To create a public fund to support the media based on objective criteria and with complete independence, in accordance with existing European standards, to maintain the strict ban on state advertising in the media, to put a clear watermark on communication materials from the Government, to make their source clear to the public, to introduce legislation against strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs), to improve the accountability of politicians and public officials for hostile statements and behavior towards journalists and media workers – these are just some of the recommendations contained in the Report on the Fact-Finding mission that was carried out from June 5 to 7 in Skopje.
The report was presented yesterday by the experts, Ricardo Gutierrez, who was present at the event, while the other colleagues, Jamie Wiseman, Lawrence Hutting, and Massimo Moratti, presented their part of the report online.
The General Secretary of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Gutiérrez, indicated that although there is progress in the situation in the media space, he highlighted the problem with politicians, that is, that there is an urgent need for them to understand the role of journalists and the media.
“We met with all relevant stakeholders in society. Our mission noticed an improvement in the situation. Still, we also noticed a lack of awareness among the politicians themselves about the role of journalists and their position as guardians of democracy. The media and journalists are seen as instruments of political power and state government interests. There is an urgent need for politicians to understand the role of journalists and to consider the Association of Journalists of Macedonia as a basic partner in implementing any media policies in the country. We call and encourage politicians and decision-makers to be encouraged and find the right solutions for the right problems,” said Gutiérrez.
The president of AJM, Mladen Chadikovski, in his presentation on the topic, welcomed the efforts of his colleagues during the entire process of scanning the state of the media in the country, emphasized the need for a systemic solution to the problems faced by journalists, and that freedom of speech must take precedence over the interests of business and politics to create a fairer society.
“The colleagues who participated in creating this report found the best possible title – Freedom of the Media in Macedonia – progress on glass legs. Today, Macedonia is in 38th place in the Reporters Without Borders Report, and that is good; we welcome it, but I think we should be aware that that picture is not entirely true and can change overnight. Without a systemic solution to the shortcomings, the problems with the possible pressures that journalists, journalism, and the media in Macedonia face can return us to 2013, and instead of the 38th place, we find ourselves in the 123rd place. I believe that by implementing the recommendations of our European colleagues, we will succeed in reaching the right solution. The sooner, the better because freedom of speech must take precedence over the interests of business and politics,” said Chadikovski in his address.
The Fact-Finding mission aimed to investigate media freedom in North Macedonia. As part of it, there were representatives of five international journalists and media associations who held working meetings with key institutions in Macedonia. Meetings were held with President Stevo Pendarovski, Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski, Assembly Speaker Talat Xhaferi, the directors of AVMU and MRT, the Minister of Information Society and Administration Azir Aliu, the EU and US Embassy in Macedonia, and with a group of journalists. The group of experts was composed of: Ricardo Gutiérrez – European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Albana Shala – Free Press Unlimited, Jamie Weisman – International Media Institute (IPI), Lawrence Cornelis Hutting – European Center for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), and Massimo Moratti – Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeurop produced a report on media freedom in North Macedonia entitled “Fragile Progress Fact-finding press freedom mission report
The assessment mission found that progress has been made in recent years, while the country continues to recover from the severe erosion of media freedom over the previous decade. However, this progress can easily be undermined, and much work remains to consolidate all gains and overcome systemic challenges. As for the safety of journalists, North Macedonia remains relatively safe compared to other countries in the region.
This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the Association of Journalists of Macedonia and the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.