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Macedonia: Press, Government Agreement Stirs Debate

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By Marina Stojanovska

A group of journalists and media organisations are objecting to an agreement between the Association of Journalists of Macedonia and the government that would decriminalise libel and defamation, but implement steep fines that critics say will lead to self-censorship.

Under the agreement signed June 13th, fines for libel and defamation will be a measure of last resort, ordered only after all preventive measures are exhausted — including issuing a denial, reconciling or issuing an apology.

“We agreed the maximum fine would be 2,000 euros for a journalist that has committed libel, while 10,000 and 15,000 for the editor-in-chief and the media’s owner, respectively,” Naser Selmani, president of the media association, said.

The plaintiffs in libel and defamation cases are mostly politicians, but editors and journalists increasingly sue other journalists as well.

“Is it ‘optimal’ for a Macedonian journalist, working for 200 to 300 euros a month, to pay ten monthly wages for a defamation fine?” Branko Gerovski, editor of the web portal Plus Info, told SETimes.

But some media workers said the agreement provides the basis for a deeper redefinition of journalists’ rights and responsibilities, as well as relations inside the media houses.

“It is time certain editors face reality. A new era in journalism has begun, in which the main decisions and the responsibilities will be shared,” media expert Viktor Grozdanov told Nova Makedonija.

“[The EU] closed their mouths by fully supporting the new law. If the law is written in accordance with the European obligatory and recommended directives, then it is all right and we all should support it,” Grozdanov said.

Sladjana Dimishkova, president of the Macedonian Journalists Association, said that while the agreement is a step in the right direction, the high fines for media owners open the door for them to exert greater control over the work of journalists.

“This is a proposition for which there should be a public debate in which the profession will be involved. We recommend self-regulation in the work of journalists,” Dimishkova told SETimes.

Biljana Petkovska, executive director of the Macedonia Media Institute, said libel and defamation fines will become a part of the past, provided the courts use the non-monetary measures under the forthcoming law.

“That creates the basis to seriously begin the process of strengthening professional standards in the editorial rooms through efficient self-regulation, in which all media that promote professional and ethical journalism will participate,” Petkovska said.

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SETimes

The Southeast European Times Web site is a central source of news and information about Southeastern Europe in ten languages: Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, English, Greek, Macedonian, Romanian, Serbian and Turkish. The Southeast European Times is sponsored by the US European Command, the joint military command responsible for US operations in 52 countries. EUCOM is committed to promoting stability, co-operation and prosperity in the region.

5 thoughts on “Macedonia: Press, Government Agreement Stirs Debate

  • June 24, 2012 at 8:05 am
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    Freedom of Speech will always be tampered with here in FYROM. Ever since we became independent the skopjia state took away our rights to voice our concerns.

    Maybe if Gruevski becomes a little more European and less a typical envy seeking Balkanist then his primitive hold on power will finally become civilised.

    Reply
    • June 24, 2012 at 10:54 pm
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      Don’t forget,Republic of Macedonia under the Yugoslav laws,was never free.This is a nation that seperated from the FSRY peacefully with not one being killed.Republic of Macedonia is sorounded by very ambitious neighbors who wish Macedonia ill for obvious reasons.
      The Gruevski government is doing its best to bring the society together,and in short time he has succesfully done.His government is implementing the EU laws.Every change in laws it will be difficualt for the citizens,but laws of the communist era must be erased before there can be progress.Macedonia and its people deserve time to change into the 21st century.If not for Greeces embargo,and Eurozone financial fiasko, Macedonia would have been way ahead of its neighbors in every way.Tiny as it may be,financialy they are better than all its neighbors,even countries who are members of EU,and thats because the Gruevski government does not raid banks for his own use as the PM of Greece Samaras in 1995.Once the eurozone crises pass,you will see Macedonia as the flower of the Balkans!
      Gruevski done more in short time of his government than the Crvenkovsi SDSM done in 16 years.

      Reply
  • June 26, 2012 at 1:40 am
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    The indigenous Illyrian Albanians of skopjia have always been understated in FYROM’s Yugislav papers. The Slavs of FYROM have their own media problems not because of ideologies but because of deep rooted envy and power rivalries. Freedom of speech in FYROM has always been compromised.

    We have many Yugislav friends in skopjia who complain about the low quality journalism based around the lack of free speech and opinions. No one deserves to have news tarnished with government prohibition. The skopjians under Gruevski think that their power can stop free speech among all the Slavic and indigenous people of FYROM.

    He must realise that opinions from opposition parties or from the oldest indigenous people of FYROM, the Albanians must be heard even if he thinks that his Yugislav people have a present majority. In another ten years FYROM’s indigenous people will be in the majority then Gruevski and his Slavic party will have many social-political problems.

    Reply
  • June 26, 2012 at 3:32 am
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    Sam is a Greek pretending to be an Albanian pretending to be from Macedonia. Look at the rubbish Macedonians have to endure on a daily basis. Pitiful. Even more pitiful would it be if Sam was actually a Macedonian resident and he was unable to call Macedonia by its name.

    His posts should be deleted.

    Reply
  • June 26, 2012 at 4:50 am
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    Like most Slavs of FYROM Mr Risto reduces the indigenous Albanians to low status. Like all FYROM slavs who have problems with Greece and their Macedonian heritage this Mr Risto believes anyone that does not support skopjians governments policies must be Greek.

    This is why FYROM continues to suffer from free speech problems and much racism. In the end when our indigenous people become majority of FYROM maybe Risto and his Slav nationalists can find some comfort in having Gruevski to blame for not offering more money for the Slavs to have more babies.

    Ten years is not long and then FYROM will have the indigenous people again in majority as it once was before the Bulgarians came and pushed many of our Albanian people out.

    Maybe Mr Risto you should learn to listen to free speech as you are not in a position to deny us the indigenous people of FYROM the right to speak their opinion.

    I agree with the majority indigenous Albanians that the only Macedonians were the Greek tribes from antiquity. They like our Illyrian ancestors have been around for thousands of years. Your Bulgarian roots Mr Risto is very recent and this is why we only recognise the only other non-indigenous people living here as the Slavs of FYROM.

    Reply

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