IFJ Warns Serbia On "Damage to Integrity of Broadcasting Law" In Dispute Over Appointments

The International Federation of Journalists today backed journalists groups in Serbia protesting over "irregularities" in the National Assembly appointment of people to Council of the Broadcast Agency.

"For months journalists have been calling on the Serbian government to implement the Broadcasting Act, but now when they have decided to act it appears the rules are being broken," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "If the rules are not followed it will do damage to the integrity of the country's broadcasting law and will undermine the whole process of reforming the broadcasting system."

The Broadcasting Act provides that the Parliament should publish all valid lists of nominees at least 30 days in advance of the day of selection of Council members. However, the Serbian Parliament elected eight members on 11 April, but one nomination was published only three days before and another one was announced the very day of the election. "These are irregularities that cause dismay to everyone hoping to see a fresh start for one of Europe's most damaged broadcasting systems," said White. "We ask the Serbian Parliament to reconsider the action that has been taken. If the rules have been broken, the process is flawed. It is vital to build confidence in the democratisation of the broadcast media."

The IFJ is asking the Serbian Parliament for explanations and to reconsider the nominations of the two candidates to the Council, which will have a key role in developing a new landscape for electronic media in Serbia.

The Broadcasting Agency will grant broadcasting permits, regulate programming content and implement the legal framework for electronic media in Serbia. In spite of the present dispute, it held its first session last week where members signed an obligation to work independently and without any bias. The Agency has received a financial support from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and from the European Agency of Reconstruction for its future work.

"Everyone wishes the new framework to succeed," said White, "but it will only do so if journalists and public are satisfied that a transparent and honest system is in place. That's why journalists are right to demand the appointment process fully respects the new law."

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The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries