Source/Author: Slavko Curuvija Foundation
Source/Photo: Photo: Media center

BELGRADE, 20.11.2017. – Demands of the Group for Media Freedom as presented to Serbian PM Ms Ana Brnabic, on Nov. 14th 2017 in Belgrade.

Considering that media freedom in Serbia is seriously threatened by political, economic, social, administrative, judicial and physical pressures to media and journalists;

Considering continuous discrediting and discrimination of media and journalists who uphold the professional and ethical standards and work in the interest of the public and the citizens;

Considering the non-implementation of the laws in area of public information and violation of professional and ethical norms;

Considering the non-efficiency of state institutions in protecting journalists’ safety and freedom of media, some of them even endangering the rights of media and journalists;

Consideringthat theconstant aggravation of the situation in the area of the media freedom is jeopardising the democratic processes in the society, media pluralism, right to dialogue about any important political and social matter;

Press and media associations, journalists, media, civil society organisations and citizens gathered in an informal Group for Media Freedom are demanding the following from the Government of the Republic of Serbia and the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia:

  1. The government representatives, first and foremost high state officials, to cease with public provocations and the attempts to discredit journalists and the media. The Government, ministries, its members and representatives of other state institutions, when inviting media to public events, to respond to journalists’ questions and media requests for interviews and statements, and to equally, without selection and discrimination, treat all media which respect the Code of Journalists of Serbia;
  1. The responsible authorities to urgently resolve all attacks on journalists and threats to their safety and to institute proceedings against the perpetrators. To urgently implement and announce the results of analysis of previous police and prosecution activities in cases of murders of journalists and attacks on them;
  1. The Ministry of Culture and Information to immediately suspend the work on the new Strategy for the Development of the Public Information System (Media strategy), due to the inappropriate methodology and structure of the Working Group members, which prevented the fundamental influence of representatives of major journalists’ and media associations on drafting this principal document. After the withdrawal of four members from the Working Group, it has lost the necessary legitimacy. The Ministry of Culture and Information, in a dialogue with the representatives of the media community and the civil sector, to establish a different work methodology and structure of the new working group as soon as possible, so that the Strategy for the Development of the Public Information System would be in the best interest of journalist profession, media, their outlets and citizens;
  1. The National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia to activate the dismissal procedure of the members of the REM (Regulatory Authority for Electronic Media) Council, and upon the election of new members of the Council, to amend the Broadcast Law so as to remove the possibility for the executive and legislative authorities to exercise the influence on the choice of other candidates. It is neither the responsibility of the Culture and Information Committee of the National Assembly to question the eligibility of members elected by the authorised proposers, nor of the Assembly to refuse to state its position on proposals for the election of the REM Council members. The amendments to the Broadcast Law should define the criteria for election of the Council members so as to ensure that the candidates are professionals with proven work experience and indisputable moral credibility. With these amendments to the Law,the political institutions would be excluded from the group of authorised proposers;
  1. To consistently implement the laws related to the privatisation of media process, to determine the non-state ownership in Politika, Vecernje novosti and Dnevnik and to finalize the state withdrawal from the ownership in these media establishments, as well as to urgently annul the Public Company Tanjug entry the Business Register, to remove Tanjug services from the Media Register and to close the agency’s activity, based on the Decision of the Government of Serbia of 3 November 2015;
  1. To ensure editorial, operational and financial independence of the Public Broadcast Services as guaranteed by law. With a view to protect their editorial independence, the Government of Serbia to enable Public Broadcast Services to be dominantly financed by broadcast tax, as stipulated by the law;
  1. The Ministry of Culture and Information, Commission for State Aid Control, State Audit Institution, Commission for the Protection of Competition, Public Procurement Administration and Anti-Corruption Council, within their respective competences, to continuously implement supervision and control of spending public funds through open calls for proposals and co-financing of projects in public interest, by public procurements for provision of media services, and via sponsorships and donations from public revenues;
  1. The Government of Serbia to establish an independent committee in charge of analysing the system of co-financing media content in the public interest and to propose the measures for preventing the misuse at all levels of this legally stipulated procedure.The Ministry of Culture and Information, through legislative amendments, to specify the requirements and criteria of decision-making in open calls and competitions for co-financing media content,and to introduce an effective mechanism for lodging complaints against the decisions on allocation of funds prior to their spending;
  1. The Government of Serbia to improve the working status of full-time journalists through strict implementation of the provisions of the Labour Law, also in the parts referring to the respect of labour rights and grounds for other legal work engagement (part-time, outsourcing, copyright contracts etc.), as well as implementation of the Law on Prevention of Mobbing.
  1. The Government of Serbia to ensure the enforcement of the ignored decisions of the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection, to act upon all delayed requests for access to information and to treat such requests in the future within the legally prescribed deadline, in a manner stipulated by the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance.
  1. The Government of Serbia to comprehensively and consistently regulate the advertising of state authorities and other government bodies, through amendments to the Law on Public Procurements or adoption of the Law on Public Authorities Advertising.
  1. The Ministry of Justice to establish an independent committee for preparing records and analysing court procedures against media outlets, editors and journalists, in accordance with the practice of the European Court for Human Rights. We request consistent respect for the copyrights in media and an amendment of the Law on Copyrights that would prevent financial pressure being exercised on media outlets through judgments introducing excessive fines for violation of copyrights, also in accordance with the practice of the European Court for Human Rights.
  1. The Government of Serbia to adopt additional stimulating measures and incentives for the regional and local media across Serbia, as listed in the previous Strategy for the Development of the Public Information System in the Republic of Serbia, but none of which has ever been implemented, and to take into consideration the possibility of establishing the obligatory percentage of local self-governments’ budget allocations for co-financing of the media content in public interest.