By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
MPs who also own TV and radio stations have until the end of the month to choose between keeping their political careers or their media outlets.
Boris Stojmenov, MP and head of the small VMRO-Macedonian party, which is part of Nikola Gruevski’s government, has until September 30 to decide whether to step down as a parliamentarian, or risk losing ownership of Kanal 5 TV.
“All possibilities are open,” his son Emil Stojmenov says, adding that “although what they are demanding is ridiculous, we will respect the legal deadline and decide this by Friday”.
Five months ago, Macedonia’s Broadcasting Council, SRD, issued a deadline for the three big national broadcasters, Kanal 5 TV , Sitel TV and Kanal 77 Radio, to regulate their ownership or risk losing their licenses.
By law, public office holders and members of their close families cannot own electronic media.
Earlier this week Ljubisav Ivanov-Zingo, another MP and leader of the Socialist Party, announced that he intended to quit as an MP in order to allow his son, Goran, stay in charge of Sitel TV.
Kanal 5 and Sitel are the most prominent private national TV broadcasters and the two MPs’ involvement in the stations has long been a matter of controversy.
Meanwhile, Goran Gavrilov, the owner of Kanal 77, a radio station broadcasting nationwide, who is brother of Biljana Kazandziska, a legislator from the opposition Social Democrats, has proposed transfering his ownership to his son and wife so that a conflict of interests could be avoided.
The SRD has not yet approved his plan.
“The situation is absurd… we have a legally sustainable solution and the SRD has to make a decision,” Gavrilov complained to the newspaper Dnevnik on Tuesday.
This spring, the European Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Fuele, mentioned resolving problematic media ownership issues as a precondition for the country’s progress towards EU membership.
The need to improve media freedom and independence has been regularly pinpointed in the annual progress reports on Macedonia issued by the European Commission.