Coalition for Media Freedom, CRTA: State must guarantee media laws won’t be abused

Tanjug / Strahinja Aćimović

The Coalition for Freedom of the Media and the Center for Research, Transparency and Accountability (CRTA) thanked the citizens of Serbia for supporting the petition “Signature against state control of media,” aimed at improving the working environment for journalists and media, and providing citizens with information in line with the Serbian Journalists’ Code of Ethics.

Before the two media laws were adopted over 7,000 people signed the petition in just 17 hours, said these two organizations in a press release.

Unfortunately, they said, Serbian MPs refused to withdraw the provisions of the Draft Law on Public Information and Media and Draft Law on Electronic Media enabling state companies, such as Telekom Serbia, to own media, as they also refused to add provisions enabling judicial and civic control of REM (Regulatory Body for Electronic Media) actions on complaints by citizens and organizations, and those limiting public officials’ campaigning and setting the criteria and methodologies based on which the REM is to monitor media reporting in election campaigns.

The two organizations also said that, by adopting both media laws without accepting amendments that would regulate these three areas, Serbia continues to selectively accept European values and principles and thus shows no commitment to EU membership, because the new laws enable the state-owned Telekom Serbia to found and purchase media outlets, which paves the way for even stronger state control of the media market and information, they do not oblige REM to act on citizens’ complaints, so this body can continue to turn a blind eye to violations of all the rules of the profession and to the spreading of violence in the interest of the big media and is not accountable to anyone for this. In addition, they have failed to solve the problem of the abuse of state institutions and functions in election campaigns, and to oblige REM to monitor whether, how much and in what way the president of the state, prime minister, ministers and other public officials appear in the most popular media during the campaign and to inform citizens about this, said the press release.

These organizations said they hope that some new Government and Parliament will be more receptive and correct today’s mistake. Until such time, they said, we call on the relevant Ministry of Information and Telecommunications to establish additional legal guarantees that will ensure that the influence of state ownership through Telekom will not threaten media content diversity, expression of different ideas and opinions, media editorial policy, but also create unequal conditions in the media market and market of media advertising.

The Coalition for Freedom of the Media will closely monitor the developments on the media scene, said the press release.