Central and Southeastern Europe in Transition: Perspectives on Success and Failure since 1989

By Hall Gardner | Go to book overview

is. Media freedom is a barometer of other freedoms in a society, and a healthy media is an indicator of the development of a civil society. In Croatia the space for alternative opinions is very limited indeed. The Feral Tribune trial, which I mentioned above, brought some international pressure but more from NGOs than IGOS.

Of course, one must not be naive and one must recognize other political realities, such as the implementation of the Dayton peace accords for Bosnia. But nevertheless Croatia's application for membership in the Council of Europe could and should have been used with more force to secure at least some legislative changes before it was granted. Similarly, such bodies should be more prepared to use sanctions--threats of suspension, withdrawal of economic privileges--when media freedom is violated.

Another country that gives human rights activists great cause for concern is Slovakia. At the economic level Slovakia might have been in the first batch of countries for EU membership, if it were not for the clearly anti-democratic tendencies of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, which are becoming more apparent every day.

This leads to another important point: when monitoring elections and when judging whether or not they have been free and fair, a greater account must be taken of the role the media has played, particularly the state- controlled media. There should also be a more sophisticated consideration of the media environment. Much of the monitoring that is done only focuses on allocation of election spots to parties or candidates during the official campaign period, without sufficiently assessing the overall media environment and the way the flows of information are controlled within the society. It is the latter that has an important influence on how people form their judgement of the political environment.


CONCLUSION

In Southern-Central Europe, in the Balkans, the media is still developing, and the progress of the whole media environment is dependent on political, legal and economic developments. The independent media in these countries is often in a particularly precarious position because it is also under political pressure. And equally in those countries in which journalists are working to transform state-funded electronic media to public service media a combination of economic hardships and political pressures are hindering the process. It is therefore clear that external support is still required. This support should continue at the level of professional and technical expertise, economic aid, and assistance with the drafting and reform of legislation. Equally important is political pressure to protect media freedom and the rights of journalists in which is still, at best, a very fragile transition toward democracy.


NOTES
1.
In April 1998, a draft of the proposed new Slovak election law was made public. It was a potentially incredibly repressive document for freedom of information.

-73-

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Central and Southeastern Europe in Transition: Perspectives on Success and Failure since 1989
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 in Search of East-Central Europe: Ten Years After 5
  • Notes 19
  • Chapter 2 the Balkans: A Distorted, Third World Reflection of Europe 21
  • Notes 28
  • Chapter 3 Rusty Ottoman Keys to the Balkans of Today 31
  • Notes 42
  • Chapter 4 the Role of Culture Under the Communist and Post-Communist Eras 43
  • Chapter 5 the Transformation of the Media in Post-Communist Central Europe 51
  • Notes 60
  • Chapter 6 the Media in Transition in Southern Central Europe 61
  • Notes 73
  • Chapter 7 a Balance of Economic Reforms in Central and Eastern Europe 75
  • Notes 92
  • Chapter 8 Ulysses and the Lotus Eaters 97
  • Notes 110
  • Chapter 9 Environmental Security and Civil Society 113
  • Notes 142
  • Chapter 10 the Genesis of Nato Enlargement and of War "Over" Kosovo 151
  • Introduction 151
  • Notes 181
  • Name Index 199
  • Subject Index 203
  • Contributors and Editors 209
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