Is Minister Vuling ignoring the Law?
Serbian Minister of Labour and Social Policy Aleksandar Vulin announced on Monday that, at the Government session, he will propose the dismissal of the key people in Radio Television of Serbia (RTS), although the Government has no legal authority to do so.
At the same time, none of the competent authorities condemned Minister Vulin’s pressure on the public broadcasting service of Serbia. The General Director of RTS, Dragan Bujosevic, briefly stated that he is “pleased” that everyone is angry at RTS.
According to Serbian law, RTS must have an independent editorial policy, and appointments and dismissals of leading people in this public broadcaster are defined by law. RTS is lead by the Director, the Steering Committee, and the Program Council. None of these bodies are appointed by the Serbian Government and, therefore, the Government has no authority to dismiss them.
Minister Vulin said that he will suggest to his coalition partners, including the ruling Serbian Progressive Party, the dismissal of the leadership of RTS because of their reporting on protests across Serbia.
“The leadership of RTS seems to be no longer accountable to their own country. Instead, they are more concerned with what they will be called out for on the streets,” said Minister Vulin.
According to the Law on Public Services, the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Media (REM) appoints and dismisses the Steering Committee of RTS. The Steering Committee appoints the members of the Program Council at the proposal of the Parliamentary Committee for Information. The General Director of RTS, who is chosen through a public call, is appointed by the Steering Committee.
The Steering Committee is also responsible for appointing the editors in RTS at the suggestion of the General Director.Serbian Law on Public Services, therefore, clearly defines that the Serbian Government has no formal influence on the selection of the management of RTS.
Prime Minister and President-elect Aleksandar Vucic distanced himself from Minister Vulin’s statement. However, he also commented the editorial policy of RTS.
“All the people appointed by the Democratic Party are still in RTS and they have the last say. It is funny seeing someone who gathered barely 50 protesters to take five minutes of the national news on RTS.
When Minister Vulin demands resignations, then it is a dictatorship, and when protesters ask for resignations of the key people in RTS, then it is a democratic request. Am I always happy with how RTS reports? No, I am not, but those who are in charge make the decisions,” said Vucic on Monday, after a meeting with the Patriarch of Serbian Orthodox Church, Irinej.
The Law on Public Information clearly prohibits “direct and indirect discrimination of editors, journalists, and other personnel in public broadcasting, especially based on their political affiliations and beliefs or other personal matters.”
The reason for Minister Vulin’s reaction to RTS is that RTS started reporting differently about the protest as soon as the protesters started demanding the dismissal of the management of RTS.
“From the moment the protesters started demanding resignations of the key people at RTS, this television started giving them media attention.
Dissatisfied citizens have protested in Serbia since 3rd April over the pre-election presidency campaign and general conditions in Serbian society. In the protest march in Belgrade, protesters also pass by the building of RTS demanding resignations of the key people of Radio Television of Serbia and Radio Television of Vojvodina.
Citizens are dissatisfied with the reporting of these two national TV stations because they favour PM Vucic and the ruling Progressive Party.
Insajder received an e-mail from the “Against the Dictatorship” protesters who state the protests will continue.
“We can only understand Minister Aleksandar Vulin’s announcement of the dismissal of the RTS management for reporting about protests as a conflict “within the family.” We emphasize that we are not fighting for merely replacing people in responsible positions of RTS editorial and management by those who will only turn the public broadcaster into tabloid news,” stated the protesters.
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