NOVI SAD – A study by the Ninamedia agency in Serbia, as a part of Atlantic Council of Serbia project “Euro-Atlantic Integration in Serbia’s media” showed that 89% of people in the country are against its membership in NATO.
The US ambassador to Belgrade Kyle Scott told reporters he was not surprised with the results because the people in Serbia did not forget the 1999 NATO military intervention.
“We notice that the number of news about NATO is on the rise, but they are mostly negative, even though NATO and Serbia cooperate increasingly in military exercises, and that an overall cooperation advances,” Scott said at the presentation of the survey.
He added it was important that the journalism in Serbia was based on facts, but, as he said, there are media in the country which “simply do not want” to publish anything positive concerning NATO.
Arne Bjørnstad, the Norwegian ambassador to Belgrade, said NATO should face the challenges and change its negative image in Serbia.
“What happened in 1999 is the main reason for such a negative image. On the other hand, NATO is military but also a political alliance which offers the improvement of technologies and participation in humanitarian activities. NATO is a big family of transatlantic countries,” Bjørnstad said.
He said he believed it was necessary to talk more about the benefits the cooperation with NATO could have.
The survey was conducted at the end of May and beginning of June among 800 Serbia’s citizens.
Journalist Milivoje Mihajlović said that the image of NATO was much better 12 years ago, and that today the tabloids picture the Alliance in a bad light.
“Since the end of 2007, the ‘Euro-Atlantic integration’ syntagm was replaced with just ‘European integration’ which suggested the state’s policy,” he said, adding Serbia is encircled with NATO member states, and that NATO is the only force that is currently protecting the Serbs in Kosovo.
“At the same time, there are almost zero media reports on Serbia’s forces participation in NATO military exercises and peace-keeping missions,” Mihajlović said.
Another journalist, Milan Mišić, said the tabloids dictated the whole atmosphere in the society and also the people’s stance toward NATO.
“There is a huge difference between what the media report on and the official state policy toward NATO. The main message in the tabloids is that NATO wants to destroy us, while Russia and Putin will protect us, which is far away from reality,” Mišić said.