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SEEMO protest Serbia

 

Mr. Zoran Zivkovic
Prime Minister of Serbia
Belgrade
Serbia
By Fax: + 381 11 361 76 09

Ms. Natasa Micic
President of the Parliament
Belgrade
Serbia
By Fax: +381 11 682 850

Vienna, 24 April 2003

Your Excellency,

The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), is deeply concerned about press freedom developments in Serbia, including irregularities in the appointment of two members of the Broadcast Agency Council; the verbal attacks against Gordana Susa, a journalist for the TV news programme "VIN"; the threats against Vukasin Obradovic, editor-in-chief of Novine Vranjske; and the government's prevention of the privatisation of Radio B92.

According to our sources, the appointment on 11 April of two Serbian Broadcast Agency Council members, based on nominations made by the Serbian Government and National Assembly, was in breach of the procedures defined in Article 24 (12) of the Broadcast Act. This Article provides that the Parliament must publish at least 30 days in advance of the day of selection of Council members all valid lists of nominees as proposed by competent bodies, complete with biographical data of the nominees. Whereas biographies of all other selected nominees were published in advance, the nomination of Nenad Cekic was published only on 8 April, i.e., only three days ahead of his election, while the nomination of Vladimir Cvetkovic was announced only on 11 April, the day of the selection of the Council members.

According to information before SEEMO, Gordana Susa, editor-in-chief of the political TV programme "VIN", received a telephone call from senior governmental official Vladimir "Beba" Popovic after her programme, aired on 18 April by TV B92 and the ANEM Network, featured an interview with the Serbian deputy prime minister Nebojsa Covic. Popovic verbally insulted and threatened the journalist for asking the deputy prime minister about Popovic 's status at the Serbian government Communications Bureau and his presence at briefings for media editors and journalists organised regularly by the government during the state of emergency. Susa's questions were based on growing public speculation about the official position of Popovic, who had reportedly left his post as the government's Communications Bureau chief but turned up at the briefings for media editors in the aftermath of the prime minister Zoran Djindjic's assassination and the introduction of the state of emergency. According to information received by SEEMO via its help-line for journalists in South East Europe, this was not the first incident involving Popovic.

Furthermore, SEEMO is informed that on the night of 19 April, unknown perpetrators damaged the car of Vukasin Obradovic, editor-in-chief of Novine Vranjske. The incident took place in the night of the announcement that public prosecutors planned to bring charges against Serbian Orthodox Bishop Pahomije. At the beginning of January, Novine vranjske started publishing a series of articles about five children from Vranje, who accused Bishop Pahomije of sexual abuse and brought criminal charges against him. On 20 April, a person who claimed to be a member of the organisation "Black Hand" threatened two of the witnesses in this case. Already at the beginning of March, Obradovic and his colleague, Goran Antic, received death threats in a letter signed by "Srpski oslobodilacki otpor" (Serbian Liberation Resistance) and "Srpski oslobodilacki front" (Serbian Liberation Front).

Finally, SEEMO is concerned about the fact that the privatisation auction of part of the Belgrade-based Radio B 92, planned for 7 April, was stopped by the government agency responsible for privatisation. Technical reasons were cited for this action, but no details for a new auction date have been published. In the view of SEEMO, the stoppage of the privatization procedures makes it difficult for B92 to continue its day-to-day work as the leading independent radio station in Serbia.

SEEMO urges Your Excellency to do everything in your power to ensure that journalists in Serbia are allowed to carry out their profession without fear of harassment or intimidation, and to examine all illegal procedures that were used against the media during the state of emergency.

Furthermore, we urge the Government and the Parliament of Serbia to check all accusations regarding Vladimir Popovic since he started his work for the government. We also ask you to dismiss the illegally elected Broadcast Agency Council members and to repeat the nomination procedure for these two posts.

Finally, we expect the government to ask Parliament to make changes in the Public Information Act in order to block all provisions of the Act that were not accepted by the working group for preparation of media laws. An example for this is the Article of the Act allowing the state to found news agencies.

We thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

Oliver Vujovic
SEEMO Secretary General

**********
SEEMO - IPI, Spiegelgasse 2/29, 1010 Vienna, Austria,
Tel (SEEMO+HELP LINE):
+43 1 513 39 40, Tel (IPI): +43 1 512 90 11,
Fax: +43 1 512 90 15,
E-mail: seemo@journalist.com,
http://www.freemedia.at/seemo

SEEMO is a regional network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe. SEEMO Secretary General: Oliver Vujovic. SEEMO Board: Radomir Licina - President, Samra Luckin, Stjepan Malovic, Risto Popovski, Mircea Toma, Remzi Lani and Ognian Zlatev. SEEMO Coordinators: Albania - Frrok Cupi, Bosnia Herzegovina - Zoran Udovicic, Bulgaria - Maria Yaneva, Croatia - Danko Plevnik, Greece – Georgios Papadakis, Republic of Macedonia (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) - Risto Popovski, Moldova - Angela Sirbu, Romania - Dan Preda, Serbia – Veran Matic, Montenegro - Zeljko Ivanovic, Kosovo - Haqif Mulliqi. Observers: Cyprus, Hungary and Slovenia. SEEMO Corporate Members: Alternative Information Network - AIM, ACCESS - Media Association (Sofia), Association of Independent Electronic Media - ANEM (Belgrade), Albanian Media Institute (Tirana), Bosnia and Herzegovina's Radio Network - Boram (Sarajevo), beograd.com (Belgrade), Bulgarian Investigative Journalists' Association - IJA (Sofia), RTV B 92 (Belgrade), Beta News Agency (Belgrade), Contact radio Romania (Bucharest), Danas (Belgrade), Dnevnik (Skopje), Ekonomist magazine (Belgrade), FoNet News Agency (Belgrade), Radio Television Kosova – RTK (Pristina), Contact Network, Media Development Center - MDC (Sofia), Media Plan Institute (Sarajevo), Media Center (Belgrade), Academia Catavencu (Bucharest), Macedonian Media Center (Skopje), ONASA News Agency (Sarajevo), Romanian Radio Broadcasting Corporation (Bucharest), Makfax News Agency (Skopje), International Center for Education of Journalists - ICEJ (Opatija), Csaladi Kör (Novi Sad), Macedonian Institute for Media (Skopje), Media Centar (Sarajevo), International Journalism Center of Moldova - IJC (Chisinau)

 

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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