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News 18 Jun 15

Serbia Tells State Media to Prepare for Sale

Minister says media privatisation will proceed and warns that media risk closure if they do not submit documents by Friday.

Sasa Dragojlo
BIRN
Belgrade
Ivan Tasovac, Serbia’s Minister of Culture and Information. | Photo by Beta

Ivan Tasovac, Serbia’s Minister of Culture and Information, said state-owned media must submit the necessary documentation for their sale immediately and the process of privatization ought to be completed in four months. Media outlets that fail to submit the requisite documents by June 19 risk being shut down.

“Many have thought that non-observance of deadlines, delays and obstructions will finally destroy this media reform. The state will withdraw from the media, the law will be applied, and the ministry will stubbornly insist on their strict observance,” Tasovac said on June 18.

He said that the media were mainly to blame for the delays to privatization because they refuse to get off the state budget.

Last August, the current government led by the Serbian Progressive Party, adopted a Law on Information and the Media that provided for the withdrawal of the state from media ownership by a deadline of July 1, 2015.

“The responsibility of all those who advocate breaking the law is not only criminal and a misdemeanor but also a deep moral responsibility,” Tasovac said.

Ljubomir Subara, Director of the Privatization Agency, said he had been promised that documentation for the privatization of 34 of Serbia’s 73 publicly owned media outlets will be delivered by Friday. Bids for their sale will be published by the end of June.

“The agency has had to beg the media to provide the documentation because most of them thought they would never be privatized,” Subara noted. He added that only 14 media had complied so far.

The former government of Mirko Cvetkovic adopted a general Media Strategy in September 2011, which was supposed to act as a guideline for the development of the public information system until 2016.

The strategy envisaged the withdrawal of the state from all media, except in limited and specific cases such as national and provincial public services.

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