Monday, August 10, 2009

Public Information Law, censorship or correction?

By Miodrag Stosic

Belgrade, July 28, ( Serbia Today) - Karl Popper, one of the most prominent philosophers of the 20th century, says that openness of media is one of the most important indicators of an open society. These days, Serbia has to decide about a new public information law, which would introduce some inevitable changes to a world of media.
However, some concerns about this have been raised, inspired by this topic's contemporary history. Does a new law lead towards better, or just more controlled media? Are those who proposed this law sincere in their intentions, or is it just a private war that current government fights against public opinion?
This law has been proposed by Serbian Government, but parties that make a ruling coalition have different views on it. Ministers from Socialist Party of Serbia refused to support this law, considering it an instrument to reduce independence of media, and announced that their representatives in parliament will abstain from voting. Some of the socialists' coalition partners have expressed even stronger oposition. Leader of United Serbia party, Dragan Marković Palma, said: ''Limitations to freedom of media or investigative journalism are unacceptable'', and added that ''politicians and journalists do not have the same position, because politicians have immunities which they may invoke at any time''.
Serbian Progressive Party is also discontented by proposed law. Its legal councelor, Nikola Selaković, pointed at the press conference that this law's goal is a loss of freedom of speech and media. He also stated that several daily newspaper would cease their activities after adoption of this law.
It is interesting that those political options which were criticized for loss of freedom of speech by an oposition during '90s, now opose a new law. Back in 1998, SPS and SRS (then a ruling coalition) adopted Public information law (known as ''Vučić's law''). It led to a termination of several weekly newspaper, for they were not able to pay high fines. Today, situation is completely different. Forces that came to power back in the year 2000 now adopt similar law, while forces of an ex regime opose it.
While being guest in ''Utisak nedelje (Impression of the Week)'' show, Božidar Đelić said that Serbia needs this kind of law, to cleanse an atmosphere in media. He refused allegations that it is about a private war between one of the ministers and magazine ''Kurir''. Minister of culture, Nebojša Bradić, says that the problems with this law could be overcome by appropriate amandments. These amandments are about reducing fines which were originally planned to be 20 times bigger.Serbian Assembly will decide about Public information law on a closed session. Many point to that fact as an irony in a whole attempt to bring a higher level of a culture of information to Serbia. There is no doubt that Serbia needs better media space. Nevertheless, there is a question raised by Bertrand Russell, once upon a time: who cuts barber's hair? Who is competent to appoint the one who would assess and evaluate freedom of speech?

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