Serbia: Government Loaned 7 Million Euros to Pro-Government Channel
Serbia’s government gave at least €7 million (US$ 7.84 million) in loans between 2014 and 2016 to a television channel known for reality shows, soap operas and bursts of pro-government propaganda, Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) partner the Center for Investigative Journalism (CINS) has reported.
CINS revealed Thursday that Pink International Company, which owns Serbia’s popular RTV Pink network, received the money as short-term loans. The loans were approved Serbia’s Export Credit and Insurance Agency (AOFI), a body tasked with supporting Serbian exports.
CINS already reported in May on one part of these loans, worth €1.4 million, granted by AOFI in late 2014. The report also found that AOFI in the same year issued a guarantee worth €2.5 million for a loan Pink took from local financial institution AIK Banka.
The 2014 loan has been questioned by CINS, because it was granted despite Pink being listed as one of the country’s largest tax debtors that year. Under AOFI rules, loans can only be granted to a company that has cleared all its tax liabilities.
Despite largely airing light entertainment, Pink has provided a frequent platform to supporters of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic. Among those who have appeared on the station is Dragan Vucicevic, the editor of the pro-government tabloid Informer, who has frequently attacked independent journalists including OCCRP partners CINS and the Crime and Corruption Reporting Network (KRIK).
Officials at AOFI and Pink did not reply to requests from CINS for comment.