A regional conference on "Constitutional Jurisdiction and the Media" organised jointly by the IRZ and the Constitutional Court of Serbia took place in Kladovo, eastern Serbia, on 4 and 5 September. Representatives of the Constitutional Courts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro also attended the conference.

The conference was a continuation of the long-lasting and successful cooperation between the IRZ and the Constitutional Court of Serbia. The cooperation has involved, amongst other things, advice and support from the IRZ for the introduction of constitutional complaints to Serbian law.

The aim of the conference was to hold direct discussions between constitutional courts and media representatives, as the President of the host court, Vesna Ilić Prelić, pointed out in her welcome address. This was also reflected in the people attending the conference. As well as representatives from the various constitutional courts, Serbian participants in the closed conference included journalists Aleksandra Petrović ("Politika" daily newspaper) and Vojislava Crnjanski Spasojević ("Večernje novosti" daily newspaper) and Ljubiša Obradović, editor-in-chief of the online edition of the state broadcasting company, RTV Serbia. The journalists, all of whom had a legal background, talked with representatives of the various constitutional courts, who primarily covered the relationship between constitutional jurisdiction and the media in their respective countries. The following presented national reports from their own constitutional courts:

  • Vesna Ilić Prelić, President of the Constitutional Court of Serbia
  • Zlatko M. Knežević, Vice-President of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Dr. Katja Senjak, Constitutional Judge, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Dr. Duška Šarin, Constitutional Judge, Croatia
  • Dr. Teodor Antic, Secretary General of the Constitutional Court of Croatia
  • Milorad Gogic, Constitutional Judge, Montenegro

Representing the German side were Dr. Dieter Hömig, a former judge at the German Federal Constitutional Court and the Karlsruhe correspondent for the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Dr. Wolfgang Jasnisch. In addition, Nina Salomon, who works in the press office at the European Court of Human rights, presented the public relations work that takes place at the court in Strasbourg.

The multidisciplinary composition of the conference led to some interesting discussions, during which media representatives and constitutional judges were able to gain deeper insights into the nature of each other's work and develop an understanding of the other point of view.

There were, however, differences of opinion even within the same professional groups. These concerned, for example, the question as to how much criticism, particularly unjustified criticism, of the constitutional courts by the press should be acceptable.

During the discussions it became clear that, in certain respects, the situation in Southeast Europe differs considerably from that in Germany. In Southeast European countries, it is the exception rather than the rule for journalists reporting on the activities of constitutional courts to have formal legal training. This trend will probably intensify as a result of the increasingly strong competition between the media in Southeast Europe. In addition, the scope of the media criticising the constitutional courts - sometimes unjustly and harshly - is wider in the Southeast European countries attending the conference than is the case in Germany, for example. On the other hand, the attendance of journalists with a legal background at the conference proves that there are also media representatives in Southeast Europe who are interested in having an objective dialogue with the constitutional courts in their countries.

The event made it clear that talks between the two professional groups are necessary and promising. All the more so because the objective and critical observation of the administration of justice is just as important for its own future as it is for the perception of the case law by the citizens.