The Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM) has published the annual report on the indicators for media freedom and safety of journalists in North Macedonia for 2019, prepared within the project Regional Platform of the Western Balkans, funded by the European Commission.
This report concludes that on December 31, 2018, the Assembly approved the amendments to the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services (LAAMS), which included most of the remarks and recommendations of AJM, especially on the part of “MRT” and the Agency of Media. Additionally, the report notes that in the first half of 2019, AJM was included in working groups to amend other relevant laws for the media sector. However, an introductory remark of AJM that it notes is that amendments to these laws are slow. Some of these initiatives are only announced without concrete steps for implementation. Almost two years later, the election of members of the Program Council and the Council of the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services is still blocked in the parliamentary procedure, which confirms the views of AJM.
Furthermore, the report notes that during 2019 no attempt was registered by the Government or any other state body to censor and filter Internet content, i.e., the assessment is that citizens freely use the right to freedom of expression in the Internet space, media, or other organizations.
Although the policy of impunity for violence against journalists is still present, compared to the previous few years, in 2019, journalists’ safety in the Republic of North Macedonia has improved. The number of registered physical attacks and threats against journalists in 2019, compared to 2018, increased by one, but is still significantly lower compared to 2017. In the last three years, in the period from 2017 to 2019, AJM in its register recorded 27 attacks on journalists and media workers, for 2017 a total of 20, for 2018 a total 3, and for 2019 a total of 4 attacks. In addition to the 4 more severe attacks on journalists registered in 2019, AJM recorded 24 other threats and incidents. Unfortunately, this trend is dramatically deteriorating in 2020. AJM wrote of November 14 more severe threats to journalists’ lives, most of them to women journalists, and only one court ruling with a final verdict.
The 2019 report also notes several cases of aggressive speech by politicians in power or in opposition with elements of contempt for journalists, as well as several threats of defamation and insult lawsuits that have seriously undermined the level of freedom of expression of journalists and may are seen as instruments of intimidation of journalists and media workers. The absence of an initiative of the Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office to undertake activities ex officio for the cases averted by the journalistic community also harmed the safety of journalists. Only the Ministry of Interior’s efforts to conduct a rapid investigation into most of the cases of attacks on journalists and to introduce an internal register of attacks on journalists can be positively assessed.
Therefore, interventions are needed in the Criminal Code, which will give additional authority to the Public Prosecutor’s Office to act ex officio in certain situations when the journalist’s right is violated during official duty. In this way, some of the challenges would be solved, and journalists would be spared from expensive court proceedings that they cannot initiate on their own. Furthermore, it is necessary to analyze the general economic situation in which the media are and, consequently, offer mitigation measures that would improve broadcasters’ work, primarily through various tax incentives. In order to improve the standards in the way the media and journalists report, the Government and all political actors need to support self-regulation in the media and use it instead of exerting pressure on the way specific media report. Media freedom and the safety of AJM journalists for 2019.
The Annual report can be found at the following LINK