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Public forum on the demand to replace members of the Broadcast Agency Council

 

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 Council election
BELGRADE, July 3, 2003 –
The Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) has asked that the appointment procedure to the Broadcast Council be repeated.

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 Council debate
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 duties”.

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 Massari.

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 underlined.

Ivan AndricIvan 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.

Milica Lucic-Cavic, 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 the law”.

Dejan Milenkovic, 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?”

Richard Zink, 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 to them”.

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.

Maurizio Massari, the OSCE ambassador in Belgrade, told B92 on April 22:

“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 case observed.

“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.”

Vojin Dimitrijevic, 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 interest is?”

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 appointments.

“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 organisations.

Verena Taylor, 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.

Dusan Radulovic, 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”.

Front page of special

News

Chronology of events

 


DOCUMENTS

Media situation in Serbia, May 2003

Invitation to dialogue between government and media

Full text of the demand to replace two members of the Broadcast Agency Council

 


ANALYSIS

Srecko Mihajlovic: Lost in advance: the battle against pubic

Does the law not matter?

IFJ Warns of “Damage to Integrity of Broadcasting Law”

SEEMO Concerned over Press Freedoms in Serbia

 
FORUM

OSCE urges new election for broadcast monitoring body

CPJ concerned about government harrassment of the press

IPI Serbia Alert

RWB Call for re-election of council

OSCE urges transparency in media appointments

ANEM: repeat Broadcast Council election

NGOs shun Broadcast Council debate

EC Charge d’Affaires: Cause for concern

US Ambassador Extremely Disappointed at Status of Media

Verena Taylor: Legal procedure was not respected

OSCE Chairman: Laws may never be broken

Head of OSCE Mission: (1) “Aware of certain criticism”

Dimitrijevic: Against flouting of law in name of public interest

Head of OSCE Mission: (2) The law was broken in the Broadcasting Council’s constituting

Andric: Decision will stand

Milivojevic: If there is suspicion about autonomy form outset, Council will not be able to operate.

Veljanovski: There is deliberate negative pressure from the authorities.

Lucic-Cavic: Angry that candidate of professional associations, one of our greatest media experts, won’t be sitting on the Council

Matic: Not only an issue for our profession, it is a problem for the entire society

Lucic-Cavic: We could have survived another month

Milenkovic: Will broadcasters follow Parliament’s suit in breaching law?

Radulovic: Guiding principle was bad

Zink: Govt and parliament should consider grounds and response


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