Vladimir Popovic’s resignation was accepted at once by Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic and was welcomed by pressure groups as an “important victory” for a freer press in the republic.
The former head of the Serbian government’s Communications Bureau has often been accused of meddling in the editorial policies of various media organisations.
“The governments that do not get rid of these kind of people will forever remain in transition,” said Veselin Simonovic, editor-in-chief of the privately owned daily Blic.
String of litigation
Popovic, who has headed the information bureau of the Serbian government since 2001, has filed a number of private complaints against many radio and TV stations, most notably B92 and the NIN and Vreme magazines.
Relations between Popovic and independent media outlets have never been good, but reached a critical stage in March.
“The governments that do not get rid of these kind of people will forever remain in transition.”
On 12 March a state of emergency was imposed in the whole of Serbia, following the assassination of the late prime minister Zoran Djindjic.
At the time, Popovic, a close ally of the assassinated leader, was in charge of “press briefings” for journalists, the only source of information authorized by the government for media outlets.
His work and alleged instructions given to the media have been strongly criticized after the emergency ended in late April.
Media reaction to interference
In May, the editors of 15 main outlets demanded talks with the prime minister and his associates.
Although a series of meetings have been held between the government and media representatives, Popovic has remained at the helm of the information office.
But finally last week, Popovic bowed to the pressure and offered his resignation to Zivkovic. His successor is yet to be named.
Even after the removal of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, media activists have complained of lack of legislation setting rules for behaviour of both journalists and politicians.