SERBIA: SEEMO Supports Democratic and Transparent Debate on New Media Strategy in Serbia

SERBIA, 05/08/2011

The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), supports the demands of professional journalists’ associations in Serbia to participate in a democratic and transparent debate in the formulation of the country’s new media strategy.

Serbia has made several attempts to draft a new media strategy in accordance with international standards. Since 2010, studies have been commissioned and discussions held in order to compile different views related to this strategic document.

Finally, the members of a working group composed of the representatives of journalists’ associations and the Ministry of Culture agreed on a proposal. When media professionals celebrated the agreement, they learned that the Ministry of Culture was allegedly preparing a parallel document and forming an alternative working group.

Media professionals were stunned to learn that the government was “hiding its cards,” said Veran Matic, SEEMO coordinator for Serbia and president of the board of directors of B92. “This is an irreparable mistake that they have inflicted on the democratic process and on us,” he added.

“Additional suspicions stem from the fact that the whole process has been conveyed during summer and the summer vacations, a time of year in which, unfortunately, this Government has used to adopt controversial media legislative acts. The latest examples are the changes to the Public Information Act adopted two years ago, and in the meantime proclaimed unconstitutional. There is a justified fear that something similar might have happened this time, too, and that is why it is important to pay additional attention to democracy and transparency in this important process, which is one of the key processes for the further democratization of Serbia and a better position for journalists and the media in Serbia,” wrote Matic in a letter addressed to the EU Commission and the Council of Europe.

Vukasin Obradovic, president of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (NUNS) wondered: “Is it in the spirit of democratic procedure that such an important act would be adopted without a public debate?”

In a newspaper interview, Ljiljana Smajlovic, president of the Journalists’ Association of Serbia (UNS), commented: “We want to have an opportunity to give our opinion on the suggestions [for a media strategy] that will be presented by the Ministry of Culture”.

“I fully support the demands of different professional associations in Serbia to participate in a public debate on a new media strategy. This strategy will serve as a basis for future media laws,” said Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General.

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