Media legislation

In 2014, three new media acts, namely Zakon o javnom informisanju i medijima (the Law on Public Information and Media), Zakon o elektronskim medijima (the Law on Electronic Media), and Zakon o javnim medijskim servisima (the Law on Public Service Media) were adopted by the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia. The adoption of these acts was one of the main goals set in Medijska strategija (the Media Strategy), which the Government adopted in September 2011.

The Law on Public Information and Media is the general media act. At its promulgation it included the mandatory privatisation of then remaining publicly owned media. The law defines the common interest in the field of media, allowing the co-financing of media projects, which are of common interest, as a permissible form of state aid. It also aims to improve the transparency of media ownership by introducing Medijski registar (Media Register). Medijski registar started its activities on 13 February 2015, pursuant to Article 141 of Zakon o javnom informisanju i medijima. It is an integrated, centralised, electronic database on media. The Law has also liberalised media concentration benchmark to some extent.

The Law on Electronic Media regulates the alignment with the EU regulatory framework (“Audiovisual Media Services Directive”) with respect to the categories of services and their providers, as well as the new licensing regime. It also redefines restrictions aimed at protection of media pluralism and mandatory privatisation of media in public ownership.

The Law on Public Service Media is harmonised with the Communication of the EU Commission on the application of state aid rules to public service broadcasting. It recognises a national public service broadcaster (RTS), and a provincial one in the Province of Vojvodina (RTV). Amendments to the Law on Public Service Media and the law regulating the temporary regulation of the collection of the fee for the public service media were adopted in December 2015. This temporary solution causes uncertainty about the editorial independence and stable financing of RTS and RTV, as is noted in the 2016 EU country report for Serbia.

Zakon o oglasavanju (The Law on Advertising) was adopted in 2016.

Defamation was decriminalised in 2012, and is now a civil offense.

Despite the existence of the 2004 Zakon o slobodnom pristupu informacijama od javnog značaja (the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance), authorities often obstruct the media’s efforts to obtain public information.

Although media legislation is generally considered good and in line with European standards, the EU Commission in its 2016 Country Report noted that that more consistent efforts are needed to ensure full implementation of the media laws. It stressed that privatisation of state media outlets had not led to greater transparency of ownership or funding  sources, including state funding and that co-financing of media content to meet public interest obligations needed to be implemented in line with the legislative framework, using transparent and fair procedures.

Previous Media Strategy expired in 2016 and Ministarstvo kulture i medija (the Ministry of Culture and Information) has begun work on the new one, which should frame and strategically position the development of the Serbian media sector in the upcoming five years. In the summer of 2017, the ministry assembled a working group to draft a proposal which could be publicly presented and discussed, before being adopted by the government. However, the working group has been dogged by controversy, culminating with four of its members quitting.