Novi Sad School of Journalism (NSSJ) organized a round table "The regulatory bodies and media integrity", after the decision on appointments of the new members of the Council of the regulatory body for electronic media (REM) was delivered by the Assembly of Serbia, on Friday, 14 October.
The focus of discussions was placed on the process and results of the appointment of new members of the REM Council, transparency and independence of regulatory bodies, their role in achieving the public interest of all citizens of Serbia, the legal framework of action and opportunities for improvement of their work. Round table, held on 17 October, is a part of the project SEE Media Observatory, and it was organised in cooperation with the Open Society Foundation.
Dubravka Valic Nedeljkovic from the Novi Sad School of Journalism (NSSJ) opened the round table with findings of the six months of media monitoring, primarily focused on the public service broadcasters, which was conducted by the School of Journalism in the first half of 2016. "In first six months of 2016, NSSJ has conducted extensive monitoring of public services, while the corpus during the election campaign expanded to as many as 107 print, broadcast and online media outlets across Serbia. The study (...) has not only questioned the professionalism of public service and commercial media, but also implementation of REM's guidelines for reporting on the election campaign. During the monitoring we reported two local television stations that have violated REM's rules on advertising during the election campaign, by broadcasting live meetings of political parties in the news programs. Still, six months after submitting complaints, no one responded" said Nedeljkovic.
Gordana Janković, Head of Media Department of the OSCE Mission in Serbia, said that regulators should make clear rules and restrictions that protect freedom of expression and pointed out that the integrity of the regulatory body reflects on the integrity of the media. She stressed that the OSCE Mission, in accordance with its mandate, is willing to help through expert advice because the independence of REM is one of the pillars of a democratic society and freedom of media.
Milan Antonijevic, director of YUCOM and one of the candidates for REM Council members proposed by civil society organizations, praised the initiative of the NGO sector in the process of nominations for new members. Antonijevic said that, although this time none of NGO representatives was elected, it is necessary to persistently monitor the work of regulatory bodies, including their reports from 2015 and 2016. Antonijevic also pointed out that the law itself enables regulators to preform their duty well, and that it is all a matter of their will and integrity.
Nedim Sejdinović from the Independent Journalists Association of Vojvodina (NDNV), reiterated the conclusions of NDNV voiced in a press release on the occasion of the mentioned appointments, which in his words were somewhat revolutionary: “Regulatory body for electronic media is compromised from the start and we think that there is no possibility to solve this problem by present laws and help from organizations. Our recommendation is that this regulatory body, as it is today, currently does not need to exist in the system, but that it is necessary to create a completely new body to deal with the responsibilities which now belong to the REM",
The conclusion of this discussion was that it is necessary to monitor the work of the regulator, that representatives of media associations should be more involved in this monitoring, and that they should react promptly. To ensure the integrity of the media, the rules within the media and those prescribed by regulatory bodies must be clear and transparent.
All present and prominent former members of REM were invited to the round table, but none answered to the NSSJ's invitation.
For more, see the recordings from the round-table, in Serbian language.