The A 11 – Initiative for Economic and Social Rights filed a complaint on March 9, 2020, to the Commission for Complaints of the Press Council regarding the article entitled “It is difficult to beg Roma for a job” published by the “Vecernje novosti” on February 12, 2020, in the section “Vojvodina”, due to the presentation of inappropriate content, dissemination of false information and conclusions, which grossly violated the provisions of the Code of Journalists of Serbia and endangered the rights of the Roma national minority.
The controversial text with the subtitle “Social assistance is safer than a workbook, no big response is expected” talks about how the European Union launched a project to motivate and train Roma for employment entitled “New Capacities and New Employment Opportunities for Roma” in the municipality Odzaci. After describing the project and the Roma community in this municipality, the author states that J.M. from the Association of Citizens “MR Luna”, which is a partner in this project, pointed out that the main obstacle will be the lack of habit of members of the Roma population to look for a permanent job, stating that “They do not believe in institutional employment (…)” , as well as that they do not expect a great response because “For Roma is safer social assistance they receive than work”.
In its complaint, Initiative A 11 pointed out, among other things, that according to the Code of Journalists of Serbia, the headlines must be in accordance with its content, that the author did not distinguish between facts, comments and speculations and consulted several sources, nor did he pay attention to whether the rights and dignity of the persons he is writing about are being violated, thus completely neglecting journalistic responsibility.
The Commission for Complaints found that “Vecernje Novosti” violated pt. 1 of Section IV of the Code of Journalists of Serbia, which deals with the obligation of journalists to oppose anyone who violates human rights or advocates any kind of discrimination, hate speech or incitement to violence, and ordered this decision to be published. The explanation of the decision states that the text changes the meaning of what the interlocutor stated, because the title suggests that Roma are passive in job search, which is an unallowable generalization, because this arbitrary and easy conclusion puts all Roma in the same position, without any solid foundation that would prove this is indeed the case, while diverting attention from the problems they daily face.
This sensationalist title and insulting text contribute to the spread of already existing stereotypes about Roma as non-workers, thus violating the obligation of journalists to oppose all those who advocate discrimination, as well as the postulate that the journalistic profession is incompatible with spreading any kind of stereotypes and prejudices. Otherwise, such texts would contribute to additional stigmatization of an already endangered and vulnerable minority, thereby violating provisions of the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination and the Law on Protection of Rights and Freedoms of National Minorities.