Southeast Europe: First academy on media law
23 Jul 2012
The First Academy on Media Law in South East Europe took place in Zagreb from 3 to 8 June 2012. The event brought together media law practitioners from all of the countries of the region as well as international organisations. Held under the auspices of the Regional Cooperation Council and with support of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media and the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and implemented by ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression and the European Association of Public Service Media in South East Europe, the Academy aimed at safeguarding media freedoms by enhancing regional cooperation and by building capacity of media lawyers to use the best national media laws and practices in the region in line with international and European media standards.
The Academy sought to respond to common challenges concerning media freedom in the region. As members of the Council of Europe and participating States of the OSCE, the states in South East Europe have already incorporated into their legislation many of the European media standards, also in view of their integration with the European Union. However, these developments have not been fully matched by proper implementation of legal provisions or a corresponding evolution of attitudes. Legislators and media regulators tend to copycat diverse Western laws and institutions. They are relatively tame and often lack sufficient political will and confidence to act timely and effectively when European standards leave room for different solutions at a national level. Furthermore, the legislative efforts are not followed by monitoring and assessment of the implementation of the laws. Finally, although legislators and media regulators cooperate at European level, the best regional practices from neighbouring countries with similar media markets and environments are underestimated.
The idea of the Academy rests on three assumptions. The first assumption is that the good practices in one country can serve as a model or inspiration for reforming the media regulation in the other countries in the region. The second assumption is that media lawyers and law practitioners in South East Europe share many fundamental challenges and therefore can share and learn from each others’ experiences. The third assumption is that building a network of media lawyers and law practitioners with a common strategy is one of the ways to successfully address the challenges which the media in South East Europe face today.
The Academy provided a unique opportunity for media experts from Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo*, Montenegro, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey to meet, exchange ideas and seek solutions to common issues concerning freedom of expression and media freedom. The participants – practicing media lawyers, legislators, members of media regulators and self-regulatory bodies, and academics – represented every country in South East Europe. During the sessions of the Media Academy, the participants updated their knowledge on media standards, increased their awareness of the best practices in media regulation in the region, and formulated conclusions for legal reforms based on the best practices in the region.
Hido Biscevic, Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council; Josip Popovac, President of the European Association of Public Service Media in South East Europe/Director General of the Croatian Radio-Television; and Nina Suomalainen, Deputy Head of the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina gave the opening speeches. The opening plenary was then continued by statements from Hendrik Bussiek, media expert from Germany, Boyko Boev, Senior Legal Officer at ARTICLE 19 and Malgorzata Anna Kowalczyk, Policy Officer at the Directorate General for Information Society and Media, European Commission.
The opening speeches were followed by general presentations on media standards and the experience with their implementation in the region. In his presentation, Vuk Cucic, Assistant Lecturer at the University of Belgrade, reviewed the case law of the European Court of Human Rights concerning the media freedom in South East Europe. Boyko Boev, Senior Legal Officer, talked about recent standard setting activities of the UN and the Council of Europe presenting the recently adopted UN Human Rights Committee’s General Comment No. 34 concerning the rights of freedom of opinion and of freedom of expression and the new Declaration of the Committee of Ministers of Council of Europe on Public Service Media Governance.
The first day of the Academy was followed with discussions on thematic issues. This year’s Academy aimed to stimulate discussions and an exchange of information about public service media remit, media pluralism, media law and responsibility. The countries in South East Europe face common challenges and need to improve their laws and practice.
The thematic discussions lasted for three days, whereby every day the participants examined a separate theme. The sessions started with an introduction of the relevant standards and presentation of the recent developments in the area. This was followed by 5-10-minute presentations by the participants who outlined challenges and positive aspects of the legal framework and practice in their countries relating to the theme of the day. In order to facilitate their preparation for the sessions and ensure uniformity of the structure of the presentations, the organisers prepared questionnaires which were sent to the participants before the start of the Academy. The country presentations were followed by group discussions and further exploration of the issues. At the last session of the day, the groups presented their conclusions for media law reforms based on the best practices in the region.
The last day of the Academy’s agenda included several closing presentations. Vuk Cucic talked about his experience as a coach of the student team from the University of Belgrade, which in 2011 won the international finals of the Monroe E. Price International Media Law Moot Competition at Oxford. He advocated for holding regional rounds of the media law competition and explained how moot courts can be used in media law and policy training. In the last presentation of the Academy on Media Law, Andris Kesteris, Principal Adviser on Civil Society and Media at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Enlargement, focused on the importance of media law in the EU enlargement context and explained the ways that media freedom issues are linked to the EU accession process.
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