Vienna, 6 May 2006

We, the editors, media executives and journalists assembled on 6 May 2006 at the SEEMO (South East Europe Media Organisation) Dialogue Meeting in Vienna, having discussed the media situation in countries of transition in the region of South East Europe (SEE) and the standards for EU membership, appeal and urge the governments and authorities in the region, as well as all involved, including relevant international institutions, to:

Not undermine in any way the very means of dissemination of information. Ensure that citizens in the emerging democracies in SEE have access to free and independent media. There is also a need for strengthening and building independent media, both old and new ones, in these countries.
Respect the social need for diverse voices, including those of minorities and ethnic communities, in private, public and state media, as well as anti-monopoly laws applicable to all businesses.
Eliminate all government influence on media, as in the recent case of RTV Kosovo when a law was passed that seriously endangers financial and editorial independence, as well as state support to some media – giving some media a monopoly position or a stronger financial position than the private media.
Grant the licences for terrestrial radio and television stations after open and transparent competition with clear criteria. The recent case in Serbia is one example where the frequency allocation was not carried out in a transparent and unbiased manner.
Issue multiple-entry visas for journalists free of charge. It is essential that every journalist, who has a regular press card, can receive a visa in a timely and unbureaucratic manner and without the burden of producing variety of documents.
Conduct investigations into cases of attacked, injured and killed journalists, as well as to end impunity by bringing to trial the killers of journalists in the region.
Change the laws dealing with defamation in accordance with international standards. Journalists should not be punished under criminal law. Actions against journalists for defamation should be heard in the civil courts. All damages should be proportionate and in scale with the economic realities of the country, as well as the individual and company concerned.
Ensure free access to information and respond to media requests without delay. All governments must respect freedom of information laws enacted to protect the fundamental right to seek, receive and impart information. Where necessary governments should advertise how and where to use these laws.
Tax print media in the countries of the region, especially those aspiring to become EU members, at a reduced rate, or even at a zero-point rate.
Respect the right of journalists to protect his or her source of information in each situation, even during legal proceedings.
SEEMO and the Association of Private News Agencies (APNA) welcome the will of the government of the Republic of Macedonia – FYROM expressed by its decision to transform the news agency MIA from a state financed entity into a regular joint stock company as part of a free market. However, SEEMO in its declaration stresses that a joint stock company in the media market is obliged to respect the legal framework of a free market, to implement all relevant principles defined by the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia – FYROM and the Resolution of the Council of Europe, which calls governments not to use state budget funds at the expense of independent media outlets.