Gjelstard: Political will is needed to protect the media as a supervisory body for monitoring democracy

(Source:  euractiv ) – The adoption of a new media strategy is the key to success in exercising the right to quality information, but strong political will is needed to protect the media as a supervisory body for monitoring democracy, said Norwegian Ambassador to Serbia Jorn Gjelstard. He also said that “there is a need to strengthen the regulatory body for the media, which enforces laws in  the media scene, as well as   provides conditions for fair business of all media.”

At the round table “The role of regulatory and self-regulatory bodies in pre-election reporting – Norwegian experiences”, which was held at the Norwegian Embassy on March 9, the ambassador said that the role of the Press Council needed to be strengthened.

“Citizens should file complaints about the work of media, to which the regulatory body should react. It is necessary to have transparent ownership in the media and in the election campaign to provide non-discriminatory access to all candidates,” Gjelstard said, opening the discussion.

The Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, Andrea Oricio, said that media reforms were very important and that the OSCE had participated in the development of the Media Strategy together with the Government of Serbia and representatives of journalists’ and international associations.

“Media strategy and its implementation should be one of the main tools for ensuring media development. The goal is to strengthen the role of regulatory bodies and their independence, especially during the election campaign,” Oricio said.

Oricio said that the OSCE Department for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the ODIHR will monitor the election process in Serbia.

“In February, a rulebook for public services was adopted in order to better monitor the reporting in the election campaign, and guidelines were given for commercial television as well. Frequencies are a public good,” Oricio said.

EU Ambassador to Serbia Sam Fabrizi said that “the right to free information is a basic human right and an integral part of EU law, which also applies to countries on the path to accession.”

He said that progress had been made in Serbia in recent months, but that the EU would continue to monitor the process “to ensure that Serbia moves in the right direction”.

Fabrizi stated that the process of strengthening media freedoms will include professional status as well as the safety of journalists, protection of sources, as well as protection of data from the point of view of cyber danger.