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Macedonia Journalists Sceptical About New Media Law

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By Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Journalists groups have voiced surprise after the government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski last week announced that it was planning to table a new media law.

Instead of a new law, “we would prefer respect and implementation of the current legal framework,” Naser Selmani, head of the Journalists’ Association of Macedonia, ZNM, said on Wednesday.

The ZNM and the Macedonian Institute for Media, MIM, recommend a series of concrete steps without changing the existing media laws.

These include decriminalization of libel, reform of the national broadcaster, Macedonian Radio and Television, and a halt to the government’s practice of placing lucrative adverts only in favoured media outlets.

Last week, the Ministry of Transport and Communications defended the need for a new Law on Media, saying it was necessary to widen the span of the existing Broadcasting Law, which only regulates the electronic media.

Among other things they envisage “a considerable increase in fines” for media that break the law and a set of new regulatory bodies to monitor what is published.

Journalists are on the alert, as some fear the law will be used to additionally curb media freedom in a country where numerous media watchdogs have already sounded alarm bells.

“This concept [of introducing laws] without consultation and involving the media community tends towards the regulation of areas over which society and the media have not reached any consensus,” Petrit Saracini, program manager at the MIM, said.

The closure in summer of A1 TV, the country’s best known anti-government media outlet, was widely blamed on government pressure.

So was the closure of the three dailies also owned by A1’s owner, Velja Ramkovski, Vreme, Spic and Koha e Re. Ramkovski is now on trial on for tax avoidance.

The government insists that it is not targeting critically inclined media and says the closures were purely related to the owner’s tax avoidance.

However, according to the recently published European Commission report on Macedonia, “the media continue to be subject to interference from political and business interests.”

It added: “Intimidation of journalists and selective enforcement of legislation against media companies are increasing causes for concern.”

The Commission’s remarks followed similar concerns raised in July by a number of media watchdogs such as Amnesty International, the Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organization, SEEMO, and the France-based group Reporters Without Borders.

During her visit to the country in October, Dunja Mijatovic, representative for media freedom of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, said she noticed “worrying trends” concerning the media in Macedonia.

In October, the Government and the ZNM lauched direct talks aimed at resolving some of the key issues troubling reporters. The talks should resume next year.

Balkan Insight

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

4 thoughts on “Macedonia Journalists Sceptical About New Media Law

  • Avatar
    December 15, 2011 at 7:44 pm
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    Why should anyone be surprised by this? Gruevski is just following the Putin model. We see that in the end the people will finally come to their senses and see when a dictator has overstepped their limits. Macedonia has become a very scary place!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      December 15, 2011 at 11:02 pm
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      A1 TV was working for foreign country.What
      the government should have done is,charge A1 owner and his reporters for treason.Lets say,do as Alexander did to Philotas.
      Freedom of the press does not mean to support a foreign country that wants to destroy your own country by accepting monetary payment.
      Journalists have to report the facts,not lies as did A1.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    December 16, 2011 at 2:13 pm
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    I agree with Peter. Do what Alexander did to Philota even though I feel that Philota was innocent. Alexander was more afraid of Philota’s popularity among the Macedonian soldiers and the obvious connection to his very popular father Parmenio. BTW, I consider Parmenio and Antipater together with Philip II the greatest Macedonian warriors.
    Gandeto

    Reply
  • Avatar
    December 16, 2011 at 9:58 pm
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    Somewhat biased article.
    A1 TV owner is on trial for tax evasion. The man has never paid utility bill to the city of Skopje for 15 years, owes 2 million dollars to the US Embassy, never paid any broadcast rights, the list is endless…
    A1 TV owner used his station to attack Government officials and Mayors who demanded he pay taxes.
    A1 journalists made up stories on Government officials and mayors and when they got sued for libel the claim was they didn’t have media freedom to make up stories on people.

    In every country journalists are held accountable for what they write.
    I personally never cared if A1 was paid by Greece, however when journalists write some official is “corrupt”, they better have the proof for it. If you don’t you’ll end up in court sued for Libel.

    A1 owner had complete control of TV and printed media which is against the law. No TV owner in Macedonia is allowed to also own printed media.

    Reply

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