Serbian Pledge To Uphold Free Media Welcomed

Serbia’s new government has promised to bring in fresh legislation guaranteeing freedom of the media as well as acting on the basis of the media strategy – the key stategy document adopted by the last government.Bratislav Petkovic, Serbia’s Culture and Information Minister, said that the government will adopt a package of bills ensuring the freedom and independence of the media.The minister also said that the country’s media strategy, adopted under the previous government, represented a solid basis for further work.

The ministry “continues to work on five legal projects that the previous government started,” Petkovic informed the daily newspaper Danas.

The bills include laws on broadcasting, the state-owned news agency Tanjug, public information and public broadcasters.

The previous government led by Mirko Cvetkovic adopted a long awaited media strategy in September 2011 as part of Serbia’s EU integration agenda.

The strategy covering the period until 2016 anticipates the withdrawal of the state from media ownership, the establishment of six regional public broadcasters and the possibility of ethnic minority national councils retaining the right to establish media in minority languages.

None of the things have been done so far, however.

A report by the country’s anti-corruption council, issued last September, said the former ruling Democratic Party effectively controlled the media scene in Serbia through the patronage of advertising.

Following the Democrats’ defeat in the presidential and parliamentary elections in May, the links between the party and the media have come under closer scrutiny.

The new government, which comprises the Serbian Progressive Party, the Socialist Party and the United Regions of Serbia, has reiterated that it will not interfere with editorial policy.

It “will neither directly nor indirectly exert any pressure on the media,” Minister Petkovic insisted.

The OSCE Mission to Serbia said it welcomed the minister’s words, cautioning that new legislation should not be brought forward in haste.

Dragana Nikolic Solomon, head of the OSCE Media Department, said that legislation needed to to be implementable and high in quality.

“It is important to include all relevant stakeholders in the media field in this process in a transparent and open manner,” Nikolic Solomon told Balkan Insight.

“Draft legislation should be appraised by relevant international experts from the Council of Europe prior to its adoption,” she added, saying that the OSCE Mission to Serbia was ready to help the authorities bring in the legislative framework.

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