22 July 2003


RSF calls for re-election of broadcasting council, two council members verbally attack ANEM president

Incident details

Veran Matic


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(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has called for the re-election of Serbia's new Broadcasting Council after the country's parliament voted on 15 July 2003 to uphold the choice of three council members whose nomination was marred by irregularities.

The organisation also deplored the fact that, after their confirmation by parliament, two of the three disputed council members, including the chairman, launched virulent personal attacks against a leading journalist who had said their election violated the broadcasting law adopted in 2002.

"The creation of the Broadcasting Council is a major step forward for press freedom after the fall of the Milosevic regime. The council's legitimacy and independence must be beyond reproach," RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard said in a letter to the parliamentary president, Natasa Micic.

"The only way to restore such credibility to the council would be to re-hold the election of its members with the strictest possible compliance with procedures," Ménard urged. He added that personal attacks on journalists were inappropriate and "incompatible with the council's duty to be impartial."

The first media law since the beginning of the democratisation process, which the Serb parliament approved on 18 July 2002, provided for the creation of a Broadcasting Council. One of the council's chief duties is to ensure that broadcast frequencies are assigned in a regular and impartial manner. News media that were denied permission to operate under the previous regime are still without a licence, while those associated with former Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic still maintain their privileges.

The council, which began functioning on 4 June 2003, has nine members, four of whom are chosen by the parliaments of Serbia and Vojvodina, two by the universities and churches, and two by NGOs and professional associations. The ninth member, who represents Kosovo, is chosen by the other eight members.

The council's first eight members were elected on 11 April, during the state of emergency following the assassination of Prime Minister Zoran Djinjic, and the ninth was elected on 24 April. Three of the nominations did not follow the rules and procedures set down in the broadcasting law.

For transparency's sake, the law establishes that candidates' names and biographies must be published at least 30 days before they are elected to the council. However, the Serb parliament's nomination of Nenad Cekic was not announced until three days before the election and that of Vladimir Cvetkovic was not announced until the day of the election itself. Cekic is now the
council's chairman.

In addition, Kosovo's representative, Goran Radenovic, does not meet a key requirement for this post, namely that he should live and work in Kosovo. Snjezana Milivojevic, the representative of the professional associations on the council, and Vladimir Vodinelic, the NGO representative, resigned from the council in protest at these irregularities.

Immediately after the Serb parliament gave its support to the three disputed council members on 15 July, Cekic and Cvetkovic issued a press release accusing Veran Matic, the president of the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) and editor-in-chief of Radio B92, of waging a "witch-hunt" against them. They also called for an investigation of all of Radio B92's financial and legal operations since 2000. Two anonymous complaints had been lodged against Radio B92's executives, accusing them of irregularities at the time of the station's privatisation. The privatisation agency later declared that these charges were unfounded.


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