Democratic Legislation and Dystopian Practice in the Field of Electronic Media: Serbia 2002 - 2021

Author: Mirjana Nikolić


The degree in which a society has been democratised can be evaluated in different ways. One of the approaches is based around the analysis of the ways media system operates, legal framework, manner of establishing and principles behind the operation of bodies and institutions entrusted with the role of regulators in the field of media. Describing the media landscape in Serbia, with special emphasis on media laws and the manner of electing members of media regulatory bodies in the period between 2000 and 2021, the paper problematises the issue of regulation and deregulation as a mean of managing the media sphere. Moreover, the paper tends to determine whether self-regulation and co-regulation are the most democratic models of regulating media practice. Political changes in Serbia in 2000 affected the improvement of media production and practice, which began with the adoption of new legislation, primarily the Law on Broadcasting (2002). This law set an innovative, pro-European and democratic framework for media regulation as well as the constitution of an independent regulatory body - the Council of the Republic Broadcasting Agency, which had large jurisdiction in the field of media regulation. It is particularly important to state that representatives of the civil sector were the majority that nominated the members of this body. After 2012, authoritarian political elites and populist trends flourished in Serbia, increasing political and economic pressure on the media, which were seen as opponents or opposition. With the new set of media laws adopted in 2014, including the Law on Electronic Media, the regulation of media sphere has been entrusted to the Regulatory Body for Electronic Media (REM) and its Council. The newly established body did not improve the media sphere, but instead quite the opposite happened. Regulatory body had more formal than essential independence, respect for democratic principles was simulated and pressures on the election of members became more frequent. This body worked in an incomplete composition, and the share of the civil sector in the election of members was marginalised. For the above-mentioned reasons, we can conclude that in the last seven years Serbia has significantly regressed in terms of regulating the field of electronic media and the independence of regulatory bodies. Although the legal solutions were executed satisfactorily, their application was marked by inconsistency and simulation. This trend leads to the poor position of the media, and represents a threat to independence of regulatory bodies and human rights and freedoms in general, which is stated in numerous reports of international institutions.

Key words: co-regulation, electronic media, independent regulatory bodies, media laws, Serbia
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