Media NGO Warning: Region’s Public Broadcasters under Threat

World | December 2, 2009, Wednesday // 16:32|  views

Media NGO SEEMO warns of the dangers of official pressure on the public broadcasters of Central and South-East Europe. Private photo.

The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) has warned that public TV broadcasters are under threat throughout the region.

They have voiced their concerns on Wednesday, citing widespread abuse of public service journalists, editors and managers, who, they maintain, are enduring political, financial or economic pressure.

They were particularly critical of the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Croatia and Hungary,

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, political pressure on "Radiotelevizija Bosne i Hercegovine" (BHRT), the country's only national public broadcaster, is preventing journalists and media executives from carrying out their work independently. One of their investigative journalists has received several death threats.

BHRT, an official member of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), is the only channel in a position to safeguard the flow of equal, balanced information to and from all three national groups - Serbs, Croats and Muslims - as well as minorities living throughout the country.

SEEMO is also extremely concerned at the current situation at RTK, Kosovo's public broadcaster. The NGO stated that, until recently, RTK had set a good example for public broadcasting, offering public information and cultural programs that represented the entire population, without political interference from government.

Unfortunately, government influence has recently increased, with politicians trying to use RTK as their mouthpiece. As a result, RTK's year-long director has resigned under political pressure. At the same time, the regular mandate of the RTK board was ended.

Several violations of editorial independence have also occurred within Croatia's public broadcaster, Hrvatska Radiotelevizija (HRT), SEEMO stated.

According to reports from editors and journalists working at the station, television programmes have been severely censored in order to prevent critical reporting on problems in Croatian society.

This and other forms of pressure on their right to freedom of expression, had led some HRT journalists to stage a silent demonstration in front of the station's premises. However, the problems remain unresolved.

SEEMO is also very concerned about Hungary’s MTV, now in huge financial difficulty following government - implemented budget cuts.

SEEMO Secretary General, Oliver Vujovic, commented: "It is extremely alarming that politicians are trying desperately to use public broadcasting as a mouthpiece, and for propaganda.”

"SEEMO asks the political powers to stop pressuring and to support the survival of independent and professional public broadcasting. SEEMO will continue to strongly monitor the situation of the public broadcasting in the region of South East and Central Europe,” he added.

Bulgarian National Television (BNT) has also found itself mired in controversy, with the far-right, nationalist Ataka party recently demanding the abolition of the daily Turkish-language news bulletin. Metin Kazak, an MEP from the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), told his European parliamentary colleagues that the move was a sign of intolerance and discrimination.

Meantime, last Friday, the Bulgarian Re:TV closed down. Although a commercial broadcaster, news and information programs were the mainstay of the broadcaster’s schedule. The station’s owners had structured it as a “civil project”, establishing it with donations from funders such as the Open Society.

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Tags: SEEMO, Re:TV, Bulgaria, Croatia, kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, public broadcaster, BNT news in Turkish


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