MATIC (ANEM PRESIDENT) SPEECH AT THE CONFERENCE OPENING
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today is World Human Rights Day. It is therefore
symbolic that it is today that we are opening this conference focusing
on one of the basic human rights freedom of speech and expression.
This unalienable right will be a cornerstone of the changes that
we intend to make in our country. It is a right that has been abused
in recent years, and many journalists suffered in their struggle
to gain it.
In spite of that, a large independent media
scene has managed to survive and develop in Yugoslavia. It helped
bring about the non-violent changes that occurred on October 5th.
If we fail to understand the necessity for profound reform, we could
be led into new and dangerous crises.
The independent media which represented
the parallel Yugoslav society and kept its bridges open with the
outside world is one of the few valuable assets from previous years
which will help enormously in the change to democracy. In December
1998, again in co-operation with the Council of Europe, we organised
the very first conference on Media for a Democratic Europe here
in Belgrade and so launched the process of our integration into
European institutions. We in the independent media felt ourselves
to be part of those institutions. Today, this process is being mirrored
at state level in Yugoslavia. This conference should help us find
the way forward for all the changes that must be implemented in
the field of the media, to help our country choose democracy for
once and for all and to become an equal partner in all international
institutions. Changes are necessary throughout the media and not
just in the sector we will discuss in the next two days, the reform
of the state radio and tv systems and the distribution of broadcasting
frequencies. Other changes must also follow in the other large state
media companies, in commercial media and in independent media. So
far the roles have been mixed, with independent media playing the
role of public media, state media playing the role of political
party media and commercial media promoting a cultural model that
represented the very foundation of the repressive regime.
By applying international standards and
building on our good reputation, I hope we can manage to develop
media systems that would, along with other state mechanisms, help
us forever avoid the situation in which one person, one family or
one party can be in a position to cause so much evil, like the regime
led by Slobodan Milosevic was.
We from the independent media want to draw
on our established contacts and existing expertise to help our governments,
ministries, and all those committed to the swift implementation
of democracy in the country through reforms in the field of media.
This conference, as well as future projects we have in the pipeline,
should be understood in this sense.
It is clear that we cannot do it all at
once. Such processes will often be painful for society. Therefore
I think we all need good will, tolerance and a wish to negotiate;
we need debates, expert opinions and interim solutions that would
help prevent conflicts; and we need a willingness to dedicate ourselves
over the long term in order to build a healthy society.
At the same time, we have to prevent the
events that usually happened in other countries in transition: the
disappearance of the very independent media and non-government organisations
that are the only guarantors of the balanced development of civil
society. We must avoid the mistakes in the media systems of westerm
societies – the globalisation of media systems and brutal commercialisation.
Unfortunately, we had to deal with both the brutality of the indoctrinated
local media, and the frequent failure of the western media to break
free from their own constraints of superficiality, stereotypes,
and the trap of commercialism. I would like to welcome all of you
who came to help us in these efforts.