ANEM responds to prime minister's accusations
(ANEM/IFEX) -The following is an ANEM press release:
NO PRIME MINISTER, WE DONâT WANT PRIVILEGES - FOR ANYONE!
BELGRADE, November 7, 2001 - The Association of Independent Electronic Media is outraged at accusations made yesterday by Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic that, by urging the adoption of new broadcast legislation, ANEM and B92 are seeking privileges.
Mr Djindjic told an audience at the Institute for Peace in Washington yesterday that the question of why some Serbian independent media now find themselves worse off than under the Milosevic regime is "irritating".
In response to ANEM and B92's criticism that new frequency licences had still not been issued, the prime minister implied that we were seeking privileges.
"Some people want privileges. They don't want new legislation, they want a licence in order to become a national television channel, although at this point they have a television channel without a licence. Thus they are working illegally."
This claim of illegal operation is simply not correct. Radio and Television B92 are broadcasting in full accordance with the law and the licences they hold. It is in fact precisely because B92 respects the current regulations that it finds itself unable to compete in the market.
We would also ask the prime minister to note that neither this association nor RTV B92 has ever claimed that the media situation is worse than it was under Milosevic. What ANEM has claimed and emphasised in a press release issued by the Board of Directors on October 30, is that the legal infrastructure for the activities of independent media in Serbia today has not improved since the Milosevic regime fell.
The strategy of the Milosevic regime was to leave the independent electronic media in limbo, without licences and under constant threat of closure. More than a year after the regime fell, that situation persists. The new authorities have set the Milosevic legacy in concrete by proclaiming a moratorium on change without redressing any of the injustices suffered by the independent electronic media.
ANEM has also demanded the urgent adoption of new regulations for media and telecommunications, primarily the new Broadcast Act in order to remedy this situation.
Mr Djindjic's claim that the Association of Independent Serbian Journalists is drafting the bill and that the status quo must be endured in the meantime is simply not true.
The draft Broadcast Bill has been prepared by experts in various fields, not the journalist association, and it has been presented to the government.
The former telecommunications minister, Boris Tadic, announced in May that it would "soon" be tabled in the Serbian Parliament. Five months have passed since then.
ANEM believes that the Government is delaying tabling the Bill because it is not keen to see Radio Television Serbia transformed into a public service, nor to see the establishment of the Broadcast Council which would be responsible for the allocation of frequencies and channels independently of either the Parliament or the government.
In the meantime, the Serbian Government has neither tabled the new legislation in Parliament nor implemented the existing law.
The current Broadcast Act states, in Article 7, that the government is obliged to call a public competition for frequency use once a year and reach a decision on the allocation of frequencies within three months of that. It is therefore legally feasible to grant temporary frequency licenses under the old legislation, which is what ANEM has requested.
This request is not a demand for privileges: on the contrary, it is concerned with the stripping of privileges from those media once loyal to Milosevic which have, thanks to those very privileges, used the last year to capitalise on the market monopoly that they gained, not by the quality of their programs or their promotion of any social values, but through the support and financing of a dictatorship and their seats on the central committees of the ruling parties.
Our demand has to do with ensuring a level playing field for those who were performing their functions with honour, even under the Milosevic regime.
They were not doing this because they wanted one day to receive a medal from Prime Minister Djindjic but because they believed in the principles of their profession and democratic values.
Does the prime minister's remark that we can have a medal, but not a national television channel, mean that it is government policy that those who fought for democratic change and reform should be awarded medals and those who worked against democratic change should be rewarded with channel licences? The events of the last year bear witness that this is the intention.
ANEM will redouble its campaign for the urgent adoption of the Broadcast Act, it will continue to respect the law, despite its unfairness to us, and will demand a level playing field for all involved in the media through the temporary solutions at present legally feasible.