Serbia Considered Major State Intervention in Media Market

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The Serbian government’s discarded media strategy draft, which has been obtained by BIRN, planned to bring the state back into the media market through public-private partnerships.

by Filip Rudic, Maja Zivanovic, BIRN, Belgrade

The Serbian Information Ministry’s draft media strategy, which was criticised by media and journalists’ associations before it was discarded this week, controversially proposed establishing new state-run media through public-private partnerships.

The unpublished draft strategy says that “public media services on the national, provincial and regional level” should be set up, in the form of electronic, print and online media and news agencies.

“Everywhere in the world, in the multimedia network market, the state sector seeks new forms of partnership with the private sector,” argues the unpublished draft, which has been obtained by BIRN.

President Aleksandar Vucic’s media adviser Suzana Vasiljevic announced on Monday that the draft strategy had been dropped.

The president of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia, Slavisa Lekic, said that the draft was bad, but the government will not be able to put the same measures in a new proposal.

“I think that great pressure was created on the part of the EU, and the withdrawal of the draft is due to this, and not pressure from media associations,” Lekic told BIRN.

Serbia’s laws oblige the state to relinquish ownership of media, apart from the national broadcaster, Radio-Television Serbia, RTS, and its provincial subsidiary, Radio-Television Vojvodina, or RTV.

In a wave of privatisation that was meant to end by July 2015, many small and local Serbian media closed down after not finding buyers, while some were bought by people linked to the ruling coalition.

The state however proved reluctant to give away control over the older, well-established Politika and Novosti newspapers, as well as Tanjug news agency, which dwarfs its privately-owned competitors.

Lekic says that the goal of the now-discarded media strategy was to bring the state back into the media scene “big time”, but believes that President Vucic was “warned” that this was out of the question.

Lekic also raised concern about the statement from Vucic’s media adviser Vasiljevic, because drafting the national media strategy comes under the jurisdiction of the government, not the president’s office.

The Ministry was working on a draft with NGOs and media associations, but associations left because they didn’t approve of the proposals that they felt the state was unilaterally imposing.

He added that independent media associations that left an Information Ministry working group that was discussing proposals for the draft because they felt the state was unilaterally imposing ideas have come together and drawn up an alternative draft of the strategy.

“We will offer that document to the state as the basis for some kind of future cooperation,” Lekic said.


 

The article was republished from Balkan Insight with permission. It was originally published on 25 April 2018. 

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