Agency for electronic media must stay independent

PODGORICA, 01.10.2018. – New version of Public administration law, which predicts that regulatory bodies, including Agency for Electronic Media (AEM) are part of the state administration, will be in the Parliament procedure during this month. The proposed amendments establish Government jurisdiction over the appointment of members of councils and governing bodies in regulatory agencies.
Civil sector is not satisfied with such solutions, neither the AEM. The Council of that regulatory body noted that the draft Law on State Administration directly threatens the independence of the Agency. As announced by the Council, AEM is one of the pillars of the protection and development of the freedom of the media, whose work is particularly following the process of stabilization and accession of the EU.

“All relevant European standards define the independent position of audiovisual media (AVM) regulators, making provision for the independence of AEMs one of the criteria for closing Chapter 10 Information Society and Media. The European Commission gives special attention to the independence of AVM service regulators, which is confirmed by the fact that the proposal to amend the AVM Services Directive, to be adopted by the European Parliament this month, explicitly states that the regulator of electronic media must be independent of the government and the media industry”, added are they.

They recall that Montenegro’s obligation is to implement Directive for AVM services in its entirety in its legislation.

“In accordance with the aforementioned, proposed Law is completely contrary to the Directive. We believe that the proposed legal solutions return the whole independent regulatory process in the field of AVM services. The regulator is reduced to the level of executive authority without guarantees of independence”, they said.

Concerning the proposed solutions, the Center for Civic Education (CGO) also stated: “At the session of the Government of Montenegro from June 20, 2018, a proposal was made of the Law on State Administration, which in Article 43 for the first time introduces State Agencies and prescribes that they are directly responsible to the Government of Montenegro for their work, and Article 44 strengthens it by determining that the Government chooses and dismisses the members of the councils of state agencies. We support the systematic approach to the regulation of state administration, which certainly opens the space for a greater degree of coordination over existing agencies. Because of its roles and positions in the system, AEM can not be treated in this way and placed  with other agencies. In addition, this solution is contrary to the principles of the functioning of regulators in the media and the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD)”.

“We invite members of the Parliament of Montenegro to act on the amendments and to change the proposed solution within the parliamentary procedure by moving the AEM from the framework of state agencies to which the Law on State Administration refers. The proposed solution of the Government can not contribute either to the necessary improvement of the situation in the media nor to accelerating our path to the EU”, they added.

Media Center announced that the changes to the Law on State Administration indicate a lack of communication between the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Public Administration that prepared the draft law. The EU Directives, with which the Montenegrin legislation must be harmonized, clearly prescribes the independence of regulators in the field of electronic media in relation to the Government, public institutions and the economic sector.

“If this is not a bad coordination within the Government, then is the clear intention  to further increase the influence of the ruling party on the electronic media and limit the realization of the public interest in this area. This means, furthermore, an increased violation of professional standards by the media controlled by DPS , further destruction of media founded in Montenegro through the absence of control of the marketing market”, they added.

SMCG, Podgorica, 01/10/2018