IFJ Opposes Repressive Amendments to Media Law in Serbia

The International

Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) today urged Serbian

lawmakers to throw out a package of controversial draft amendments to the

Public Information Act proposed by the government of Serbia.



In a letter to the

President of Serbia, Mr Boris Tadi?, IFJ President Jim

Boumelha urged him to withdraw the amendments. He wrote: "We are concerned

about the Serbian Government's haste

to adopt these amendments at an extraordinary session of Parliament, without

any prior public debate, or even consultation with media associations,

journalists and/or experts."

According to a thorough

analysis by independent legal experts commissioned by the Journalists'

Association of Serbia (JAS), one of IFJ

affiliates in Serbia, these

amendments to articles 14, 16, 92, 93 and 95 are not in accordance with

European standards nor with Serbia's

Constitution, and would severely constrain freedom of expression in Serbia.

They found that the main

provisions at the heart of these changes, registration requirement and fines,

do not satisfy the most important requirement of Article 10 of the European

Convention on Human Rights - that any measures must be "necessary in a

democratic society" - and do not achieve goals that Article 10 deems

legitimate.

The other IFJ affiliate,

the Independent Journalists' Association of Serbia

(IJAS), also shares these concerns. They drafted and submitted changes to

the disputed amendments, highlighting the best European practice and the

need for harmonisation of Serbia's

media legislation with the EU standards.

The IFJ supports its

affiliates in opposing the amendments. "The proposed drastic fines, which would

make it possible for your government to rapidly shut down media outlets, are

inconsistent with the Serbian legal

system and will impose an enormous restraint on freedom of the press, resulting

in stifling the media, as well as self-censorship." wrote Boumelha in his

letter to the president.

The IFJ objects to the

media registry's being subjected to state control, as well as to the heavy fines

imposed for failing to register which could only lead media outlets to bankruptcy.

It further believes that the proposal to shut down publications for being

insolvent for a non-consecutive period of 90 days will also curtail press

freedom.

The

IFJ joins its affiliates, the Journalists' Association of Serbia and the Independent Journalists' Association

of Serbia, in calling on members of

the Serbian Parliament to reject

these legislative proposals.

For more information

contact the IFJ at +32 2 235 2207

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists

in 123 countries worldwide