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Our Media: A civil society action to generate media literacy and activism, counter polarisation and promote dialogue

The primary focus of the three-year project Our Media is on strengthening the capacities of CSOs, media professionals, young activists and citizens to improve their understanding of trends and challenges regarding media freedom and media integrity as well as media development and sustainability in the Western Balkans and Turkey. Our Media is being implemented with the financial support of the European Union, in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey, by partner organizations SEENPM, Albanian Media Institute, Mediacentar Sarajevo, Press Council of Kosovo, Montenegrin Media Institute, Macedonian Institute for Media, Novi Sad School of Journalism, Peace Institute and Bianet. The project opens with research activities that will seek to identify the main trends, risks and opportunities for media sustainability in the region, and map good practices in media activism in support of media freedom and media and information literacy (MIL). The research findings will be used to strengthen capacities of media CSOs and other stakeholders for addressing challenges in media sector. Professional capacity of journalists, media outlets and media institutions will be addressed through targeted advocacy activities and engagement in national MIL coalitions. Through media activism, local and national media and other actors will be challenged to address gender inequalities in the media. Young leaders will be empowered to challenge harmful policies and practices, counter discrimination and gender stereotypes, and promote gender equality through their future work. Through financial support to CSOs in urban and rural areas, the project will reach out to local communities with a view to advancing MIL skills of citizens, promoting media freedom and integrity and countering polarisation that stems from propaganda, hate speech and disinformation. The Project in Numbers 200 CSO representatives will be directly empowered to generate effective MIL practices and at least 18 CSOs in urban and rural areas in six countries will be supported to reach out locally and create MIL actions. 70 media professionals and representatives of self-regulatory bodies will learn about the state of self-regulation in their countries and the WB region, and how to advance codes of ethics and self-regulation standards/practices. 15.000 young people will take part in and learn through interactive MIL quizzes; at least 500 will be empowered in national MIL coalition actions. 21 young people (activists, youth workers, educators, journalists, young politicians) will improve competence for media literacy and activism, including topics like media freedom and integrity, political economy of media, media ecology, digital participation.    Funded by the European Union The regional program “Our Media: A civil society action to generate media literacy and activism, counter polarisation and promote dialogue” is implemented with the financial support of the European Union by partner organizations SEENPM, Albanian Media Institute, Mediacentar Sarajevo, Press Council of Kosovo, Montenegrin Media Institute, Macedonian Institute for Media, Novi Sad School of Journalism, Peace Institute and Bianet. This article was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of SEENPM and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.
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Presentation of the Nikola Mladenov Journalism Awards 2022

The team of journalists Sashka Cvetkovska, Elena Mitrevska Cuckovska, and Maja Jovanovska, from the Investigative Reporting laboratory (IRL), won the award for Best Investigative Story at this year’s Nikola Mladenov Journalism Awards 2022, for the story Dirty Blood, published on the National Public Broadcaster MTV 1 and on the website of IRL. The story discloses worrying data on how patients were treated in one of the private hospitals in the country during the covid-19 pandemic. The journalistic product contains thorough journalistic research supported by facts, evidence, and statements from many relevant sources and interviewees. The problem is explained in an understandable way, according to professional and ethical journalistic standards, as well as with a commitment to initiate institutional resolve of detected irregularities. The story, which set off an avalanche of reactions in the public, is an example of consistent monitoring of a problem of high public interest, with strong journalistic and team engagement. The journalist Kristina Atovska received the award for Most Innovative Journalistic Product for her report on the war in Ukraine titled Life on the Front Line Trenches broadcasted on the Morning Briefing show on Slobodna TV. The story shows the life of Ukrainian citizens, including children with disabilities, the problems they face and the support they receive from humanitarian organizations and individuals during the war in the country. Using only her mobile phone, without any additional resources or the ability to report with the support of a complete journalistic team, the author allowed the audience to hear, in an authentic and creative way, the voice of those who were on the front lines and those most vulnerable, trying to send an appeal for solidarity and support not only to the domestic, but also to the global public. The Best Photojournalism Award was presented to the photo-reporter Arbnora Memeti for the photo “Rainfall” from Carcinogenic Substances in Tetovo, published on the website of Deutsche Welle in Macedonian. Demonstrating exceptional creativity and esthetic expression, the photo clearly and precisely illustrates the problem with extremely polluted air in Tetovo during last year's fire at the Tobacco Factory. Capturing the drama of the setting, the photo grasps the viewer and sends a clear message about the gravity of the problem and its consequences. This year’s competition included: 16 stories, processed within 77 texts and video stories, in the category Best Investigative Story; 18 topics in the category Most Innovative Journalistic Product; 27 photos in the category Best Reporting Photography/Best Photojournalism; The awards for best investigative journalism stories have been awarded by MIM traditionally since 2001. The awards were named Nikola Mladenov in 2013, after the renowned journalist and owner of the Fokus weekly. In 2021, two more special categories were introduced - Most Innovative Journalistic Product and Best Photojournalism. Photo gallery from the event is available here.
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The Glass Room: Misinformation Edition exhibition opened in Skopje

The Head of the Delegation of the European Union, David Geer opened the Glass Room: Misinformation Edition exhibition at the Europe House Skopje last night. The exhibition is a new eye-catching, self-learning installation, consisting of series of posters, interactive apps and animations, which can be hosted in public or private spaces and visited online. The event was co-organised by the Delegation of the European Union and the Macedonian Institute for Media. The exhibition offers visitors an opportunity to learn more about misinformation and the role of internet users in spreading them, as well as business models, designer tactics and user behaviour that contribute to enabling environment for their dissemination. Within the exhibition there is also Data Detox Kit, including a section on misinformation, containing concrete steps how to use technology in a smart and responsible way. In addition to the exhibition, there will be several interactive workshops for adults and young people, which will include themes related to the Data Detox Kit. The installation in Skopje will be open to visitors in the next three months. In the course of 2023 it will be hosted by the Europe Houses in Kriva Palanka and Strumica. The exhibition has been developed and curated by Tactical Tech, a Berlin-based international NGO, in collaboration with several European partners and co-funded by the European Union. Since its launch in 2020, the Misinformation Edition has been hosted in 19 countries in Europe, in diverse locations, such as libraries, schools, shop fronts, train stations and is available in more than fifteen languages. The installation has been visited by more than 30,000 in-person guests across Europe, and has reached hundreds of thousands more online. The exhibition was the closing event of the Media Literacy Days 2022, organized by the Media Literacy Network. In this way, our country joins UNESCO's Global Media and Information Literacy Week for the fourth year in a row. Detailed information and exhibition credits are available on this link.  
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Media literacy - a mechanism for tackling prejudices and stereotypes among young people

How the educational system and the media can contribute to dealing with the stereotypes and prejudices - this was the main topic of the panel-discussion "Through media literacy, we educate young generations without prejudices and stereotypes", organized by the Macedonian Institute for Media and IREX. Attending teachers, journalists and activists shared their experiences in work with students and young people who face stereotypes on different bases, both, in reality and online. The teachers, professors and civic activists talked about the mechanisms within the educational systems, while the journalists expressed the role of the media and the media literacy in tackling these phenomena. Most of the attending students stressed the importance of media literacy for personal and professional development of young people, which is particularly significant for the new media reality that we live, as well as for building cohesion in our multiethnic society. Both, the panelists and attended guests emphasized the need of introduction of the media literacy in formal and nonformal education, as one of the ways to deal with these negative phenomena. This event is part of the USAID's Media Literacy Project “YouThink”, and it was organized within the Media Literacy Days 2022.
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Presentation of the Nikola Mladenov Journalism Awards for 2021

Journalist Irena Karevska won the award for Best Investigative Story at this year’s competition for the Nikola Mladenov journalism awards for 2021, for investigating the case of procurement of software for automatic issuing of traffic fines, which was procured by the former government Secretary General Dragi Rashkovski. The story was published in the 360 Degrees programme, on Alsat – M television. In a series of 10 news stories prepared in a modern television product, the author crafts her way in leading the reader through the investigation process in which she continuously publishes new, scandalous information, demonstrating detailed journalistic investigation, supported with facts, evidence and statements from relevant sources and interlocutors. Thus, she uses simple, intelligible and original expressions, but also demonstrates boldness, decisiveness and persistence in the intention for the case to be processed institutionally, which is an important criterion in assessing the quality of the stories. Certificate of Appreciation for outstanding journalistic engagement in the category Best Investigative Story was awarded to the journalist Vlatko Stojanovski for the series of texts on the topic “Offshore Companies”, published on the internet platform SCOOP Macedonia. Within the series of three investigative stories, the author demonstrated detailed journalistic investigation, crafting the processing, categorisation, and analysis of all the legal subjects which, within their ownership structure have other companies registered in the so-called offshore zones, and it also reveals information for people related to them, or are behind the companies, for their actions and activities. Journalist Katerina Topalova was presented with the award for Most Innovative Journalistic Product for the multimedia story “From a Party Cash Cow to a Golden Chicken”, published on the internet platform Just Ask. Through this short, dynamic and creative journalistic story, the author in an original manner succeeds to present and address to the public, the problem with the million-worth sums which the state-owned company ESM regularly spends for renting mechanisation for digging coal and tailings pond. The innovative and creative approach in this journalistic analysis and mini-research of a theme which is of high public interest lies in the fact that it is told on a Green screen by using graphics and 3D animation. The best photo-journalism award was presented to the photo-reporter Igor Banskoliev for the photo “The Hero from Deljadrovce,” published in the Nova Makedonija daily. The photo captures a moment of fighting with the raging fires near the Skopje village of Deljadrovce, during the fires last year.   The “hero” on this photo, with a bucket of water, half-naked makes his way through the smoke, trying to extinguish the fire on the railway near Deljadrovce. The author Banskoliev through this photo, in a most picturesque manner presents the individual fighting with the raging fires, demonstrating creativity, extraordinary aesthetic expression and sense of composition.  This year competition included: 29 stories, processed within 88 texts and video stories, in the Best Investigative Story category; 13 stories in the Most Innovative Journalistic Product category; 15 photos in the Best Reporters Photo/ Best Photo-Journalism category; The awards for best investigative journalist stories have been awarded by the MIM traditionally since 2001. The award was named “Nikola Mladenov” in 2013, after the renowned journalist and owner of the Fokus weekly. Photo gallery from the event is available here.
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Education, proactivity and consistent implementation of the (self)regulatory mechanisms for successful fighting disinformation and hate speech

Improving court practice and strengthening media self-regulation are key factors to fighting hate speech and disinformation in the public communication. This is one of the conclusions from the panel discussion “Effectiveness of the Legal and Self-Regulatory Mechanisms in Fighting Hate Speech and Disinformation in North Macedonia”, organised by the Macedonian Institute for Media (MIM). Speakers at the panel discussion were representatives from regulatory and self-regulatory bodies, as well as members of the media community. They spoke about the current situation with hate speech and disinformation in the public discourse, particularly considering the trends that are set by the new media and social networks. Opening the discussion, MIM presented the analysis "Regulatory and Self-Regulatory Framework Against Hate Speech and Disinformation in the Republic of North Macedonia” which presents a factsheet on the basic legal and self-regulatory mechanisms regarding these issues. Emilija Petreska-Kamenjarova from the Agency for Audio and Audio-Visual Media Services, in her speech pointed that the regulatory body always acts against cases of hate speech in media in accordance with the rules defined in the Guidelines for Monitoring Hate Speech which transpose the practice of the European Court of Human Rights. “When you need to establish that particular media outlet is responsible for disseminating or supporting hate speech, you should take a measure to limit the freedom of expression and that has to be exceptionally well founded and evidence based decision. The initial step is to establish whether there is hate speech, because not everything we dislike in the public discourse is hate speech” said Petreska-Kamenjarova. Media are responsible for regular review and prompt removal of user comments published under the journalistic content on the web pages or social networks, which contain hate speech and have the potential to cause damaging consequences in the society, considers Marina Tuneva, director of the Council on Media Ethics. “In no case should media allow to be misused and serve as tools for disseminating hate, calling for individuals to unite for radical actions and acts that disturb public peace and order in the society and other actions”, stated Tuneva. In accordance with Article 10 from the Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination, the Commission treats hate speech as harassment, which has the aim to damage the dignity and integrity of the person, stated Vesna Bendevska, member and until recently president of the Commission. “The Commission so far has investigated 30 cases which pertain to harassing speech, that has always been based on some of the discriminatory grounds laid down in the Law” said Bendevska. She added that increased number of cases of hate speech have been noted during certain societal events, such as the Pride Parade, or during electoral campaigns, when hate speech targets the political beliefs.  Dragan Sekulovski, Executive Director of the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM) underlined that although the country was lagging behind in court practice regarding hate speech, however, the recent first verdict for hate speech on Facebook, reached in favour of the AJM, is sign of hope that steadily there will be court practice for such deeds.  “Last year the AJM in talks with the responsible judicial bodies, as well as with the Ministry of Justice, requested the establishment of separate unit within the Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office, composed of prosecutors that would be trained and possess the necessary expertise for deeds related to hate speech, as it is a matter of quite specific cases, particularly when it comes to verbal acts committed online” added Sekulovski. This panel discussion was organized within Resilience: Civil Society for Media Free of Hate and Disinformation, a regional project financially supported by the European Union and implemented in the Western Balkans and Turkey by a consortium of media development organizations led by SEENPM. It is part of a series of publications on the same general topic researched in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey (all publications are available on the SEENPM website).  
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Kick-off event of the USAID’s Media Literacy Project YouThink

Empowering youth with critical thinking skills for resisting disinformation and building active and responsible citizenship The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in partnership with IREX, the Macedonian Institute for Media (MIM), the Ministry of Education and Science and the Bureau for Development of Education launched the new Media Literacy Project YouThink. This five-year project brings Macedonian and international partners together to work with young people to develop the critical thinking and information engagement skills they need in order to build resilience to disinformation, thus contributing to building active, responsible, and empathy-driven citizenship.  IREX will implement the project in collaboration with the Institute of Communication Studies, the Youth Educational Forum, and a first-of-its-kind youth steering committee, Learn to Discern (Учат да распознаваат), which was established to ensure that the young people in the country play an important and active role in activity design, leadership, and decision-making on national and local level. Ambassador Kate Byrnes emphasized that "no matter what the source, information is only powerful if people know how to use it. Those who use information responsibly will strengthen social cohesion, demand good governance, and take initiative to improve the lives and prospects of their families and communities." The Minister of education and science, Mila Carovska in her address stressed that the new educational programs that are being implemented from 2021, should contribute to shaping generations who have more knowledge and skills for combating with fake news. “The citizens who have critical thinking skills actively participate in the public debate and they influence the changes. They challenge the institutions to be more transparent and accountable, which is really necessary for progress of the society that cares for everyone and for the economic growth and development of the state.” Mihajlo Lahtov, the Project Director, emphasized that it is essential to work with young people from a very early stage and help them develop skills and habits they need to build resilience against disinformation. “USAID's Media Literacy Project YouThink will mobilize strategic partnerships across society to push for inclusion of media literacy concepts and critical information engagement skills in standard coursework through schools and universities at all grade levels, but also through non-formal activities at youth-led and youth-serving clubs and organizations,” Lahtov said. Expressing his support for initiatives to improve the quality of education, Zekirija Hasipi, the Director of the Bureau for Development of Education, informed that media literacy is part of the new educational programs in purpose of “equipping students with skills for critical thinking, analyzing different forms of expression and incorporating media literacy.” MIM Director Biljana Petkovska highlighted that “it is of key importance for primary and secondary teachers to acquire knowledge, skills, and educational resources through the project that will enable systemic integration of media literacy in the educational process.” At the launch’s youth debate, five panelists from diverse backgrounds discussed the importance of media literacy in the information landscape today and of integrating such skills and resources into classrooms, so the young people could become more active actors in the society. The panelists addressed various ways disinformation affects their lives and their communities, as well as possible mechanisms for combating this phenomenon. All participants emphasized that media literacy and critical thinking skills are indispensable for navigating the 21st Century information environment in a safe and responsible manner. In addition, IREX, MIM, the Ministry of Education and Science, and the Bureau for Development of Education under the umbrella of the Ministry signed a Memorandum of Understanding that reflects their cooperation and charts a clear way forward for the systemic introduction of media literacy and critical information engagement skills and concepts into primary and secondary school curricula throughout North Macedonia. NOTE TO EDITORS: The American people, through USAID, have invested more than $833 million in North Macedonia since 1993.  USAID is the world’s premier international development agency and a catalytic actor driving development results.  USAID’s work advances economic prosperity, demonstrates American generosity, and promotes a path to recipient self-reliance and resilience. Follow USAID in North Macedonia on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Web site.  The photo gallery of the event is available here.
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Journalists and civic activists pay a study visit to Brussels

Macedonian Institute for Media (MIM), supported by the EU Delegation organised a study visit to Brussels in the period of 8-11 November, for journalists and civic activists from the field of media.   The visit was organised with the goal to assist in strengthening relationships and building synergy among media, civil society and institutions in fighting disinformation, as well as to promote media literacy in our country. Participants had the opportunity to discuss with relevant representatives of European institutions, such as the Western Balkans Task Force on Strategic Communications within the European External Action Service (EEAS) as well as media organisations and associations headquartered in Brussels. Discussions in the meetings focused on the need for institutional response to disinformation and the importance of building partnerships among relevant stakeholders, as well as activities undertaken by the European institutions in this sphere, including EU relations with private companies and platforms such as Facebook, Google, YouTube and others. Among other things, it was pointed that there was need of increased transparency and publishing the criteria that these social networks use in removing content published by users. During the meetings with the representatives of the European Federation of Journalists, UNESCO and the European Association for Viewers Interests (EAVI) the conversation focused on the latest activities that these organisations have undertaken in strengthening co-operation between media and civil society and the necessity of improved professionalism in media reporting and effective resilience to disinformation. The interlocutors underlined the need for designing new, creative approaches for advancing citizen knowledge and skills, to be able to recognise and deter manipulative content, since methodologies and technological innovations for creating and disseminating disinformation are continuously perfected. Within the study visit to Brussels, the group met ambassador Agneza Rusi-Popovska and members of the Mission of the Republic of North Macedonia to the EU. During the meeting they discussed relevant themes in relation to our country’s European integration process and informing citizens about these issues.  
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Group of Macedonian journalists and civic activists visited renown media and NGOs in Slovenia

The Macedonian Institute for Media, with support of the Delegation of the European Union in Skopje organised a study visit to the Republic of Slovenia in the period of 4-8 October, for journalists and representatives from civil society organisations that work in the media sphere in the country. The goal of the visit was to exchange experiences with Slovenian colleagues about themes and issues in regard to modern challenges for media and the public communication space, with focus on disinformation, fact-checking, false narratives and influence of social networks in redefining journalism, as well as misuse of the public communication space in spreading hate speech. During the visit, Macedonian representatives met renown investigative journalists from the online media Podčrto and Oštro, civic activists and media experts from non-governmental organisations Umanotera and the Ljubljana Peace Institute, representatives from the Association of Journalists of Slovenia, as well as editors in chief of news services in the public broadcaster Radio Television Slovenia. The visit was also an opportunity to attend the EU Summit which took place on 6 October in Brdo, wherefrom journalists reported for their media outlets. Slovenian media space faces numerous challenges in regard to the current political developments in the country, which are also due to the influence of new communication technologies, particularly the social networks, on everyday life of citizens. Without exception, the necessity of protection, support and affirmation of professional journalism as a public good was underlined in all meetings, which is of essential importance for advancing democratic processes. It was concluded that media freedoms largely depend on the democratic capacity of the authorities, who often use various mechanisms which may jeopardise or contest those freedoms. Financial dependence of media from authorities’ decisions may become a serious obstacle for regular functioning, mostly for the public broadcasters and news agencies owned by the state. Therefore, it is necessary for the public broadcasters to be financed largely by the funds collected through the broadcasting fee, not from the state budget, as it was underlined by the participants in the meetings. Regarding false narratives, it was highlighted that the battle against them could be won only by quality journalism that serves the citizens, by inciting media literate public and by encouraging overall societal support for the existence and development of free media.