One of the most unusual strikes in Serbia, held within the scope of the Regulatory Body for Electronic Media (REM), has ended after almost two weeks, and has done so after the body received support for their decision to strike from the MPs of the ruling majority coalition.
With opinions differing over the legality of the regulator’s strike action, it was explained as being called in response to “pressure against the independence and safety of members of the REM Council and all employees”.
The decision of television channels N1 and Nova S to cease broadcasts for 24 hours and air only a darkened screen showing the message “Darkness in Serbia without free media” was also interpreted as being part of the pressure exerted. TV Nova S, which applied for the fifth national frequency, filed charges against REM over its failure to meet legal deadlines regarding the decision over which channel would use that frequency.
The Parliamentary Committee for Culture and Information, a majority of members of which are MPs of the ruling coalition, supported REM in the performing of its duties and also expressed understanding for the decision to suspend the body’s work. In contrast, the political opposition considers it an illegal strike and has sought the dismissal of members of the REM Council.
The Slavko Ćuruvija Foundation announced that “the circus that REM is creating with its ‘strike’ leaves no hope whatsoever that the government’s intention is to enable full media freedom in Serbia”, while – with its decision to support the REM “strike” – “the Parliamentary Committee for Culture and Information is arrogantly mocking all Serbian citizens, laws and common sense”.
Following the declaring of the parliamentary committee’s stance, REM held an emergency session at which it brought the decision to end the strike. According to REM Council member Judita Popović, the move came after the parliamentary majority provided political support and thereby showed that the decision to strike had been a political decision, as well as an unsuitable attempt to counter the move of N1 and Nova S in ceasing broadcasts of television programming in protest.
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