In a meeting on 14-15 October 2000 in Zagreb (in Hotel Intercontinental), representatives of 23 media organisations in nine South Eastern European countries agreed to form the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an umbrella organisation to protect and further freedom of the press and improve the standards and practises of journalism in South East and Central Europe.
As agreed, SEEMO, will work “to protect and further freedom of the press and improve the standards and practises of journalism in South, Central and East Europe.” The new organisation will work towards these goals by “providing a platform for debates on relevant regional issues; informing journalists and editors in the region about on-going activities in the media field; developing exchange programmes; looking for areas of cooperation between local journalist organisations; and serving as a link to international press freedom organisations.” SEEMO became temporarily legally part of the International Press Institute (IPI) in Vienna, with the possibility to use free of charge one office room in IP,I, but worked from beginning with an own budget. own staff and also on own independent projects .
The founding meeting was initiated by Radomir Licina, co-owner of the daily Danas in Belgrade, Remzi Lani, director of the Albanian Media Institute, Oliver Vujovic, correspondent of the Vienna daily “Die Presse”, Zrinka Vrabec Mojzes from Radio 101 in Zagreb, Mitja Mersol, editor in chief of the daily Delo from Ljubljana, Samra Luckin from the OSCE mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Risto Popovski, director and founder of the news agency Mak Fax from Skopje, Mircea Toma, founder of ActiveWatch-Media Monitoring Agency / media monitoring department of the Catavencu Cultural Academy in Romania, Veran Matic, founder and CEO of B92 in Belgrade, Mijat Lakicevic founder of Ekonomist magazin in Belgrade, Goran Vezic from STINA agency in Split, Ljubica Markovic, Director and co-founder of BETA news agency in Belgrade, Djordje Zorkic, co-foudner of news agency BETA in Belgrade, Jorgos Papadakis, journalist from Athens, Stjepan Malovic, professor Univesrity of Zagreb and director ICEJ Opatija, Ante Gavranovic, Media CEO Zagreb, Zeljko Kopanja, founder Nezavisne novine in Banja Luka, Mehmed Husic, founder and owner of the news agency ONASA, Sarajevo, Hari Stajner, director of Media Center in Belgrade, Boro Kontic director of Media Center Sarajevo, Thomas Bauer Profesor Univesity of Vienna and Ognian Zlatev, director of Media Development Center in Sofia.
Participants from 23 media in the two-day SEEMO founding conference created four committees: on print media, chaired by Radomir Licina, co-owner Danas, Belgrade; on electronic media, chaired by Dragos Stefan Seuleanu, General Director, Romanian Radio Broadcasting Corporation (Romania); on news agencies, chaired by Ljubica Marcovic, Director, BETA News Agency, Belgrade and Frrok Cupi, CEO of Albanian Telegraphic Agency (Albania); on media legislation, chaired by Sasa Mirkovic, B-92, Belgrade, in cooperation with the ANEM legal office; and on NGOs networking, chaired by Victor Roncea, Ziua & Civic Media Association eu.ro.21 (Romania) and Svetlana Nedimovic, Media Plan Institute (Bosnia Herzegovina).
The initiative of founding SEEMO was supported by three Austrian political representatives: Albert Rohan, Secretary General of the Austrian Foreign Ministry, Karl Blecha, former Minister of internal Affairs of Austria and Erhard Busek, President of the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe in Vienna, former Vice-Chancellor of Austria and former Special Coordinator of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe. Also a group of international journalists supported the initiative of founding SEEMO, including Christine von Kohl, a Danish journalist, writer, broadcaster, human rights activist and Balkan expert, Wolfgang Libal, long year correspondent of the German news agency DPA, Carl Buchalla, long year correspondent of Süddeutsche Zeitung (München), Gustav Chalupa working for Austrian public broadcaster ORF, Swiss SRG and Rias Berlin and Ulrich Schiller, German public broadcaster ARD long year correspondent.
The founders decided that Oliver Vujovic, who initiated the meeting, as also founding of the organisation, should be responsible for the work of the organisation as Secretary General.
Johann Fritz, Director of the International Press Institute, welcomed the new organisation and said, “Press freedom can best be achieved when local journalists and editors join in the fight. It is a process that should begin at the grass-roots level; international organisations can support it, but not impose it from above.”
“Believing that media pluralism and press freedom form the basis of any democracy, SEEMO shall be made up of editors and journalists from the region dedicated to improving the climate for freedom of expression and press freedom,” said IPI Chairman Dr. Hugo Bütler, Editor-in-Chief of the Swiss daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung.