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Media associations' statement on Draft Media Strategy

(ANEM/IFEX) - Belgrade, September 14, 2011 - The Working Group formed by the Prime Minister, Mirko Cvetkovic, harmonized, on September 8, the Draft Media Strategy of Serbia with the adopted amendments relating to the media sector, except in the section relating to the establishment of regional public service broadcasters.

Journalists' organizations, including the Independent Journalists' Association of Serbia (NUNS), the Journalists' Association of Serbia (UNS), the Independent Journalists' Association of Vojvodina (NDNV), and media associations, namely the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM), Local Press and Media Association, welcome the fact that the long-lasting process of preparation for the Media Strategy of Serbia is nearing completion.

The media sector expects that the adoption of the document will result in the introduction of rules and standards in the chaotic media scene in Serbia.

Media and journalists' associations have invested enormous efforts to provide feedback on crucial modifications in this significant document. Numerous compromises have been made with the aim to allow its final completion.

Media associations and journalists' organizations are satisfied with some of the document's provisions, but are cautiously reserved with regard to other provisions. At the same time, they consider the section of the Draft Media Strategy that is related to regional public service broadcasters to be completely unacceptable and practically unsustainable.

The media sector demands that this section of the Draft Media Strategy be completely revoked and that the legal regulations related to public service broadcasters be thoroughly redefined.

The media sector had insisted on the adoption of seven amendments as a condition for its participation in the activities of the Working Group. However, the amendment on regional public service broadcasters was rejected, while the other amendments have been adopted, with certain modifications.

The media sector demands that all imprecise definitions be removed from the final text of the Media Strategy, since they would allow subsequent ambiguous interpretations by the government and differing legal procedures, mostly with regard to media ownership and withdrawal of the state from media ownership.

Journalists' and media associations are also dissatisfied with the fact that, according to the proposed Strategy, National Councils of National Minorities will be allowed to establish media outlets - and not only print media outlets. They are concerned over the possibility that the proposed provisions would allow the National Councils to monopolize the dissemination of news on minorities, especially since the proposed Strategy offers almost no guarantees that the editorial independence and objectivity of these media outlets would be protected.

The media sector insists that the already harmonized fundamental demands of journalists' organizations and media associations remain unchanged during the final consultations within the Government of Serbia and the adoption of the proposed Strategy by the Government, including the demands related to safeguarding competition and the introduction of European rules on state aid as of January 1, 2012.

Journalists' and media associations reserve the right to voice their individual opinions about the Media Strategy after the adoption of the executive document by the Government of Serbia.

Media associations and journalists' organizations will continue to actively monitor the implementation of the Media Strategy and do everything in their power to achieve its full realization.

The Working Group tasked with drafting the text of the Draft Media Strategy until 2016 was formed by the Prime Minister, Mirko Cvetkovic, at the initiative of the Ministry of Culture, Media and Information Society, and is comprised of the following members: the president of the Group, Dragana Milicevic Milutinovic (state secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Media and Information Society), Irina Reljin (Ministry of Culture, Media and Information Society), Goran Radosavljevic (Ministry of Finance), Srdjan Majstorovic (Office for European Integration), Jelena Trivan (Parliament's Culture and Information Committee), Dragan Penezic (Commission for the Protection of Competition), Ranka Vujovic (The Republic Secretariat for Legislation), Zoran Sekulic (representative of the media sector) and Sandra Basic Hrvatin (European Commission expert).

During the period August 22 - September 8, 2011, six meetings of the Working Group were held, with participation from representatives of the Delegation of the European Union in Serbia who were joined by the OSCE representatives at a later point.

The formation of the Working Group was preceded by a public discussion about the Draft Media Strategy, organized in the period between June 1 and July 15, 2011.

The Draft Media Strategy was prepared during the period April 20 - June 1, by the originally formed seven-member Working Group of Experts of the Ministry of Culture, Media and Information Society, with five representatives of journalists' organizations and associations and two representatives of the Ministry.

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