Serbia’s Media Strategy Sparks Fresh Controversy
By Bojana Barlovac
As Serbia’s government’s moves closer to adopting a long-awaited strategy on the future of the media, professionals complain that vital points in the paper are being watered down.
Serbia’s government is at long last examining a long-awaited media strategy paper, put forward by the Ministry of Culture.
In a bid to expedite passage of the document, which will pave the way for a comprehensive policy towards the media in future, Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic has formed a working group to handle it.
It remains unclear whether the task of examination will be accomplished by a 5 September deadline, when the document is supposed to be given a public hearing in parliament before its expected adoption by the government at the end of September.
Media professionals are already expressing concerns about the quality of the draft put forward by the Ministry of Culture, as well as over the role of a newly formed working group within the Prime Minister’s office.
According to information from media circles, the latest document represents a step back from the first draft, allowing for a continuation of state ownership of the media, and concerning safegaurds against political interference in the content of the media.
“This document is completely unacceptable for NUNS as it is not based on the basic principles we insist on,” Vukasin Obradovic, president of the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia, NUNS, told Balkan insight.
Though the document has not been revealed to the public, Obradovic confirmed to Balkan Insight that he had seen it but could not reveal its content.
But he said the main principles put forward in the first draft of the strategy, created by a media experts group working within the Ministry, had been completely changed in the document proposed to the government. As such, he added, the paper was unlikely to be endorsed by media organisations in the country.
Furthermore, it remains unclear whether the Prime Minister’s working group will draft the final strategy or just give an opinion on the Ministry of Culture’s proposed document.
“I am not sure about the purpose of the [Prime Minister’s] working group. We intend to further clarify its role at a meeting next Monday,” Obradovic told Balkan Insight.
The PM’s working group is headed by Dragana Milicevic Milutinovic, state secretary in the Media and Culture Ministry, and includes a representative of media organisations, a media expert and representatives from the finance ministry and Serbia’s EU integration office.
The working group is meant to close a two-year process of formulating a media strategy answering important questions on the future of the media such as state ownership, media concentration and the independence of public broadcasters.
The first draft strategy was made public on 1 June and then followed by public discussion. In August, the Ministry put together the proposal of the media strategy taking into account all comment received within the public debate.
Because by law the Culture Ministry is not obliged to reveal its proposal, Balkan Insight has not obtained the document. But it had been suggested that it would be a sign of good will if the Ministry put the document on the ministry website.