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NEWS

PREPARED FOR THE MEETING IN MAASTRICHT (19 - 21 NOVEMBER 2009.)

  • Section of AEJ – Serbia followed the suggestions and directives of the Headquarters of AEJ in Brussels, as well as good initiatives of national sections. We are very satisfied with the activities of President and General Secretary of AEJ and their permanent care for programs of AEJ in global and of national sections separately.
  • Analyses submitted by Headquarters of AEJ in the period between two assemblies, regarding the press freedom in Europe, were very beneficial and educative. According to these analyses, the situation with the press freedom in European countries, specially in the countries who has national sections of AEJ, is deteriorating. The media owners are more and more affiliated with the government circles and with some influential business personalities, following their wishes and policies.
  • Situation about press freedom in Serbia, which became independent state in 2007, is very similar, what confirms the attitudes that these trends are of the  more or less universal character, and that they derive from the same roots. In September 2009, the Government and Parliament of Serbia changed the existing Law on media, oriented to severe the financial and other penalties for those who violate the propositions provided by changes of the law. The immediate motivation for such very prompt changes were the articles in one group of media who published the discrediting articles about some members of government and persons eventually connected with them. These articles often (to be sincere) were not founded on the facts and documents, and that sometimes  annoyed not only members of ruling circles, but also of the readers of the press and citizens. The judicial system in Serbia is still based on the classical norms of very slow processes, so the courts could not give any satisfactions to those who filed the suits. But, the mentioned changes unfortunately hit not only this small group of media with high circulation (they call them tabloids), but also the rest of honest the press and media, which can be the victims of such law provisions. As a result, at the end of October 2009, the representatives of judicial system arrested the owner of this media group, which print dailies Kurir and Glas javnosti. The motivation was the tax frauds. At the same time, they arrested the former editor in chief of these media Slavoljub Kacarevic, a journalist who has a very long and good biography and who fought in the last decade of twentieth century against the dictator Milosevic and his regime. In the first few day of November 2009, more than 500 hundred journalists and editors signed the petition, demanding Kacarevic to be freed and to defend himself as the free citizen.
  • Representatives of AEJ Serbia participated actively in all these events. President of AEJ of Serbia Nebojsa Ristic - as the member of Independent Association of journalist of Serbia, and our member Nino Brajovic, as General secretary of Association of Serbian journalists. These two trade unions organizations were the most agile and energetic in the fight against the changes in media laws and against the arrest of the mentioned journalist. The process is under way, and there are good chances to abort the law and adopt the new one. What annoyed the Serbian press and public was the fact that the changes of existing law were brought in a short period of time (three weeks), without any chances for public debate and participation of the representatives of media in drafting of them. President of Serbian parliament announces, on November 1, 2009 that it would be necessary the whole thing to be revised again, to abolish their mentioned changes and the new and realistic law to be adopted, with the possibilities that journalists and their associations to participate in their creating. The latest news, released on November 3, 2009 shows that the protest of media succeeded. Representatives of judicial system, judges and public attorneys declared the law is not applicable in practice, because it is in collision with some other existing provisions and norms. The fine of 20 millions Serbian dinars, what is the equivalent of 210.000 euros, is in contradiction with the fines in current laws of this kind, which provide as the highest fine only three million dinars (31.ooo euros).
  • Serbian Association of AEJ organized, on October 12, 2009 one day seminar, a special briefing of journalists of Serbia who are interested to get the knowledge about the European standards in the field of security, and the position and experiences of Serbia in this regard. Members of AEJ Serbia Slavica Gligorovic (TV Belgrade) and Zorica Panic (freelance) successfully organized this meeting, which was supported by OSCE and embassy of Norway. Seminar was attended by fifty journalists. The lecturers were, among others, experts from NGO organizations and from the Government and Ministry of defense of Serbia.
  • After the participation of the representative of Serbian Section of AEJ at the meetings of Executive committee of AEJ in Athens in February and Turkey in May, a few articles and TV appearances on TV channels appeared. They briefed the people in Serbia on what is going on with AEJ. Two bigger articles on Turkey were published in the daily Politika, the oldest media in Belgrade, with more than one hundred years tradition. These two articles, translated in English, are enclosed to this report. The members of Serbian Section of AEJ were also informed about the contents of the meeting in Greece and Turkey.
  • Two interviews on the biggest TV channel - national network of Radio Television of Serbia, also informed the people of Serbia on the activity of AEJ. Nebojsa Ristic talked about the experiences and impressions from Linz and the projects and programs of AEJ. Zivorad Nikolic, who is the anchor of this program at the first channel of the Television of Serbia (Saturday and Sunday, two hours and million and half spectators), and who is the Vice - president of the Serbian section of AEJ, pays a great attention to activity of AEJ for Serbia and in general.
  • In order to consolidate the membership of the Section, we made a selection. Some of the members who did not show interest in activity left the Section. At the same time, some of outstanding journalists from media joined the organization - editors of Radio and TV networks and printed media Altogether, now we have 27 members of the Section. Our attitude is that we should not exceed the number of 30 to 35 members.
  • After the Annual assembly of AEJ in Maastricht, we are preparing Round table on the issue of the freedom of the press. The aim is to analyze the situation in Serbia and to compare it with the experiences in Europe and the survey which AEJ did on the matter.
  • In the Serbian section we are discussing about the possibility Serbia to be the host of one of the next general assembly of AEJ. Taking into account that economic position of Serbia is still in the critical stage, we are not sure when it would be realistic, but we hope this to be in the period of next few years. If not a general assembly, we would like to make some seminar, studying visit or meeting of Executive committee.

Belgrade, 4. November 2009
Miloje Popovic
General Secretary of Serbia section of AEJ

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