SERBIA: CSOs are concerned over proposed changes to media laws

Extract of article by Antoinette Nikolova, published by Euractiv on 26/10/2023 – accessible here.

Serbia’s Ministry of Information and Telecommunications has announced proposed changes to the Law on Public Information and Media and the Law on Electronic Media, scheduled to be adopted at the next session of the Serbian parliament following a public consultation process.

Global media freedom NGOs including Reporters Without BordersArticle-19 and Balkan Free Media Initiative have joined Serbian journalist associations in raising concerns that if adopted these changes would block much-needed reforms of Serbia’s Regulatory Body for Electronic Media (REM) and pave the way for the return to full state ownership of private media.

The proposed laws would lift the current restrictions on state-owned entities to become media owners and holders of media licences.

In the context of Serbia, state interference in the media is becoming increasingly common and media freedom is declining rapidly, according to international observers. In RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index, Serbia experienced the greatest drop in rating in the region of the European Union (EU) and Balkans, falling 12 places.

The 2023 European Parliament Report for Serbia highlighted that the governing majority has undermined media freedom, while at the same time, the country has become a “safe haven” for Russian companies spreading disinformation, including Russia Today.