RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
RFE/RL Balkan Report Vol. 8, No. 10, 12 March 2004
SERBIAN MEDIA IN A NEW ERA.
The key factor in Serbia is that a new
coalition government headed by Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica of the
conservative nationalist Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) took office on 3
March. The government also consists of the reformist G-17 Plus party and a
coalition of the conservative nationalist Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) of Vuk
Draskovic and Velimir Ilic's New Serbia party.
It is a minority government that relies
on the legislative support of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's
Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS). It is obvious that there will be many forces
and personalities fighting for influence, power, and money in the new political
landscape, which could make itself reflected in the media scene.
For example, among those seen at the DSS
party offices during the coalition talks on 19 January was prominent and
controversial businessman Bogoljub Karic, whose many interests include the
private broadcaster BK TV. Karic financially supports numerous conservative or
nationalist causes but is believed to be primarily motivated by a desire to
create the best climate for his extensive business interests, rather than by any
The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung"
wrote on 24 December that Karic was among those well-heeled individuals who
allegedly bought influence in the previous Serbian legislature. The reported
buying and selling of legislative votes ultimately led to the downfall of the
previous government, which tottered ever since the assassination of Prime
Minister Zoran Djindjic of the Democratic Party on 12 March 2003.
But while Karic and others may be active
behind the scenes, two factors are visible in the public domain. First is the
new Minister of Culture Dragan Kojadinovic (SPO), who is a former editor at
Studio B Television. He is well known as a Draskovic loyalist.
That leads to the second factor, which
is the legal framework. On 19 July 2002, the Serbian parliament adopted the
Broadcasting Act, but enforcement has been patchy, according to the Association
of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM). In any event, the new government will
have to fill vacancies on administrative and oversight boards.
For now, Kostunica's first priority is
to draft a new constitution. He has spoken of holding new elections once that is
done, but it is not clear if some of his coalition partners will agree. In any
event, any drafting and enacting of new media legislation will most likely have
to wait until the new constitution is finished.
In addition to the influence of moneyed
interests and problems with the legal framework, the Serbian media landscape
suffers from clutter. Besides BK TV and the other main private television
broadcaster, TV Pink, there is the old socialist-era dinosaur of
Furthermore, perhaps well over 1,000
private radio stations can be found scattered throughout one of Europe's poorest
countries. Some experts say that the optimal number for a country Serbia's size
would be about 300.
Moreover, Belgrade, like many other
capitals in this part of the world, has more daily newspapers than it would seem
the market can support. The mass-circulation "Glas Javnosti," "Vecernje novosti,"
and "Blic" are perhaps the most influential, if not necessarily the most
The oldest and traditionally most
prestigious is "Politika," which marks its 100th birthday this year. The paper
was the flagship of serious Yugoslav journalism before the collapse of
communism, but Milosevic turned it into a propaganda mouthpiece. Following his
ouster, "Politika" drew close to Kostunica, but that did not stop Djindjic from
giving his New Year 2003 interview to it. "Politika" is currently owned by the
German WAZ group, and its future is anybody's guess.
As to the newsweeklies, the most serious
remain "Vreme," whose future is in jeopardy because of low circulation figures,
and "NIN," which is due for privatization.
Use of computers and the Internet is
considered cool and trendy, but it remains largely limited to those who have
access to them at their school or place of work, or those who can afford to have
a computer at home or regularly visit an Internet cafe.
Politically motivated lawsuits were no
stranger to the outgoing government that followed Milosevic's ouster in October
2000, including charges filed by one member of the governing coalition against
another, or by an official against a journalist.
In the second category, Vladimir Popovic
"Beba," who headed the Serbian government's Communications Department, filed
charges in Belgrade on 27 June 2003 against "Vreme" and its well-known
journalist Milos Vasic for some of "Vreme's" articles during the state of
emergency declared after Djindjic was killed. Beba wanted $33,000 for "mental
anguish and damage to his reputation." He had previously filed similar charges
against several other news organizations, including "NIN," Radio B92, and the "Novosti"
publishing house, and also against dozens of individual journalists.
Nonetheless, then-Prime Minister Zoran
Zivkovic said publicly that Beba's many lawsuits were his own private affair and
not the work of the government. Lawsuits against critical media were a frequent
practice under Milosevic and the late Croatian President Franjo Tudjman.
Beba's successor in charge of media
affairs in the new government is Srdjan Djuric, whom Karic sacked one year ago
from BK TV at a time when Karic was friendly with Djindjic. Karic is now
considered close to Kostunica.
An important problem that has emerged in
2004 -- following the strong showing by the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical
Party (SRS) in the 28 December parliamentary elections -- has been threats
against Croatian media in Vojvodina (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 30 January
2004). (Patrick Moore)
source: RFE/RL, Prague
published by: Daniela Mathis email@example.com
date of release on this site 16/03/04