forum on the demand to replace members of the Broadcast
OSCE urges transparency
in media appointments
BELGRADE, July 3, 2003 – The head of the
OSCE mission to Serbia-Montenegro, Maurizio Massari,
has called for legitimacy and transparency in the
appointment of members to Serbia’s Broadcast Council.
Massari told Beta news agency that the OSCE was trying
to convince itself that all institutional obstacles
to the work of the media had been overcome, primarily
with regards the Broadcast Council.
He said that in talks with the prime minister and
the government the OSCE had sought a legitimate and
transparent means of electing members to the Council,
so it could be recognised and begin work. (Beta)
ANEM: repeat Broadcast
BELGRADE, July 3, 2003 – The Association
of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) has asked that
the appointment procedure to the Broadcast Council
Dismissing today’s meeting of the Serbian parliament’s
Culture and Information Committee, ANEM said that
the law had been violated in the election of three
of the nine members of the Council. Parliament must
annul the appointments procedure “due to its obvious
illegality” and repeat the entire process, said the
ANEM statement. (B92)
NGOs shun Broadcast
BELGRADE, July 3, 2003 (FoNet) - A group
of top Serbian NGOs has turned down an invitation
to a parliamentary committee debate on the selection
of members to the Broadcast Council.
In an open letter, the NGOs agreed it was impossible
to correct the illegal appointment of Council members
"in any other way but to repeat the legal procedure".
It was signed by, among others, the Belgrade Human
Rights Centre, Women in Black, the Humanitarian Law
Centre, the Ethnic Relations Forum, CeSid, and Otpor.
The Broadcast Council has been embroiled in controversy
after media watchdogs and NGOs objected to a number
of its members.
Council appointments “damaging”
to broadcast watchdog
BELGRADE, April 22, 2003 -- A fierce debate
has developed about the legality of procedures in
appointing two members of the Serbian Broadcast Agency
Council on April 11.
Three major Serbian media associations, the Independent
Association of Serbian Journalists, the Association
of independent Electronic Media and the Spektar association
of Serbian broadcasters, have demanded the dismissal
of the two councillors. In a submission to the Serbian
Parliament the associations describe the appointment
procedure as being in breach of Serbia’s Broadcast
Act and also warn of a potential conflict of interests.
Ian Willem Blankert,
the European Commission delegate to Serbia-Montenegro,
said that the objections gave cause for concern. “We
have been informed that three respected media associations
have appealed to the parliament against the procedure
in which some members of the Council were nominated.
We are concerned that, from the outset, there could
be reasons to call into question the legitimacy of
a body charged with extremely important and responsible
US Ambassador Extremely
Disappointed at Status of Media
Belgrade, June 5, 2003 In an interview to Belgrade’s
NIN weekly magazine, US ambassador to Belgrade William
Montgomery said: “We have made considerable efforts
here in the past decade to help develop a truly independent,
accountable journalism. I am extremely disappointed
not only because this did not happen at a pace which
I expected, but also because of the fact that there
are some people in the government itself who still
perceive the media as something that could be manipulated,
or something the government may use as a weapon.”
Massari: The Law
was Broken in the Broadcasting Council’s Constituting,
Belgrade, June 9, 2003 (VIP Daily News Report)
-- In the constituting of the Broadcasting Council
certain legal provisions on the manner of electing
its members were violated, and the OSCE has pointed
this out to the Serbian authorities, said the head
of the OSCE Mission in Serbia and Montenegro, Maurizio
In regard to the remarks by media associations concerning
the violation of the legal procedure in the election
of certain members of the Broadcasting Council, Massari
told Beta that the OSCE welcomed the formation of
that body after a several-month delay, since it was
necessary for the implementation of the Law on Broadcasting.
“The formation of the Council and its composition
were approved by the parliament and we respect that
decision. At the same time, we are aware of the fact
that certain provisions of the law have been violated
and we appealed to those responsible to try to respond
to this violation of the procedure”, said Massari.
Commenting on the objections of the media to certain
provisions of the Law on Public Informing, Massari
said that the OSCE “believed this law to be a step
in the right direction”.
“We believe it is better to have that law than not
to have it. That does not mean it is perfect”, Massari
Andric, the chairman of the Serbian Parliament’s
Committee for Culture and Information, said on April
17 that the decision would stand for the moment, although
the committee would honour any proceedings demanded
of it. He went on to announce that the next session
of the Serbian Parliament would debate the Telecommunications
Bill and that the Access to Information Bill would
also be tabled in the near future. Andric said that
these two bills would complete Serbia’s media legislation
and that there would be no further need for changes.
the president of the Independent Association of Serbian
Journalists described the Broadcast Act and the Council
as being long overdue. “The deadline for the establishment
of the Council was exceeded by six months. Having
had to wait so long, we could have survived another
month for the sake of having the members elected in
accordance with the law. A beginning where a member
is appointed without regard to the law is a bad beginning
and we urge that the matter be brought into line with
one of the media legislation’s architects and an associate
of the Yugoslav Lawyer’s Committee for Human Rights,
described the appointments as adding to legal insecurity.
“If the law is breached by the parliament which passed
it, it is doubtful that the public and broadcasters
will respect it; given that this council will rule
on broadcasting licences, why should those who are
refused licences honour its decisions?”
the director of the European Agency for Reconstruction
said on April 17 that he was aware of the claims and
criticism, adding that they should be addressed to
the parliament. “The legal sectors of the government
and the parliament should consider the grounds for
these accusations and the ways in which to respond
On April 17 the European Agency for Reconstruction
signed a memorandum of understanding with the Serbian
Government and the OSCE Mission in Serbia-Montenegro
which regulates the support to be provided by these
two international organisations for the establishment
of the Broadcast Agency.
the OSCE ambassador in Belgrade, told B92 on April
“We are aware of certain criticism regarding appointments
to the Council and we know that the 30-day provision
in the Law on setting up the Council was not, in this
“Respect for the legal procedures needs to be regarded
- as the rule of law in any democratic country - including
of course Serbia is paramount.
“In this specific case, however, we believe that
the Serbian parliament tried in good faith and with
the consensus of different political forces, to speed
up procedures in order to break the deadlock, which
has created a serious obstacle to the implementation
of the law.
“If some provisions of the law have not been fully
observed, the competent authorities may try to redress
the situation, amending some of their decisions, in
order to seek the largest possible consensus, without
in any way endangering the whole process.”
the director of the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights
and an expert in international law, had said earlier
that he was interested in procedures, not personalities,
adding that it was important not to repeat the situation
which occurred with the nomination of long-time Milosevic
Socialist Zoran Petrovic, who collaborated in the
purge of the universities and the beating of students
in 1999 and 2000.
In this case, said Dimitrijevic, the government admitted
it had erred. He emphasised that the regulation concerning
advance publication of nominations was in the legislation
for a reason.
“I am disappointed that the OSCE’s Belgrade media
office sees the parliament as having the right to
flout the law in the name of broad public interest.
“How can a parliament which has passed a law fail
to respect that same law? If we adopt the logic that
public interest justifies flouting the law and return
to the Stalinist era, then who defines what the public
The chairman of
the OSCE, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, has reacted
strongly to the irregular appointment of two members
of Serbia’s new Broadcast Agency Council.
Speaking to media in Belgrade yesterday, Scheffer
was asked to comment on breaches of the law in institutional
“Laws may never be broken, anywhere, whether in Serbia-Montenegro,
the Netherlands or anywhere else,” he replied.
Scheffer, who is also the Netherlands’ foreign minister,
added that this was a general principle which existed
in black and white throughout the OSCE and in other
the special envoy to Serbia-Montenegro of the secretary-general
of the Council of Europe:
“I can understand that in the interest of pragmatism
and to get things going – because we have been waiting
for a very long time for this Broadcast Agency and
there is no doubt that it is important for it to start
working. I can understand that one can be of the opinion
that it is not so important perhaps that the law has
not been fully respected in this case, but the fact
remains that it has not been fully respected.
I met last week with the minister for human rights
and minorities, Mr Ljajic, for other purposes originally,
but I used the opportunity to share with him our concerns
about this situation”
Ms Taylor told daily Danas on April 22, that, although
she was satisfied with the appointment of the Broadcasting
Council, a legal procedure, foreseen by the Law on
Broadcasting, was violated during the appointing process.
She said she would pass the message to Serbia and
Montenegro representatives -- that the Council of
Europe was not satisfied with the way that Broadcasting
Agency was formed and addede that this organisation
insisted on respect of the legal procedure.
editor-in-chief of Radio Belgrade’s First Program
and a long time associate of weekly Vreme, said that
the legal procedure must be honoured in any case.
“I don’t think that the principle guiding the nominations
was good and I cannot believe that there were no other
people in Serbia who could have been elected”.