Freedom of media is threatened, government spends funds to have more influence

Freedom of media is threatened, government spends funds to have more influence

IBNA Special Report

Skopje, October 2, 2014/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Naser Pajaziti

Freedom of media is being threatened in FYR Macedonia and journalists and experts say that although tougher laws and sanctions have existed before, the freedom of speech was greater.

Meanwhile, today, although the country has reformed laws on the freedom of media and its functioning, different forms of pressure are in place. Media and communication expert, Snezhana Trpevska told IBNA that media in the country is degrading and the freedom of speech being harmed.

“In our country, the freedom of media and speech has been greater when there were tougher laws in place, but today, although the laws have been harmonized with the EU legislation, we have media that is affected by different political and institutional circles. This is leading to a full degradation of the media and lack of professionalism”, says Snezhana Trpevska, who has recently published a detailed analysis called “The return of public attention to the work of the media”.

Igor Micevski, a journalist and publicist, says that media  operates  based on the interests and agendas dictated by politics.

“Political interventions are becoming stronger and stronger and parties that come in power monopolize the media. The media system in Macedonia is highly dependent on politics and there’s a strong direct link between politics and the media”, says Micevski. According to him, investigative journalism is missing and it seldom tries to be present in portals, which find it hard to survive in the media market.

Nazim Rashiti, lecturer in the Faculty of Journalism at the State University of Tetovo, says that the citizens of FYROM don’t have a clear perception on the freedom of speech, because this important component for the development of a democratic state, has been intentionally depreciated by political structures.

“In democratic societies, ideas are articulated in a public way, in writing or by expressing them through protests. At the moment when this important element is threatened, such as it’s the case in our country, then I would say that we must worry about what may happen to a society. Therefore, here in Macedonia, we have a problem that relates to understanding democracy and the freedoms which form the foundation of a democratic state”, says Rashiti.

Mirjana Najcevska from the Helsinki Committee for human rights says that what’s more worrying is the fact that according to an IRI survey, 42% of the citizens believe that the freedom of speech in the country is functional.

“I must say that it’s been a while that among the citizens there’s a fear for them to express their opinion on different issues, because practice has shown that courts have issued severe sentences for media employees or citizens, but not politicians”, says Najcevska.

A part of the state authorities admit the fact that there are problems with the freedom of speech.

Deputy prime minister for European integration, Fatmir Besimi says that freedom of speech is one of the priorities that the country must deliver as part of its EU obligations.

But, media depends a lot on government funds, as according to the head of the Association of Journalists of Macedonia, Naser Selmani, in the past three years alone, 18 million Euros have been spent on government campaigns.

“Official data show that there’s a growing trend by the government to spend more funds for its campaigns, to promote government policies. The report has been published in the government’s web page and it offers data on the government’s campaigns held from 2012 until 2013 and in the first half of 2014. In this period, the government has conducted 27 media campaigns, at a cost of 18 million Euros”, says Naser Selmani.

According to him, if in 2012, the amount spent on campaigns was 6,6 million Euros, in the first half of 2014, this figure amounts to 4 million Euros and this has increased the influence on the media.

In the latest report of Freedom House, FYROM has seen a fall as far as freedom of media is concerned, ranking the country on the 122nd place, among the countries partially free, alongside Turkey. Meanwhile, other countries of the region have gained places in this ranking. /ibna/