REM still avoids protecting the public interest
There won’t be any improvement of electoral conditions in the field of equal media representation if judged on the basis of two documents published by the Regulatory Authority of Electronic Media – Draft Rulebook on the manner of fulfilling public media service obligations during the election campaign and Draft Recommendations for commercial media service providers on ensuring representation without discrimination during the election campaign to all registered political parties, coalitions and candidates.
“Having decided not to accept a series of constructive recommendations which were in line with international standards, the REM has essentially opted to continue avoiding fulfilling of its legally defined role and protecting the public interest in the electoral process. The legislator has not reduced the REM to a body that merely provides advice and recommendations. The REM has done it itself by deciding to influence the commercial media service providers only by a non-binding legal act. The obligation of the REM is to adopt general by-laws that set forth in more detail the rules by which broadcasters fulfil legal obligations through programme contents.”, said Raša Nedeljkov, programme director at the CRTA.
The REM has not recognised the need to influence the restriction in appearances of public officials in informative programmes during the election campaign. Instead, it has imposed a vague obligation on public broadcasters and only recommended to the commercial media to take account of journalistic ethics, professionalism and objectivity when reporting on the regular activities of officials.
The REM’s determination that the equal representation of candidates in the election programme be based on the “principle of proportional equality” is also challengeable, as it remains unclear how the importance of a political actor will be determined.
Based on the Plan of Media Service Providers Monitoring published by the REM, the CRTA has concluded that the REM monitoring won’t comprise covert promotions in contents that are not included in the informative or strictly electoral programmes.
The REM intends to inform the public about the findings of electronic media programme monitoring by a report that will be published only after the election, disregarding the recommendation to do so periodically during the campaign.
The CRTA urges the Regulatory Authority of Electronic Media to consider once again all civil society recommendations before the public debate in order to truly contribute to protection of public interests during the election campaign.