The Coalition for Media Freedom and the CRTA organization would like to thank all the citizens who supported the petition “Signature against state control over the media”. The goal of the petition was to improve the environment in which journalists and the media work, and to provide citizens with information in accordance with the Code of journalists of Serbia. By the time the two media laws were passed in Parliament, more than 7,000 citizens had signed the petition in just 17 hours.
Unfortunately, the members of the National Assembly of Serbia, in the proposals of the Law on Public Information and Media and the Law on Electronic Media, did not accept to:
- Delete the articles that allow state-owned enterprises like Telekom Srbija to own media
- Introduce provisions that enable judicial and civil control of REM’s actions following complaints from citizens and organizations
- Introduce provisions limiting officials’ campaigns and prescribing criteria and methodology based on which REM monitors media reporting during election campaigns
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 does not show commitment when it comes to EU integration, because:
- The new laws allow the state-owned Telekom of Serbia to establish and buy media, which enables even stronger state control over informing citizens and the media market
- The new laws did 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 the spread of violence in the interest of the big media and not be held accountable to anyone
- The new laws did not solve the problem of misuse of state institutions and functions in election campaigns, nor did they oblige REM to monitor to what extent and how the President of the State, ministers and other public officials appear in the most watched televisions during the election campaign and to inform citizens about this
We remind you that the principles that the EU insists on in its latest Draft of European Media Freedom Act: consistent approaches to media pluralism and media independence, and provide effective protection for users of media services from illegal and harmful content, reduced risk associated with inappropriate public and private interference in editorial freedom, ensuring transparent and fair distribution of economic resources in the domestic media market, what would increase the transparency and fairness in audience measuring and distribution of state advertising.
The company Telekom, which has now officially legalized its ownership in the media, is second on the list of more than 800 state institutions that did not carry out the Commissioner’s (for information of public importance and personal data protection) orders in 63 cases. For a company that is owned by citizens of Serbia, this represents a very questionable level of transparency.
We hope that some new/future Government and the Parliament would listen professionals and correct today’s mistake, and until then we call on the competent Ministry of Information and Telecommunications to establish additional legal guarantees. Guarantees that will ensure that the influence of state ownership through Telekom will not threaten the diversity of media content and the editorial freedom of the media. Also, the expression of different opinion must be enabled and equal conditions in the media market and the media advertising market have to be provided. The Coalition for Media Freedom will closely monitor the development of the situation on the Serbian media scene.
The Coalition for Media Freedom consists of the Association of Media, the Association of Online Media (AOM), the Independent Association of Journalists of Vojvodina (NDNV), the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (NUNS), the Business Association of Local and Independent Media “Local Press” and the Slavko Curuvija Foundation.
October 26, 2023