Minority and local media in Vojvodina and in Serbia overall are treated as an asset to social integration

The fifth edition of the Regional Conference devoted to Minority and Local Media was held on 10th November in Novi Sad, in the recently restored Egyseg Castle. At the opening of the conference, the Vice President of the Provincial Government, Djordje Milicevic, emphasised that the multi-ethnicity of Vojvodina and the multicultural way of life in all parts of its society reflects the positive effects of a stable system of financial support to the most important minority language media in the province. As many as 22 print newspapers, published in eight languages, received slightly more than 264 million dinars (roughly €2.2 million) this year from the regional budget, which is more than 90% of the total funding destined to support informative media in the province, including those written in Serbian. "In future, we are going to improve the balance in favour of the media in Serbian, but not at the expense of those in minority languages," explained Vice President Milicevic. "On the contrary, the funding to the latter will remain at least at the present level."

The main theme of the fifth edition of the conference was the challenge of social integration and the nature of ethnic communities – and communities in general – in the 21st century. In this context, close to 100 participants, representatives of national, regional and local institutions from Serbia and the wider region, carried out a vivid intellectual debate. The broad participation by provincial institutions, representatives of Serbian and regional media, MIDAS representatives, the team leading the project of Novi Sad – European Capital of Culture 2021, the Serbian Chamber of Commerce and the Olympic Committee of Serbia in the conference reflected the significance and resonance of the event.

The participants discussed questions related to the understanding of the identity, culture and position of ethnic minorities and of local media, as the protagonists in times of intense societal disruptions caused mostly by increased connectedness, physical mobility, and economic and political migrations. The understanding of multiple identities and what it means to belong to a community was the focal point of the debate.

Through three conference panels, minority and local media were observed as sources of solutions and the means of a dialogue between different communities. Digital platforms, a reality for all community media today, do not represent a risk of the loss of the identity of ethnic communities. On the contrary!  Speakers emphasised several times that minority media have, in addition to their informative role, the essential task of bringing the language of the community to homes and families. Furthermore, they increase the visibility of national communities throughout society. 

This year's conference celebrated the membership of the daily newspaper of Novi Sad (Serbia) in Hungarian, Magyar Szo, in MIDAS, the European Association of Daily Newspapers in Minority Languages, in June this year. A member of MIDAS's board, Bojan Brezigar, who is also the publisher of Primorski dnevnik, a daily newspaper in Slovenian published in Trieste (Italy), welcomed this fact.

The conference, which returned to Novi Sad after being hosted by Belgrade, the Serbian capital, last year, aims to become a European platform for minority and local media. The recent achievement of Novi Sad in winning a nomination for the European Cultural Capital 2021, on the basis of the city's diversity and culture of tolerance and inclusion, contributes a new dimension to this new milestone, an ambition that is the natural result of a successful five years’ work by the organisers.

Possible cooperation between minority and other media in the preparation of major European projects was indicated as one of the models of the new position of minority media.

The organisers of the conference were Magyar Szó, the Media Association of Serbia, Heror Media Pont and Giacomelli media; the sponsors were the Ministry of Culture and Information and the Provincial Secretariat for Culture, Public Information and Relations with Religious Communities;  the conference partners were the companies Gorenje and Coca Cola, and the friends of the conference were Novi Sad 2021, the Gallery of Matica Srpska, the Novi Sad Cultural Centre, the Slovenian Business Club, the Vitorog Furniture Gallery and Grand Kafa – Black‘n’Easy.