Source: Borba

We cannot be satisfied with the effects of what has been achieved in legal and practical terms to create the necessary conditions for journalists and the media to perform their vital function in a way which would be far better suited to the standards and requirements of a democratic society. When exercising their rights under the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance, journalists and the media often face problems that verge on the ludicrous. The complaints they increasingly lodge with the Commissioner show that they are denied even the information which the government, under the law and the criteria of a democratic society, owes to the wider public without specific requests. Information is denied without proper justification or by putting forth “grounds” the legitimacy of which is questionable, to say the least. 

It is highly indicative that after three years of implementation of the Law certain mechanisms necessary for enforced exercise of these rights and for serving justice on the culprits of such denials and offences remain non-functional, even though this constitutes flagrant violation of press rights enshrined in the Constitution and the law.

At the same time, the process of phasing out government ownership of the media has slowed down considerably, coming virtually to a halt, especially as regards electronic media. Year after year, efforts to identify and bring to justice those responsible for even the gravest of offences against journalists' safety and lives fail to produce results. When press staff deal with the authorities, they often face derisory, disrespectful and discriminating actions, and even worse - vulgarity and brutality. All these and other similar facts need no comment because they speak for themselves. They reveal a huge gap between what the government publicly proclaims and what it does in practice when it comes to the way in which the rights, role and importance of the media are treated. This situation requires unconditional rectification and the quality and pace of such changes will largely shape the overall course of the democratic transition of our society.

Rodoljub Sabic, Commissioner for Information