Serbian minister denies reports of muzzling the press

A Serbian minister has denied media reports in the Balkan nation that the government is muzzling free press through intimidation, threats and financial pressure.

Vladan Vukosavljevic, Serbia's culture and information minister, told The Associated Press on Friday that his agency "strongly objects" to any form of pressure on journalists and believes in media freedom.

Vukosavljevic spoke a day after dozens of Serbian media outlets and other organizations darkened their web pages and published black ribbons on newspapers to warn citizens about the government pressure on media. The initiative was prompted by the recent closure of an independent newspaper in southern Serbia and public attacks on journalists by a ruling party.

Journalists in Serbia say the situation has grown worse despite the government's proclaimed efforts toward implementing democratic reforms.