The Serbian parliament has postponed a vote on a controversial media censorship bill which has drawn criticism from the public and protests from media and professional associations. Parliament speaker Slavica Djukic Dejanovic delayed a vote on
the bill until 31 August, after the summer recess, purportedly to allow refurbishment of the parliament building.
The bill introduces draconian fines and possible closure of news organisations which publish slanderous allegations about politicians and other public figures before they have been convicted by a court of law.
Political analysts said the bill aimed to target Belgrade tabloid Kurir but the entire media would be muzzled as a result.
Serbian journalists' association president Ljiljana Smajlovic, of the planned law was a scandalous proposal that would be an atomic bomb dropped by the government on the media. The law would protect the government from the public,
instead of the other way around .
A prominent Belgrade analyst, Slobodan Antonic, agreed: This is not the law of a free, democratic society, it's a law of an authoritarian, oligarchic and repressive regime.
The Serbian parliament passed a controversial media law this week that has been criticised for jeopardising press freedom because of its provision for hefty fines against journalists.
The law, slammed by journalists' groups and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, was passed after pro-European President Boris Tadic's ruling coalition withdrew two of its most criticised sections.
Media outlets, editors and journalists now face fines of tens of thousands of euros, calculated according to a newspaper's circulation and daily advertising revenue, if they publish false or libellous information.
Electronic media will also have to pay a fine equivalent to their daily advertising revenue, prompting criticism that the new law will lead to self-censorship.
The head of the OSCE mission to Serbia Hans Ola Urstad warned in a statement last week that the law sets fines that are too high for a Serbian context which could lead to self-censorship and the closure of media outlets.
Following a public outcry, the government dropped sections calling for media outlets to be closed if they were in the red for more than three months and for all media to pay a deposit of 50,000 euros (71,000 dollars) to set up.