OSCE media freedom representative urges Serbian government to speed up reforms

Belgrade, 20 September 2012 – The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, today urged the Serbian government to accelerate reforms to safeguard media freedom.

“Independent journalism and free reporting do exist in Serbia, but looking at the cases of threats and violence against journalists, this still comes at a price,” said Mijatović, who paid her first visit as the OSCE media freedom representative to Belgrade, where she discussed Serbia’s media freedom situation with government officials and journalists.

She also emphasized that the murder cases of three journalists – Slavko Ćuruvija, Milan Pantić and Dada Vujasinović – still remain unsolved and that the investigation into these cases should be intensified to bring those responsible to justice.

During her visit, the Representative met Prime Minister and Interior Minister Ivica Dačić, Speaker of Parliament Nebojša Stefanović, Foreign Minister Ivan Mrkić, First Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Aleksandar Vučić, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Telecommunications Rasim Ljajić, Minister of Culture and Information Bratislav Petković, State Secretary of the Justice Ministry Danilo Nikolić, members of the Broadcasting Agency’s Council, the Director General of the Public Radio and Television Aleksandar Tijanić and media and civil society representatives.

In her meetings Mijatović underscored the need to address the challenges facing media freedom in Serbia: “Without a robust legal and regulatory framework, institutionally protected public and private media and a politically and financially independent broadcast regulator and public service broadcaster, it will not be possible to meet the challenges of digitalization and harmonization with international standards, let alone create a free and vibrant media environment.”

“There is also an urgent need for the state to completely withdraw from the media market and to foster an environment conducive to free media and safety of journalists,” she added. “The case of journalist Laszlo Sass showed that there is a need to fully decriminalize defamation as the threat of criminal sanctions for speech offences has the potential to stifle public debate.”

The Representative also called upon journalists and media owners to resist political and economic pressure and to serve the public and society at large.

Mijatović welcomed the readiness of the authorities to co-operate with her office, as well as to improve media legislation in a open and inclusive manner, support public service broadcaster RTS, ensure the independence of broadcast regulator RBA and to foster transparency of media ownership.

Mijatović is also opening the second South East Europe Media Conference on “Shaping Policy for the Future” today in Belgrade. Organized with the OSCE Mission to Serbia, the event brings together some 200 international and regional journalists, media professionals and experts.

Source: OSCE