Freedom of the media is a crucial indicator of a country’s readiness to join the European Union, European Parliament's rapporteur for Serbia, David McAllister, said on Thursday.
"That means the commitment to democracy, good governance and political responsibility through dialogue, discussion, and debate, in which the opposite opinions should be heard,” he told the Danas daily.
McAllister said that most remarks made in the recent Freedom House report about the state of the media in Serbia could also be found in the European Commission and the European Parliament analyses.
Earlier this month, the Freedom in the World 2019 report released by US democracy watchdog Freedom House described Serbia as one of the countries with the largest year-on-year declines in its rating globally, scoring 67 out of a possible 100 points on a scale which measures media and political freedoms.
The downgrade meant that the country was downgraded from Free to Partly free according to the organisatzion's methodology.
“The freedom of the press is of utmost importance for democracy, and there is a lot to be done in that area in all six Western Balkans countries,” McAllister told Danas.
He added that the European Parliament had recently proposed conditioning EU funding to candidate countries with their respect for the rule of law, human rights, and democracy. It is now to the European Council to turn it into law.
Speaking about the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue on normalisation of relations, McAllister said it was high time for Kosovo to suspend the 100 percent import duties on goods from Serbia and Bosnia introduced last November.
Asked to comment on anti-government protests that are going on for two months in Belgrade, and for weeks in over 50 other towns in Serbia, with demands for President Aleksandar Vucic to resign, McAllister said that they were an “important and legitimate” way for people to express their views.