Does the law not
Ekonomist magazine, issue# 152, of April
By Milan Obradović
transformation and change in the media possible if the provisions of the
legislation which should finally regulate everything in this field are not
honoured at the very beginning of this Sisyphean labour? Can the public, after the appointment of
Broadcast Council members, screen the people who clear up and cloud over our
frequencies are one of the most valuable resources of every country, then it is
logical that the choice of people to regulate broadcasting should be given the
closest attention. This is the reason
the Broadcast Act prescribes that the Serbian Parliament should publicly
release the biographical facts on all candidates at least thirty days before
deciding on the appointment of Broadcast Council members. This provision makes it possible for the
public to voice their opinion on the candidates for the Broadcast Council
before they are appointed.
is because the procedure for their dismissal is so complicated as to be almost
impossible. And it was designed this
way so that Council members would be free from bias and under very little
influence from day-to-day politics.
However, this kind of protection would pose a problem in the case of
someone who does not meet the criteria making it onto the Council. The power of the public is demonstrated in
the case of a candidate for the Deputy Dean of Belgrade University’s Electrical
Engineering Faculty whose credibility and connections with the former regime
were questioned in public. The
candidacy was withdrawn.
the Serbian Government announced its candidate on April 8, Nenad Cekic, the
former director and editor-in-chief of Radio Indeks (and now an assistant
lecturer at the Faculty of Philosophy).
The Serbian Parliament also nominated its candidate on April 11, the
very day the Council members were to be appointed. This candidate was Vladimir Cvetkovic (an associate of the
Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory and a former member of the Radio
Indeks Board of Management). What is
curious is that the procedure for Broadcast Council nominations was stalled for
so long when the legislation was passed in July last year and why the
nominations and appointment of these two Council members was then carried out
with such haste. Is this an irrelevant
procedural error and, if so, why does the law contain this provision at all?
principal question raised by the fast-tracking of Council appointments is that
of conflict of interests. Just how
unbiased are these candidates and have they broken all ties with media
companies. Milos Zivkovic, lawyer and
member of the working group which drafted the Broadcast Act, believes that
there is one procedural error in connection with this:
concerns statements on conflict of interest which should have been taken before
the appointments and, as far as I know, this has not been done. Because the process of relieving people of
office is complicated, it requires 126 votes in the Parliament and only once it
is established that there is a conflict of interest, or if there is some other
reason envisaged by the law.
for the procedural error, that is the failure to honour the thirty-day
requirement for the publishing of biographies before the appointment. As far as I am aware, this has not been done
in the case of candidates Nenad Cekic and Vladimir Cvetkovic.,” said Zivkovic.
provision was modelled on British legislation and allows a public review of the
candidates’ qualifications. In Cekic’s
case, many people are asking whether he has only formally broken his ties with
companies which hold broadcasting licenses, which calls his lack of bias into
also took part in public debates where he questioned the entire legislation,
and how he is supposed to implement it.
And what is the reason for Cvetkovic’s appointment to the Broadcast
Council, does he have anything to do with media?” asks Rade Veljanovski,
journalist and a member of the working group which drafted the Broadcast Act.
of legal regulations, even if they are only procedural errors, are not a good
start for introducing order into Serbia’s media chaos. If the procedures are not important, why
were such provisions incorporated into the legislation in the first place and
why did the Parliament adopt them? And
does the United Kingdom, as the cradle of the rule of law, poor legislation
which prescribes the public’s judgement on important issues? Are there grounds to believe that in this
way someone is attempting to put “his own people” in such important positions.
were unable to contact those who nominated these two councillors or Vladimir
Cvetkovic. Nenad Cekic declined to
comment on these questions.
academic Vojin Dimitrijevic warns of the seriousness of the situation: “As the public has not given its opinion on
the Council members, perhaps proceedings should be instituted in the