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Reactions on new media laws

After six years, the new laws on Public information and media, ‎on Electronic media and on Public service media were adopted by the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia on August‎ 2nd 2014. According to Minister for Culture and Public information Ivan Tasovac, the main goal of passing new media laws was to obtain a framework for much better information of citizens and creation of better working conditions for the media and journalists.

MPs have adopted Bill on Public Information and Media as an umbrella bill, Bill on Public Broadcasting Services and Bill on Electronic Media. The Minister emphasized that according to the new laws mandatory privatization of remaining publicly owned media has to be done until 1st of July ‎2015, that laws regulates transparency in the media ownership structures, define public interest in the filed of public information, and regulates protection of media pluralism.

Public comments are divided. Journalists’ Union of Serbia and the Coalition of media employees have asked today President Tomislav Nikolic not to sign a media laws because the laws are in contradiction with the Constitution of Serbia, Media Strategy and European practice and are discriminating to citizens.

During the parliamentary debate head of the parliamentary group of the Democratic Party Borislav Stefanovic has asked the Minister Tasovac if he has any message for those who were regularly paying TV subscription because one out of set of media laws provided its abolition, but without sanctions for those who have not been fulfilling this duty.

Stefanovic said that he does not believe that the European Commission has required from the Government of Serbia to abolish local and regional media services and pointed out that in this case these media will be shut down, journalists will lose their jobs, and citizens will be left without informing about the local issues.

Speaking about the Republic Broadcasting Agency, head of the Democrats in parliament, said that “it is eroded by corruption, it has too much authority,” and as the deficiency indicated that the Bill on electronic media does not specify that a member of the Council of RBA can not be the person who has been convicted.

He was confident that the government will absolutely control the media and work as before, and that in the future there will not be opposition.

On the other hand, the Head of EU Delegation to Serbia Michael Davenport said that the adoption of a set of media laws will be a big step forward in aligning with European standards by announcing that the European Commission report on screening for Chapter 10 which refers to the media sphere, will soon be released. He wrote on his twitter account (@DavenportEUSrb) “#srbijamediji Serbia finally got a new media legislation in line with European trends. Congratulations!” and “Thanks to the new media laws state funds will be available to all media in Serbia through project financing. #srbijamediji.”

The Association of Journalists of Serbia pointed out that the Law on Public Information and the Media does not prescribe a minimum allocation of money from the budget for the project financing of the public interest in the area of information. “If the minimum amount of funding for the public interest is not determined on time, there is a risk of abuse of the Law on Public Information and the Media because local authorities will have a strong blackmailing potential on media,” said the UNS.

The Director General of Radio Television of Vojvodina (RTV) Srdjan Mihajlovic said that he expects stable funding for both PBSs and hopes that the funds will be provided for the new building of RTV. Speaking to RTV, he welcomed the adoption of a new set of laws that a few days ago were approved by the Assembly of Serbia.

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