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Macedonia Closes Another Critical Media Outlet

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By Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Macedonia’s Broadcasting Council on Wednesday removed the broadcasting license of A2 TV, the sister channel of A1, which was forced to close last year.

The revocation of the licence comes just as the TV recently started to air news bulletins and live political panels and to hire some of the journalists who previously worked in A1.

But the council’s explanation for its action is that “the TV failed to meet the licence criteria”, meaning, to include more news and educational content in its programmes to match 5 per cent of its air time.

The Worker’s Union of Journalists, SSNM, described this explanation as “absurd” at a time when the rules of the council are being disobeyed “on a daily basis” by other broadcasters.

Saying they were “appalled” by the move, they said it comes “just as the TV station started to consolidate itself”.

The move also comes as the government of Nikola Gruevski and the journalist’s association, ZNM, announced a deal on decriminalization of libel. The timing of the deal was seen by many as a deliberate attempt to distract attention from the shutdown.

This “coincidence” says the workers union, “will not diminish the weight of the move that again leaves many of our colleagues facing unemployment, nor it will remove suspicions of a selective use of law and a crackdown against critically oriented journalism”.

A2 was the last remaining chunk of the Macedonian media empire of media mogul Velija Ramkovski.

Unlike, A1, A2 up until recently did not air news bulletins. The bulk of its programmes, aired through cable and satellite, consisted of soap operas, films and talk-shows.

A1, once the country’s most prominent pro-opposition outlet, was declared bankrupt last July when the courts found it owed €9.5 million to the tax office in unpaid taxes. Earlier that same month, three daily newspapers also owned by Ramkovski; Vreme, Shpic and Koha e Re, were also closed because of unpaid taxes.

The crackdown was widely blamed on the cente-right government of Prime Minister Gruevski who has, however, denied allegations of involvement.

After spending a year in detention, in March Ramkovski was sentenced to 13 years in jail on four charges of tax evasion, criminal association, money laundering and misuse of office. He continues claiming he was being framed by the government.

The reduction in the number of opposition voices in Macedonia’s media has sparked concern over media freedom in the country.

The European Commission, the OSCE, the Freedom House and the Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation all expressed concern over the development.

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6 thoughts on “Macedonia Closes Another Critical Media Outlet

  • June 13, 2012 at 9:21 pm
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    Sounds like something any third world dictator would do. This country is Europe’s own little North Korea.

    Reply
  • June 14, 2012 at 7:14 am
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    You wrote “which was forced to close last year.”

    They forced themselves to clos due to the tax debt they had…

    Reply
  • June 14, 2012 at 1:43 pm
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    It’s funny how the so called rules only apply to Gruevski’s critics. Shutting them down for a 5 percent content rule, just as this station is beginning to change format? The rammifications of shutting down critisism and opposition far outweigh any benefits acrued here. Your country men will wake up one day and cry at the distruction of it’s culture, history, and democracy. They will look up at the ancient Greek staues ans wonder how they allowed such things to happen. As a slavic nation, Skopje achieved great things. In many ways they lead in the development of language,arts and religion. Today that has all been swept away for a history that doesn’t belong to them.

    Reply
  • June 14, 2012 at 11:58 pm
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    @Akron – Stop pretending to care about Macedonia, we all know that you are just another neo-Hellene troll who fixates and obsesses about neighbors instead of looking at his own country’s problems. You should know by now that there are no Greek statues in Macedonia, there are only Macedonian statues. I wish you would drop by to visit some day, and actually learn something about our people – the original, the indigenous, the authentic, the only ethnic Macedonians.

    Reply
  • June 15, 2012 at 2:18 pm
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    @Chris T. You keep dennying the Greek ethnicity of Macedonians, and you expect the world to accept your own communist inspired version of historical events. If your arguements were even closely realated to reality the world’s historians would have been backing your claims to be Macedonians. As it stands now and correctly so, your people are seen as victims of communist and now nationalist propaganda. Gruevski is slowly erasing your true history and adopting ancient Greek figures in an attempt to make you feel grander than you are. You are not makenoids, you are not the fathers of the white race, the macedonian language is Greek, not your Bulgarian dialect. Stop denying Greek and Bulgarian identity by stealing their history, and killing your very own.

    Reply
  • June 16, 2012 at 2:04 am
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    FYROM and its skojia government will stop all free speech. Many of our Albanian people have many problems with the Slavic people of FYROM who do not give journalist jobs to Albanians.

    Gruevski can close many media shops but he can’t stop free speech for our Albanian and Slavic people in Skopjia. The Yugoslavs of FYROM must know and remember this.

    Reply

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