AJM closely follows the steps of the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia regarding the promotion of the Draft Plan against the dissemination of misinformation and the initial assessment contains points of concern. In order to exclude doubts about the abuse of the Government’s obligation to guarantee the freedom of expression, it is extremely important that the consultation process on these topics is maximally inclusive and transparent from the very beginning.
In addition, the Government should know that defining professional standards and assessing whether a journalist or media outlet is ethical can be done solely by the journalistic community and the public, and not by a governmental institution or any working group within the Government.
Concerning the content of the Draft Plan, we encourage the Government’s move to make a defense mechanism within the institutions through the creation of protocols and training for the public administration. We believe that it is important for the executive authorities to be transparent and accurate in the way information is passed to the public, as a preventive mechanism for misinterpretation by the media.
On the other hand, we have some concerns regarding some of the proactive measures, in particular those that imply paid campaigns in the private media, the announcement of co-regulation, the introduction of criteria for media accreditation that will have the right to follow government events in accordance with standards of the journalistic profession, as well as the establishment of a work group with problematic composition and role which will combat misinformation.
The imprecision of these proposed measures can be interpreted as an attempt to restrict freedom of expression, and thus damage the already fragile media sector in our country.
The fight against misinformation is a complex process, not only in North Macedonia but in the whole world in general. The European Commission already has a prevention plan that is a good basis for action planning in our country as well, but the local context is extremely important and therefore it is imperative for journalists and the media to have a strong role in creating these strategies and to be involved in the process in advance.