June 1st. [Petar Kos/SETimes]

By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Zagreb -- 02/07/12

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The Croatian weekly Nacional published its last issue on June 1st. [Petar Kos/SETimes]

The 72-year-old Croatian daily Vjesnik shuttered its doors in June, leaving more than 100 people without jobs. This blow was followed by a letter from the owners of the weekly Nacional that said that there was only enough money to print one more edition.

Although Croatian officials admit that the country's media is facing financial problems, they said the state can not do to much to help. Journalist associations are struggling to obtain the salaries and respect they say are owed to journalists -- but many see print news as a dying profession.

Zdenko Duka, president of the Croatian Journalists' Society, an organisation that brings together the country's press associations, said that the media is in dire straits.

"Salaries are cut everywhere; correspondents are reduced. Reduction of advertising is also a problem because of the state's weak economy situation; businessmen do not allocate money for advertising as before," Duka told SETimes.

The situation is not any better in the rest of the region.

In Serbia, the 5-year-old daily Pravda printed its last word on June 1st, while television reporters from Avala TV have walked out numerous times this year over unpaid salaries.

In mid-May, Macedonia's Pink TV went dark and employees of the Republika Srpska paper Fokus went on strike.

The Montenegrin state newspaper Pobjeda filed bankruptcy due to its 10m euros of debt; and HTV Mostar employees have not been paid for almost three years.

Boris Pavelic, a journalist at the Zagreb daily Novi List said that media in the region is crumbling.

"The state can't do much here, except to generally improve the conditions for business. But it must be said that, unlike printed medias, internet portals are on the run. [But] I think there is a problem with professionalism [in internet media] -- the speed and superficiality of the internet can not replace the seriousness and deep analytical power of written journalism," Pavelic told SETimes.

The government has insisted that the closures do not mean reduced media freedom in the country.

"Direct government intervention or regulation is always a sensitive issue. There is a fear of losing independence and impartiality of newspaper reporting in relation to politics. The government started to work on a comprehensive media strategy as a form of support for media that will facilitate the survival of the regular activities of the media," Natasa Petrinjak, culture ministry spokesperson, told SETimes.

Officials at the Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation, (SEEMO) also think that the print media are in an unenviable position in relation to electronic, and that advertising is in constant decline.

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"Tabloid newspapers today have far more readers than those publishing serious analysis. The problem lies in the fact that there is a small amount of investment in the quality of the media, that media owners are often not willing to set aside money for a good investigative story," Oliver Vujovic, general secretary of SEEMO, told SETimes.

Citizens also think the internet is the near future.

"I think it's stupid to pay for the newspaper today, when [online it is] there, all in one place. Print newspapers are past," Roko Linic, 25, from Zagreb told SETimes.

"Young people have computers and read the newspapers at home, [but] for us older people it is too complicated. I think that newspapers are slowly dying. I'm only sad for those poor people who will lose their jobs," Drago Djikic, 73, told SETimes.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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