Professionalism in the Local and Minority Media

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Experts, media professionals and civil society representatives got together for the first in a series of debates focused on media reporting in a multi-ethnic environment, organised by BIRN and OSCE in Novi Pazar:

The media and the commercialisation of state aid – ensuring the rights of minorities to information and free expression

Media focused on minority communities have special status in the country’s broader media system. Their existence is important for political and social pluralism and diversity of society, and their impact on the  preservation of minority cultures and languages and their ability foster tolerance and multiculturalism can not be over-stated.

Most minority media houses receive some sort of state aid or support  as the majority would otherwise  not be commercially viable.

The aim of the meeting was to answer the question of whether athe current climate allowed the Bosniak media to produce quality information and free expression and fostered healthy competition amongst media companies.

The roundtable in Novi Pazar therefore had to serve two purposes: 1) to map the key issues/problems local media face in providing information in minority languages and 2) devise a set of recommendations for members of the Council.

The roundtable was attended by about more than 50 participants, including representatives from  almost every media house in Sandzak.

In a very lively discussion, which lasted nearly three hours, despite the presence of a range of participants with very different viewpoints, the meeting was very constructive.

The difficult economic situation in Serbia, means that we are likely to see layoffs of journalists and the closure of newspapers, and continuing political and economic pressures on freedom of speech and all the participants agreed that local and minority media were likely to suffer disproportionately.

Special emphasis was been placed in the discussion on minorities’ rights to quality reporting at both a local to national level. Participants felt that this in area the Government seemed unwilling to respond and make the radical changes necessary to show significant results.

There was much discussion  about the transformation of ownership of the media in Serbia, which the speakers felt had, for almost ten years taken place without controls to guarantee legality and fairness, and on the Law on Public Information, adopted in 2003, which envisages the privatisation of all media, except for RTS, which was transformed into a public service broadcaster.

The speakers on this topic were Dragana Nikolic-Solomon, Head of the Media Department of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, Sasa Mirkovic from ANEM, Zuzana Serences from NDNV and Goran Karadzic, from the RRA.

Dragana Solomon, expressed the hope that the participants would be able to provide the quality of news necessary  from professional media houses and that desired by the public and also “how to provide professional and objective reporting in accordance with the rights of minorities. “

She noted that the quality of content was especially crucial, given current problems, and said that an independent editorial policy and independent funding was necessary for the sustainability of the local media.

The roundtable was organized by the OSCE Mission to Serbia and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network,BIRN,  with the assistance of the British Embassy in Serbia.