Serbia adopts much-criticised media law 

5th September 2009, Comments 0 comments

Media outlets, editors and journalists now face fines of tens of thousands of euros if they publish false or libellous information.

Belgrade -- The Serbian parliament passed a controversial media law this week that has been criticised for jeopardising press freedom because of its provision for hefty fines against journalists.

The law, slammed by journalists' groups and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, was passed after pro-European President Boris Tadic's ruling coalition withdrew two of its most criticised sections.

Media outlets, editors and journalists now face fines of tens of thousands of euros, calculated according to a newspaper's circulation and daily advertising revenue, if they publish false or libellous information.

Electronic media will also have to pay a fine equivalent to their daily advertising revenue, prompting criticism that the new law will lead to self-censorship.

The head of the OSCE mission to Serbia Hans Ola Urstad warned in a statement last week that the law "sets fines that are too high for a Serbian context which could lead to self-censorship and the closure of media outlets."

Journalists' organisations and media experts called on parliament not to adopt the law which they warned had an "anti-European" character.

Following a public outcry, the government dropped sections calling for media outlets to be closed if they were in the red for more than three months and for all media to pay a deposit of 50,000 euros (71,000 dollars) to set up.

A number of journalists and editors have said the law is as restrictive as that in the era of authoritarian late president Slobodan Milosevic which severely restricted media freedom in the late 1990s.

Following the adoption of the law, the Association of Serbian Journalists called on President Tadic to refuse to sign it, a move which would force parliament to reopen debate on it.


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