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02. 07. 2002

ANEM objects to New Democracy response

ANEM takes exception to a statement today from New Democracy in response to its press release yesterday on the withdrawal of the Broadcasting Bill from the Parliament.

New Democracy described the ANEM statement as an attack on its proposed amendments to the bill.

ANEM emphasises that it was in fact protesting the Serbian Government’s decision to withdraw the draft legislation from parliamentary procedure.

The Serbian Government originally submitted the bill to the Parliament on April 14, this year, with the request that it be put into emergency procedure.  The proposal was signed by New Democracy’s leader, Deputy Prime Minister Dusan Mihajlovic on behalf of the government.  ANEM at the time saluted this decision of the Serbian Government.

However at the beginning of June, New Democracy’s Dragan Jovanovic described the legislation as seriously flawed and announced that the party would ask the government to withdraw the bill.

Jovanovic noted at the time that the party’s objections concerned the manner proposed for the election of the Council of the Republic Radio Broadcasting Agency, the financing of the public radio broadcasting sector from compulsory subscriptions and certain provisions limiting the establishment of new radio and television stations.

“NGOs, groups of citizens and religious communities may establish broadcasters, but political parties may not,” said the New Democracy representatives, adding that the party would not accept being described as ugly, dirty or evil, nor that NGOs and non-politically oriented groups should have any kind of privileges.

One important provision of the draft legislation envisages that in the distribution of broadcast frequencies, the competent body would take into account the contribution made by the applicant to democratic relations and pluralism of opinion as the raising of the general cultural and education level of the society.  This would mark a clean break with the practice of allocating frequencies in return for political obedience.  However New Democracy’s representative on the Serbian Parliament Information Committee, Bosko Nicic, yesterday called for “the introduction of the principle of moral political eligibility in the allocation of frequencies”.  This can only be interpreted as New Democracy being in favour of broadcasters retaining privileges obtained through patronage under the former regime.

It is ANEM’s contention that the government has withdrawn the draft legislation because a section of the governing coalition is not ready for genuine democratisation of the electronic media in line with prevailing European standards.  There have certainly been some positive efforts from within the government, for example from Deputy Prime Minsiter Zarko Korac who has advocated the adoption of this bill.  The amendments submitted by New Democracy and others have merely been used as an excuse to withdraw the draft from procedure.

The New Democracy amendments encroach on the very essence of the legislation and its aim of transforming the state broadcaster into a public service and secure the full independence of the Council of the Republic Radio Broadcasting Agency through the manner of electing its members.  Nor can the intention of the amendments be disguised by pointing to a combination of French and Ukrainian experience or the experience of other European countries.

The draft prescribes that the members of the Council are elected by the Parliament but limits the Parliament in its choice to persons nominated by a broad circle of fifteen nominating parties representing diverse interests of the state.  However New Democracy has now proposed that the Council members be nominated by the president of Serbia, the government and the party caucuses.  It is thus obvious that New Democracy’s aim is to strengthen the political control of the Council and thus control of the media.

ANEM will continue to advocate new media legislation which will effectively protect the media in Serbia from any attempt to apply political influence to their operations.

Veran Matic

Chairman ANEM

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