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08. 09. 2009






The round table, entitled "Legal Monitoring of Serbian Media Scene", was held in the Media Center Belgrade, on September 8th, 2009, organized by ANEM, with support of USAID and IREX. The reason for this public meeting was the presentation of the first printed edition of ANEM identically-named Publication and monitoring reports for the period of May - July 2009, prepared by the monitoring team of the Law Office "Zivkovic & Samardzic", in cooperation with ANEM. The above Publication and Reports are part of a greater ANEM project "Legal monitoring of the Serbian media scene and follow-up activities", supported by USAID and IREX Serbia.

The meeting was attended by numerous representatives of ministries and relevant state bodies, regulatory bodies, NGOs, media associations, international organizations, donor community and by media experts.

As the representatives of competent state bodies there were present: Maja Rakovic,  Ministry of Culture; Jelena Surculija, Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Society; Nada Mijatovic, Ministry of Science and Technological Development; Lara Ergic, Ministry of Trade and Services; Jelena Trivan and Dragomir Petkovic, Culture and Information Committee of the Serbian Parliament; Nevena Ruzic, representative of the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection; Aleksandar Resanovic, representative of the Ombudsman; Zorica Gulas and Vladimir Maric, representatives of the Intellectual Property Office. Regulatory bodies were represented by: Goran Karadzic, Vice President of the RBA Council and Aleksandra Stefanovic, PR of RATEL. Besides them, representatives of the NGO sector, media associations and media experts were also present: Dragan Kremer, Medienhilfe Program Manager; Nemanja Nenadic, NGO "Transparency Serbia"; Rade Veljanovski, professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences; Milica Vasic, media magazine "LINK"; Vladan Filipcev, Chairman of the Local Press Managing Board; Svetozar Rakovic, Secretary of IJAS (NUNS); Nedim Sejdinovic, Secretary of ISJV (NDNV), Ljiljana Smajlovic, president of JAS (UNS) and Slobodan Kremenjak, lawyer, law office "Zivkovic & Samardzic". This public meeting was also attended by the representatives of the donor community: Ivan Vukojevic, USAID; Richard McClear and Ivana Bijelic from IREX; Miroslav Jankovic and Sanja Stankovic, Media Department of the OSCE Mission in Serbia; Vladan Joksimovic, representative of Council of Europe Office in Belgrade, Ivana Kahrmann, Norwegian People Aid (NPA) and Susana Jovanic, Fund for an Open Society (FOD).

At the beginning of the meeting, attendees were addressed by Richard McClear, Director of IREX Serbia, on behalf of USAID and IREX. He welcomed ANEM efforts directed towards the development of favorable media environment. He emphasized that, in order to achieve that, the work of a large number of people and a lot of time was necessary, and for that reason IREX worked together with a variety of relevant associations (ANEM, IJAS, JAS, Local Press, and others), supporting them in these efforts. To aim these activities in the right direction, ANEM was asked, in the name of all media organizations, to carry out legal monitoring, which provided guidance and reliable information on current developments in media regulation, with the analysis of the situation in the media. He pointed out that he was satisfied that IREX was part of this project, especially considering the results of monitoring.

Sasa Mirkovic, ANEM President, also welcomed the participants, drawing attention to the coincidence of the Publication issuing and this gathering with the early implementation of Amended Law on Public Information. Moreover, he added, the Law on National Councils of National Minorities would soon come into force, a legislation considered to be of great importance for both ANEM and media sector, because it affected current and future ownership of the stations. He explained that the monitoring reports provided more information about the legal effects of these laws as well as everything else important for the position of the media in Serbia today. He also stressed that the Publication was only one phase in the struggle to create better conditions for functioning of media in Serbia.

The first part of the round table was dedicated to the presentation of the first printed edition of ANEM Monitoring Publication.  All present participants got a copy of Publication.

Presenting the Publication as an upgrade of previously conducted three monthly monitoring, which had also served for the selection of topics, Jasna Milanovic, coordinator of ANEM, briefly set out the contents of this Publication. She stressed that, besides the introduction with a short summary of quarterly monitoring results (May - July 2009), the Publication also contained 5 articles - four authors' texts and one document of the Council of Europe. The first two out of four articles treated various aspects of violations of freedom of expression and media freedom, while the other two dealt with the regulations, which should enable a better economic situation of the broadcasters. The final document of the Council of Europe, "Indicators for media in a democracy", enables the assessment of the achieved level of freedom of expression, and therefore the democratization of society.

Out of authors, the first to address to attendees of the round table was Ms. Jelena Surculija, Assistant Minister for International Cooperation and European Integration in the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Society and an author of the text „The Process of Transition from Analog to Digital Broadcasting in Serbia". She briefly presented the content of her text (the Digitalization Strategy), adding to it new information about the activities of the Ministry in the process of digitalization and reform of electronic communications in our country. She particularly cited activities to be completed by the end of this year, as part of the Strategy's implementation plan: the ratification of the Final Acts from the Conference in Geneva and other relevant documents in the Parliament of Serbia; the creation of the conceptual design of the distribution network in which channels will be selected as per allocation zone, prepared by RATEL; the obligation of the Ministry to produce a financial plan for the purchase and distribution of set-up boxes, as well as the launching of an internet portal that will allow citizens to be acquainted more easily with the digitalization process.

Mr. Vladimir Maric, Head of the Trademarks Department in the Intellectual Property Office of the Republic of Serbia and author of one of the texts in the Publication entitled „The New Law on Copyright and Related Rights", presented the concepts contained in the said Law, in the draft which had been adopted at the session of the Government on the 3rd of September 2009. He explained that the reason for passing this Law was an attempt to remedy some poor solutions in the present legislation, which had created problems in practice. In his words, the new Law will guarantee more order and legal security in this area, particularly with regard to collective exercising of copyright and related rights, where an innovation, particularly important for the media, is that the tariffs will be decided upon by Mutual agreement. Important changes and better solutions have also been provided for in the part of the Law concerning author's right to allow or prohibit the broadcasting of his/her author's work, as well as the right to broadcasting and rebroadcasting of author's works. Mr. Maric said that the adopted text of the draft Law was slightly different from the original one, because the Copyright and Related Rights Commission was not to give approvals for tariff proposals, as it was previously provided form, but only an opinion, but that collective organizations would nevertheless not be able to determine tariffs independently anymore.

ANEM attorney Slobodan Kremenjak, the author of two texts in the Publication - "Case Studies: Freedom of Expression Breaches" and "Amendments to the Broadcasting Law", referring to various types of threats to freedom of expression and media freedom, said that the situation in the media in the last three months had escalated in a negative way. In his view, visible changes have happened in the media sector, but these changes were the result of an attempt of the government to boost the mechanisms of controlling and influencing the media and media regulators. Deeming it important for the media, he wrote about it in the Publication, highlighting the harmful effects of the said changes. Legal insecurity felt by the media, combined with the effects of the economic crisis, significantly contributed to the instability of the media sector, Kremenjak said.

In the second part of the round table, results of the legal monitoring were presented, through a brief review of the monitoring reports that have been published to the date. It served as an introduction to the debate about the situation of the media in Serbia, with the following general topics: the attitude of the government and competent authorities towards the media; the factors hampering the development of the media sector and the course of development thereof.

In his introduction, Attorney at Law Slobodan Kremenjak, as the head of the Monitoring Team, summed up the results of the monitoring and presented the findings and opinions of the expert team available in the reports, posted on the ANEM website. Indicating that the latest changes of the media regulatory framework had practically created a mechanism for the government to exert a far greater influence on the media, he reiterated that it was vital for the media sector for a development strategy to be brought about, in order to prevent further decline of the media.

ANEM Coordinator Jasna Milanovic said that the monitoring findings pointed to a lack of series of regulations in the media regulatory framework and that a major problem was also the inadequate application of already existing laws; that it was evident that the government was slow in passing new laws and amendments to existing ones when that was in the interest of the media and that, on the other hand, one could observe that the media laws were quickly passed when they were benefiting the government; that the Media Sector Development Strategy was necessary, but it ought not to be the result from the efforts of just one ministry and that a wider consensus of all relevant social factors was necessary for the adopted Strategy in order to be implemented later.

ANEM President Sasa Mirkovic informed the round table about the meeting held two weeks ago in the Ministry of Culture, the topic of which was establishing the working group for drafting the Media Sector Development Strategy. Apart from Mr. Mirkovic as the representative of ANEM, the meeting was attended by the representatives of IJAS (NUNS), JAS (UNS), Local Press and the Media Association. The inclusion of other players in the drafting of the Media Sector Development Strategy (other relevant ministries and government authorities, regulatory bodies, experts, the NGO sector, etc.) was also discussed. Mr. Mirkovic said they have been informed that the terms of office of the working group members and their deputies, as participants in the drafting of the Strategy, would be ratified on a session of the Government, because the latter wanted thereby to demonstrate that bringing about the Strategy was a priority in the area of media and media legislation.

Rade Veljanovski, Professor in the Faculty of Political Sciences, pointed out that, concerning the Media Sector Development Strategy, the Ministry of Culture had already discredited itself with regard to that matter. He indicated that two media laws had been recently amended without prior consultation with the working group for the drafting of these laws, set up by the Ministry itself, which, in his view, showed that the Ministry should not be the mainstay of that process. It would be good, he said, for the Government to provide genuine support to bringing about the Strategy, by saying which European standards and values it wished to protect; the adoption of the Strategy required a greater effort and better cooperation of all media professionals and association, the civil sector and other stakeholders.

Aleksandar Resanovic, the representative of the Ombudsman, said that the Ombudsman had established a fact that the Law on Amendments to the Public Information Law required special attention and pointed to certain problems - e.g. that the fines provided for therein were inappropriate, as well as that this Law, like many others, were passed without prior public consultation, although such consultation was a must, since the said Law was a systemic one. The Ombudsman believed that additional expert consultations needed to take place in order to determine if there were grounds for launching proceedings before the Constitutional Court of Serbia. The expert group is expected to hand down its opinion in a week, after which the Ombudsman will decide whether it will initiate such proceedings.

Jelena Trivan, MP, member of the Culture and Information Committee of the Serbian Parliament, informed the round table that the list of media associations with two candidates had been tabled to the Parliament and that non-governmental organization proposed five candidates, which was not in accordance with the law. She voiced her disagreement with the National Minorities' National Councils Law, for it was in direct contravention with the privatization of media, as well as for its insufficiently clear solutions leaving plenty of room for manipulation. Namely, there are no criteria for transfer of ownership to national councils; it is not known which national council ownership will be transferred to where the media is broadcasting in multiple languages, etc. The Law on Amendments to the Public Information Law has failed to provide for more stringent fines for violations of privacy rights and for hate speech, two major amendments related to these issues were not adopted and hence this kind of violation remained unsanctioned. Ms. Trivan also gave several monitoring related proposals: RRA should introduce, as a criterion for determining the level of the broadcasting fee, the coefficient of development of the region in which the media is situated; special attention should be devoted to applying the Government's urgent measures for helping media in crisis and oversee to whom and under which criteria budget resources were being allotted.

Vladan Joksimovic, Advisor, Council of Europe Office in Belgrade, pointed out to numerous resolutions and documents representing a standard the Council of Europe recommended to member countries, instructing them what they had to do and what standards they ought to observe regarding the media. He also stressed that the Council of Europe was willing to help member countries and the competent authorities in the process of media development; that the Council of Europe had voiced its disagreement over the modus operandi of the Ministry of Culture and shunning the working group in crucial instance; that they were willing to help and take part in the development of the Media Sector Development Strategy, but that so far nobody had invited them to join; that the Law on Media Concentration was at an impasse and that he wasn't sure if there was enough political will to put such law in force.

Nemanja Nenadic, representative of the "Transparency Serbia" NGO, proposed that future monitoring should also encompass grants and other disbursements from the budget to the media - private or public. He said that the Law on State Aid Control should be observed; he noted that it appeared that this law had been made and adopted merely to meet the formal criterion for Serbia to join the EU, because the practice was very diverse, as if this law didn't exist. He agreed with the monitoring conclusion that the legal possibility for overcoming the obstruction of the election of RRA Council members already existed in the previous law, therefore there was no need to amend it.

Sanja Stankovic, Legal Advisor to the Media Department of the OSCE Mission in Serbia said that the OSCE was willing to enable the completion of the drafting process of the media legislation under its auspices - especially the Broadcasting Law, which was initiated in the Ministry of Culture - in cooperation with the civil sector's working group, which would enjoy the assistance of the OSCE and the Council of Europe. According to OSCE information, the Law on Media Concentration and Transparency of Media Ownership is currently being considered by other ministries that will hand down their opinion, after which the Ministry of Culture will table the draft Law to the Government and it will enter parliamentary procedure.

Aleksandra Stefanovic, PR of RATEL, said, in responding to questions: that RATEL was still awaiting the response of the Government to the proposed linear reduction of fees by 5% that would apply to broadcasters; that in the case of shutting down pirate broadcasters, they were yet to receive any assistance by the Ministry of Interior, although it had been envisaged by government measures; that in calculating the amount of the fee, RATEL was also using the coefficient of development of the area in question, taking into account the unequal economic power of the broadcasters.

Zorica Gulas, Head of the Copyright and Related Rights Department of the Intellectual Property Office explained that the Government merely gave a recommendation for reducing the tariffs of collective societies and that the Government's authority ended there, because according to present regulations, collective societies were independent in their activities and determining the tariff; for the time being, that issue remained unchanged, but there were signs that discussions would be organized, namely between SOKOJ and OFPS , both individually with ANEM.

Dragomir Petkovic, Secretary of the Culture and Information Committee of the Parliament of Serbia, informed the round table: that the joint list of media associations with two candidates for membership in the RRA Council, as a lawful one, had been submitted for consideration to the Parliament; that the list included Gordana Susa and Milan Becejic; that the NGO sector had proposed five candidates; that another meeting was expected to be held, where the list of five NGO candidates for membership in the RRA Council would be reduced to two, as required by law, after which the list would enter parliamentary procedure; that the candidates would be decided upon either at the regular autumn session in October or prior to that, if any extraordinary sessions are held.

Suzana Jovanic from the Fund for an Open Society said that this kind of analysis of the media sector, such as legal monitoring, were used to generate new ideas about how the future media development strategy should look like. Monitoring was needed and should be continued, but it was time for the media to stop dealing with what had already happened and start shaping its own future. In her opinion, in cooperation with the civil sector, the media should make their own draft Strategy and then fight for it to be integrated by the Government in its documents.

Conclusions of the Round Table:

The participants of the Round Table have agreed that it is regrettable that important legislation for the position of the media were adopted without the participation of the public, hastily and as a result of political will and interests. With such actions the Government shows that it is reluctant to give up its influence in this area. At the same time, the needs and requirements of the media sector are not given sufficient consideration and hence the survival of many media outlets is threatened. The existing situation in the media imposes a pressing continuation of reforms. In order for the reforms to be properly implemented, it is important to bring about a Media Sector Development Strategy that would comprehensively regulate this domain. The Strategy should be the result of a wider societal consensus, in order to be implementable, but that does not exclude the possibility for media professionals and media associations, in cooperation with the civil sector and experts, to put forward their own draft strategy and fight for its adoption. In achieving that, the monitoring of the media scene represents an important instrument, which is pointing to what is missing and what should be revised in media regulations and practice, in order to create a better environment for the development of media. The monitoring should therefore be continued and its results can serve as guidelines for drafting the needed strategy.

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