Munir Podumljak: Non-transparent links between political elites and their economic satellites lead to the state with captive societies

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Source/Author: Arman Fazlic, BHN Bulletin E-journalist

SARAJEVO, 15.01.2018.- It would be easier to have access to information regarding the geological chemical structure of the surface on the Mars, then to get information about the real and actual media owners of media financial supports that are in charge with the process of developing and setting up the collective consciousness amongst the public that simply follow them blindly.

What consequences can be expected from ties imposed by politics and media to general society and community, based on fundamental democratic values?

Non-transparent links and ties between politics and, or more precisely, between the political elite and their economic puppets, lead to the state with captive societies in them, which I had basically described five years ago. Captive and enslaved societies represent the state where, despite occasional changes in construction by those performing the public and official functions, there are no significant and notable changes (in these societies) as far as culture, democracy, ethics, and integrity by the governing authority officials is concerned. In fact, these societies have been considered as resistant to reforms, because the potential that would generate the changes (private economic sector, civil society and media field) has been imprisoned into the networks of political and individual interests thus damaging the universal values of the society. In simple terms, changes may occur in such societies, because the majority that would eventually have the capacity and will to change this is already the constituent part of the existing system and they are satisfied and happy with it so far.

What is so specific about the regional countries regarding the regulation of transparency of ownership over media houses, including media financing, in comparison to traditional democratic countries in Western Europe?

Specificity of the region, in terms of the regulation defining and adjusting the ownership transparency issues, actually confirms the fact that it would be easier to have access to information regarding the geological chemical structure of the surface on Mars, then to get information about the real and actual media owners of media financial supporters that are in charge with the process of developing and setting up the collective consciousness amongst the public that simply follow them blindly. Although the Balkan region appeared as some kind of black hole (in relation with the media ownership transparency issues), tectonic and vast changes in this context indeed took place throughout Europe for the period of last ten years. With the increase of media influence, non-transparent capital in media has been increased accordingly, by both, political groups and (even) states (such as China and Russia), but also by organized crime groups that, (slowly but surely), comprehended the importance of influence and impact on media, all with the purpose of protecting their own criminal actions, activities and acquired powerful status in their community and even wider society. The result of these emerging trends was best seen through the increased number of false news, appearance of extremism, nationalism, xenophobia and conspiracy theory which altogether resulted in the establishment and development of populist movements that managed to seriously disturb and shake Western civilization that we know. British UKP and referendum on leaving the EU also represented the example of the above-mentioned impact on media particularly in the area of the internet, including the sharing of news and information through social media. What the consumers and users of such information failed to understand was that fact that serious amounts of money, (including serious state re and public organizations and political elites that through this way wanted to disable common sense – based and civic collective action) actually served as primary back up for the creation, production and distribution of such news.

Why is the transparency of media financing considered important for regional countries/candidates for full EU membership?

Bearing in mind the temporary crisis and destabilization of Europe, which emerged as a result of the recent Great Britain referendum, the European Commission, including other the European Union based bodies, along with the significant number of member countries, decided to take this issues into more serious consideration. According to this, the whole line of legal regulation was passed aimed and goal to produce clearer picture of financial, political and ownership impact on media, also allowing organized and financially powerful groups to, (by the use of their influence), ruin and devastate the crucial foundations of democracy and the rule of law. One of the directives establishing and ascertaining the issue of the prevention of terrorism financing and money laundry should also at the same time, have an impact on the issue of ownership transparency and the origin of capital appearing in media. Consequently, the rules defining the question of media ownership for countries in the process of EU admission shall significantly increase and widen.

How to measure media clientelism and how to respond to consequences deriving as a result of an unsettled media ownership?

Media clientelism as part of the MEDIA CIRCLE Project, the process of measurement in the West Balkan countries is conducted by the use of empirically ascertained information and data regarding the barriers and obstacles against the non-transparent and malignant impact on media and their effectiveness in the real environment where media houses operate. This is where the subtitle “measuring the reality” emerged from. Collected data and information, interpreted and analyzed by the organization involved in the project are state primary information and data which, through the use of matrix are put into the wider form of risk from clientelism and harmful manifests of clientelism appearing in media. Now, while the preparation for the third measuring is under the procedure , we could say that we successfully mapped and located the situations in certain countries of the West Balkans and that the recommendations based on ”how-to” speak for themselves since they are quite clear as anyone can see in our last year’s report.

Can transparent ownership over media be ensured and secured through a single new law or can it be guaranteed through amendments of other and existing laws setting off and regulating the issue of political party financing, conflict of interest, criteria for allocation of funds and means to media …?

The question and issue of ownership and media financing must primarily be solved within the existing legal framework that regulates media functioning and operating procedures. Only after these issues are regulated as part of media legal framework we could speak about the setting of wider environment where media houses exist in order to prevent the “slipping” of harmful practice into the grey zones of aliasing and overlapping of two or more laws. Therefore, the beginning is well known. It is the comprehensive law on media, followed by the detailed and rigorous definition of the question of media ownership and financing, regardless of other issues.

This text is a part of E-Bulletin– second edition of special serial of BHN online bulletin implemented through the “Media and Public Reputation” (origin. “Mediji i javni ugled”) project, also representing a contribution to public debate regarding the transparency of media ownership and upholding and encouraging the passing of set of laws aimed to advance media field and information market in BiH.