Second cycle of roundtables on media accountability finishes in South East Europe
UNESCO finishes the second cycle of national roundtables on media accountability, organized in the framework of the project, Alignment to International Standards in the Media Sector of South-East European Countries. This project, which began in 2008, has been funded by the European Commission and implemented by UNESCO, in cooperation with the South-East European Network for Professionalization of Media (SEENPM) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
The last events in the cycle took place in Belgrade (Serbia), Podgorica (Montenegro), Skopje (the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) and Pristina (Kosovo, under UNSCR 1244) in October-November 2010.
The roundtable on media self-regulation in Belgrade aimed to provide support to the newly founded Press Council through best practices from the mentoring Norwegian Press Council and experiences from other countries in the region. The event took place in the moment when media community in Serbia was actively debating the new draft media strategy of the country, elaborated with the support of the European Union. As new practices are slowly being introduced in Serbian media, the OSCE mission in Belgrade brought together all interested stakeholders to listen to the presentation of Kjell Nyhuus, from the Norwegian Press Council. Representatives of other Serbia-based international entities supporting media development initiatives also contributed to the discussion.
The roundtable on media self-regulation in Podgorica was attended by representatives of Montenegrin media, media associations, the national journalistic self-regulatory body, OSCE and international experts. The event provided an opportunity to increase the awareness about media self-regulation in Montenegro as a necessary tool for improving the quality of media coverage and the public trust in media. "Self-regulation is a cohesive factor for the divided media community in the country and the mechanism that can make media more accessible to citizens, involving them in editorial processes", stated the participants of the roundtable. According to them, the temporary blockage in the work of the national journalistic self-regulatory body could be overcome through a wide consensus of Montenegrin media. They also agreed that there was a need to continue to raise awareness about the code of ethics and professional standards in journalism, and to look for additional donor support.
The Press Council of Kosovo, in cooperation with UNESCO, the European Commission and OSCE, held the national roundtable on self-regulation of online media in Pristina. Participants discussed the experience and models of online print media and their compliance with the code of ethics and other forms of self-regulation. The debates were animated by Stephen Pritchard, ombudsman at the Observer. Speaking about his work at the oldest world newspaper, Pritchard stressed the importance of this new form of self-regulation on a newspaper editorial level. The second level for British readers' complaints remains the UK Press Council, which reviewed an average of 4000 cases in 2010.
Stephen Pritchard was also a key speaker at the debate in Skopje (the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), which gathered some 30 journalists, editors, media experts and academics. The event focused on self-regulation and accountability as integral part of free and democratic media. Participants highlighted the importance of the ombudsman function as the first level for appeals against media and expressed the need for establishing a tripartite self-regulation body composed of journalists, media owners and the public. They supported the recommendations contained in the Review of Media Self-Regulation in Macedonia that was presented at the roundtable.
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