The state of Serbian media has been in a state of constant evolution over the past 15 years. Former president, the late Slobodan Milosevic, had enforced tight reins over the media but power over the country and its media outlets has changed hands twice since then.

When it comes to Vucic's issues [that are] deemed important to the West, his treatment of the media stays in the background.

Vukasin Obradovic, president, Association of Independent Journalists

Now, under Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, the methods of media control are more sophisticated.

The government and its supporters say that the media are free but critics are apprehensive, claiming that the government exercises its power in a different way.

They fear that editorial influence is being wielded through the parcelling out of advertising revenues - either from the state or institutions that are friendly to the government. This amounts to another form of censorship.

"The state is financing censorship. It is subsidising favourable media outlets and does its best to keep money away from critical ones. Media outlets face a dilemma: their editorial policies must glorify  Aleksandar Vucic or they will lose funds and be forced to shut down," says Vukasin Obradovic, president of the Association of Independent Journalists.

There is another significant source of media funding in Serbia that comes from the European Union. And the EU's idea of quality journalism differs from that of the Vucic government.

"EU officials have a quite tolerant attitude towards Aleksandar Vucic and the way that he treats the media. This is because EU officials are not interested in the media so long as Vucic fulfils his main political tasks relating to the Kosovo agreement, regional stability and other strategic issues," continues Obradovic.

The Serbian government, however, is pushing back against these accusations of censorship by sponsoring a travelling exhibition of critical media content called "Uncensored Lies" - but those in the know are not impressed or dissuaded by this move.

"The problem with the current ruling party and its allies is that they do not understand a basic premise. Not all negative reports or criticism about those in power should be considered a lie. The name of the exhibition, Uncensored Lies, shows how those in power do not understand the clear difference between lies and criticism," says Aleksandar Dordevic, investigative journalist at the BIRN project.

Talking us through the story are: Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman, EU Foreign Affairs; Vukasin Obradovic, president, Association of Independent Journalists; Nebojsa Stefanovic, Serbian vice president and interior minister; and Aleksandar Dordevic, investigative journalist, BIRN project.

Source: Al Jazeera