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A need of state strategy for development of the media sphere

The need of wider institutional engagement in identifying the strategic goals of functioning and developing the media sphere, determination of short term and long term measures for support of the existence of regional, local and nonprofit media and the media of the small communities, as well as the need of introducing subsidies for different types of media and platforms which hardly exist on the market. These were some of the topics of the conference “Strategy for Development of Media Sector - the Needs, the Challenges, the Stakeholders”, organized by the MIM in cooperation with the Peace Institute from Ljubljana. Many media owners and directors, journalists, representatives of the civil society sector, local and international institutions discussed about the future of audiovisual media industry and the strategic development of media sphere in Macedonia. At the opening of the event, Sanja Frkovic - Gelevska, representative of the EU Delegation in Skopje addressed the participants. She stressed that freedom of expression and independent media are the one of the key EU values. “They do not need to be only part of the legislation, but they also have to exist in the practice. This requires articulated and consistent behavior by all stakeholders - media owners, editors, journalists, regulatory bodies, legislators, political parties and citizens. The premise that initiates our thinking in policy creation, including in the media sector as well, must involve these values, taking in consideration the entire complexity of the context” - said Frkovic-Gelevska. The publication composed of texts written by seven owners and directors of national and regional TV-channels was presented at the conference. The owners and directors presented their vision about the media industry and media business in the following years, as well as about their expectations from the state institutions and the regulatory body in regards to improvement of the working environment. They also tackled the question - is it possible to work freely on the media market without relations with the political and business centers of power, and presented their opinions on what public interest mean to them. In regards to the strategic development of the media sphere, Brankica Petkovic from the Peace Institute - Ljubljana, stressed that several countries in the region - Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia and Montenegro, prepared media strategies under the jurisdiction of the Ministries of Culture.  “The process should be managed institutionally by involving representatives from the state institutions that are experts and have knowledge and experience in the sphere of media policy” - added Petkovic. Zoran Trajcevski, the Director of the Agency of Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, noted that the strategy for the period 2018 – 2018 is being prepared and it will be focused on the work of the regulatory body. However, he stressed that in the past the Agency faced problems because the Law did not determine who should adopt and coordinate the implementation of the previous two strategies prepared by then Broadcasting Council. Trajcevski pointed out the need of précising who should adopt this strategic document, and according to him, it should be the Government or the Parliament. Mladen Cadikovski, Editor in chief of TV 24 Vesti commented that bigger problem is the lack of quality programmes produced by the national media, due to which advertisers move to foreign channels mainly sport oriented, which are broadcasted in Macedonia and offer more attractive and interesting programmes to the viewers. There is enough space on the TV market, but also there is a need for its liberalization, as well as for offering programmes with better quality, he stressed. The director of TV M - Ohrid, Irena Arnaudova discussed about the problems which regional and local TV channels face. She suggests that state institutions and the regulatory body should make detailed analysis on the situation and the conditions in which these media work. “However, resolving the chaos in the media sphere, first of all depends of the political will” - Arnaudova added. The initiative of the Association of Print Media on introducing subsidies for support of print media was also discussed during the conference. Regarding this topic, the analysis “Review of the mechanisms for media subsiding and the journalism in European countries and the Macedonian experience“ was presented at the conference by its author Mirce Jovanovski. Brankica Petkovic shared experiences from the region and European countries where different mechanisms of direct and indirect subsidies for different types of media exist. In that context, Lirim Dulovi, owner of the daily Koha and president of the Association of Print Media, informed the participants about the following requests of the Association: subsidizing the newspapers for half of the costs for printing and half of the costs for distribution; allocation of additional  20%  financial resources for the media of smaller ethnic communities; the enterprises in which the state is a shareholder to allocate part of the budget that will be used for marketing in the print media; full exemption from social, pension and health insurance contributions for newly employed in the print media in the first three years, and 50% release for the current employees for a period of three years. Marina Kostova, editor for the portal, talked about the situation in the online media. She stressed that only few out of a hundred portals can be named as professional digital newsrooms. She considers that the possibility of commercial operation of serious portals is almost nonexistent and informed that their newsroom is dominantly financed by grants. "The problem is that advertising agencies make no difference between portals that steal content and professional digital newsrooms that create content, so they buy out advertising space everywhere," - Kostova explains the problem that their newsroom is facing. The discussions on the topic should continue in order efficient solutions to be found for improving the extremely difficult financial situation that most of the media face and defining the strategic goals and operational plans for development of the media business. The conference was organized as part of the project “ReForMediaMKD”, implemented by MIM in partnership with Peace Institute from Slovenia. The project is supported by the European Union. The photo gallery is available here.

Effective self-regulation and media literate citizens for responsible communication online

Encouraging critical thinking and media literacy among social networks users, raising the political culture of communication, effective and independent self-regulation online and consistent implementation of the laws are some of the proposals regarding solving the problems of communication in the internet space which were raised at the conference "Rights and obligations in communicating on the Internet". The event was organized by MIM in the frames of the joint project of the European Union and the Council of Europe, titled "Strengthening the Judicial Expertise for Freedom of Expression and Media in Southeast Europe (JUFREX)". The social networks become a new type of public with their own positive and negative sides, but the human factor is crucial in this communication, said Sead Dzigal, an expert on media literacy and social media. "The problem is that users of social networks have unlimited rights, but not obligations, especially in the local context where the legislation either is not applied or is applied selectively and insufficiently," he says. According to him, the communication, media and political culture in the society should be improved and the solutions to the problems should be seeked in the education, that is, the inclusion of these topics in the formal and the informal education, but also in the ethical leadership, which implies the empowerment of influential individuals and public figures as examples of responsible behavior for younger generations. Nadia Bellardi, an independent expert, presented the standards of the Council of Europe and the European Convention on Human Rights and Freedoms, concerning freedom of expression, respect for private and family life and the privacy of information, stressing the importance of maintaining a balance between them. She referred to some of the more relevant recommendations of the Committee of Ministers regarding the presentation of violence in the electronic media, the new meaning of the media, protection of human rights in relation to social networks, the freedom of the Internet, as well as the media pluralism and transparency of media ownership, with an emphasis on the impact of online platforms. According to Bellardi, disinformation and hate speech generate users as much as news or high-quality content, the propaganda expands faster and makes more damage then before, laws regulating hate speech can be easily misused and restrict freedom of speech, while media organizations can not do enough to protect journalists from hate speech. Some of the remedies for these problems, Bellardi sees in encouraging critical thinking and information literacy, identifying reliable sources, differentiating promotional content from facts, implementing high ethical standards in journalism, and effective and independent self-regulation of social media. Journalist and civil activist Ognen Janeski, who noted that he himself was often the target of hate speech and insults on the Internet, believes that the laws do not protect users of social networks in reality. According to him, the existence of obligations and rights does not mean that everyone applies them. The idea of ​​self-regulation is good, he says, but creative ways should be found to work on improving the literacy of social network users, especially young people and those who spread hate speech. "Facts, verified information, statistics, links, counterarguments that break down their arguments and always behaiving in cultural and polite manner " is the way he recommends dealing with those who act unappropriately online or on the air. A joint conclusion from the conference was that the hate speech should be an issue for open debate in order this phenomenon and the consequences of it to be demystified. Users of social networks need to react more often to the self-regulatory body and to the competent institutions, in order to make the problem more visible and encourage them to process cases. On the other hand, the problem can be effectively addressed only through the involvement of the institutions, that is, the civil sector, the regulatory body, the judiciary and the institutions that have the authority to deal with the problems on the Internet.

News and Digital Literacy Project – Where Fake News Fails

The Macedonian Institute for Media in partnership with the Institute for Communication Studies, the Independent Trade Union of Journalists and Media Workers and the Media Diversity Institute - London has launched the News and Digital Literacy Project – Where Fake News Fails. The aim of the project, which will be implemented in the next three years with financial assistance from the European Union, is to improve effectiveness, responsibility and ethics of civil society and journalists in using the right of freedom of opinion and expression through promotion of news and digital literacy. The project will contribute to increasing the knowledge of CSOs to effectively counteract fake news and unethical media reporting and will help social media users become knowledgeable consumers of online news and information and responsible active citizens. It will increase debate on news and digital literacy among journalists by emphasizing the economic and social conditions for freedom of expression. The activities are designed in a way to strengthen the knowledge and capacities of the target groups, so that they can further promote news and digital literacy both in the media industry and among wider audience. The project foresees trainings, mentoring and re-granting of CSOs, preparation of a Social media strategy and research on the motivations of social media users, as well as production of various educational resources (videos, tutorials, blog posts, online quizzes). Within the project, campaigns and media events for social media users, journalists and CSOs will be organized. An annual media award that promotes journalism in the public interest will be organized and monthly publications for media professionals will be published. All information about the activities will be available on the websites of MIM, ICS, SSNM and MDI, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, as well as on the special sub-site that will be created in the frames of the project.      

Mence Atanasova Toci’ story on parallel import of medicinal products is winner on the competition “Nikola Mladenov” 2017

Mence Atanasova Toci won the first place at this year MIM’ contest for the journalism award "Nikola Mladenov" for the best investigative story. The winning story, published on the Internet-portal NovaTV tackles the suspicious parallel import of medicinal products. The investigation shows serious wrongdoings by institutions, manipulation of citizens, enriching of certain pharmaceutical powerful persons and adoption of laws by the previous government whose explanation was that the parallel import allows reduction of the price of the medicines. The team of journalists of BIRN Macedonia won the second prize for the story “Foreign investments under lens”, published on the Internet-portal Prizma. BIRN's journalists have provided the public with a comprehensive insight into the real value of investments compared to promises and information presented by the previous government, as well as the unjustified spending of huge amount of money from the State Budget to support the entry of foreign investments. This year the third prize is shared between the journalists Petar Klincarski for the story “Lost in 1000 translations” aired in the TV show “360 degrees” on TV Alsat-M, and Liridona Vejseli for the story “Where is the headquarter of the jihadists in Macedonia“, published on the Internet-portal Zurnal. Klincarski’ investigation discloses serious controversies and suspicions for corruption in the procedures for translation of foreign vocational books, revealing that state funds intended for translation of literature were concentrated in same companies close to the previous government. The story of Liridona Vejseli reveals exclusive information to the public, about recruiting fighters from Macedonia for the battlefields in the Middle East, reporting on what they had faced with there and after returning home. The Commission decided to award Slavica Filipovska with certificate for demonstrating exceptional journalistic expression and high quality production of the story "How much time do we need to destroy the oldest lake in Europe?" aired on the TV-show “360 degrees” on TV Alsat-M. MIM has been organizing the best investigative story of the year for 17 years. This awards is part of MIM’ efforts for promotion of professional journalism and democratic values in the country. The photo-gallery of the event is available here. Извештај на жири-комисијата76.8 KB

All stakeholders and mechanisms should operate with due responsibility and commitment to promote political pluralism

Political pluralism in the media is a complex topic whose encouragement depends on the inclusion of multiple relevant stakeholders and various participating mechanisms. Consistent application should be allowed for the legal regulation, all institutions and authorities with competences in the area should work together and consistently enforce their obligations, the self-regulatory body should continue their efforts and the media should reinforce their support for its work. Media and citizens organizations should exert pressure into promoting this goal by also incorporating this issue in the educational system as a value which shall receive commitment of new generations of journalists and media workers. It is especially important to reinforce awareness with the media and media owners, editors and journalists, as well as with political elites who need to demonstrate democratic capacity and leave the media to function independently. These were some of the crucial points raised at the conference "Political pluralism in media reporting in the period outside of election campaign” organized by the Macedonian Institute for Media in cooperation with the Council of Europe. The Macedonian legislation does not foresee any rules or norms related to ensuring political pluralism beyond election period, while in election period this topic is regulated by the Election Code. "Beyond elections, the greatest burden, or responsibility, lies with media editors and owners. Following the change of government (in 2016), there were changes in the way the media report. However, the question remains whether with a future change in government, the media would continue to report in favour of a certain political party," said Zoran Trajcevski, director of the Agency for Audio and Audio-Visual Medial Services. According to the president of the Complaints Commission within the Media Ethics Council of Macedonia, Mirce Adamcevski, the situation with political pluralism in the media is currently a little improved, bot not sufficiently: "Televisions with national licences are attentive to the respect for political pluralism, but they are not always successful. It can still be said that the media work is influenced by their owners in conjunction with the editors-in-chief, lucratively related with some of the political parties. There still is pronounced political pluralization in the media depending on their owners /.../ a separate story in the (dis)respect for political pluralism in the media is the public broadcaster. It has always been directed by the governing political parties. Hence, it needs drastic change." The expert from the United Kingdom, Justin Schlosberg, a professor at the Birkbeck University in London, said that sourcing from the situation in his country, he could recommend to set up an independent commission on pluralism which would thoroughly consider all issues influencing political pluralism in the media: '...not only related to impartiality or lack of impartiality, but viability of various types of media, various voices heard in the media, it should be ensured that audiences are in their integrity exposed to a variety of opinions expressed in the media." In his opinion, said commission would recommend the government and assembly proposed changes with regards to all issues specific to a national context, such as how the regulator is funded and constituted, what their obligations are, with regards to the net neutrality, subsidy of not-for-profit media, etc. The conference was held within the project ‘Reinforcing judicial expertise on freedom of expression and the media in South-East Europe (JUFREX)' co-funded by the European Union. The presentation of the UK expert, Justin Schlosberg, is attached herewith. Photo gallery of the event is available here.  
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Cooperation with the media will improve independence of the judiciary

It is necessary to find effective mechanisms to intensify cooperation between the media and the judicial authorities in order to improve their communication and establish their mutual trust. The foregoing was the joint conclusion arrived at by representatives of the press, judges and prosecutors at the conference 'Media reporting on court proceedings' organized by the Macedonian Institute for the Media in cooperation with the Council of Europe. The aim of the conference was to enable the exchange of experience and positions among representatives of the judicial authorities and the press with regards to media reporting about court proceedings and consider opportunities for the improvement of their communication and cooperation for the purpose of informing the public on time and with due quality concerning issues from the sphere of the public interest. Mr. Frédéric Grass, an international expert and a lawyer from Paris, addressed in his presentation the standards contained in the Recommendation of the Council of Europe referring to the supply of information through the media about criminal procedures, as well as the Declaration on Media Reporting with regards to criminal procedures. He stressed the right of the press to criticize the judiciary, but also emphasized that representatives of the state authorities are expected to have higher tolerance to criticism. During his address, Mr. Grasse said that when reporting from criminal proceedings, journalists should 'use a suitable vocabulary'; comply with the relevant ethical standards by presenting facts from sources, thereby respecting the rule on the presumption of innocence, the right to privacy and the respect for the dignity and security of all stakeholders in the court proceedings. According to Aleksandar Dimitrievski, a journalist who specializes in the judicial matters under the 360 Degrees programme on Alsat TV, there still exists some mistrust among journalists, judges and prosecutors; justice authorities lack higher levels of transparency, they are rarely transparent when it comes to comments to their decisions and actions in the media, and he emphasized that there are journalists who do not know sufficiently the procedures and the laws. He proposed several recommendations that would make the work of the journalists easier, would improve communication between the courts and the journalists, and the overall transparency of the courts: 'Professionalization of spokespersons and their promotion into people who will be more than mediators between the journalists and judges; establishment of a functional mechanism for sanctioning judges who refuse to cooperate with the public; the holding of regular press conferences and briefing sessions by the court presidents and the heads of the prosecution offices, publicly available indictments from cases of public interest, as well as regulating the issue of recording in the court room." Judge Nenad Saveski from the Basic Court Skopje 1 agreed that it is necessary to improve communication with the journalists, whereas greater mutual trust would be established. According to judge Saveski, the courts will be able to demonstrate greater independence through their cooperation with the media. Judge Saveski claims that criticism from journalists to the 'silence', i.e. alleged non-transparency of the courts with regards to actions within specific cases in the realm of public interest stems from 'prudent behaviour' on the part of judges, as well as from a series of legal limitations such as the presumption of innocence, protection of privacy, safekeeping of the security and dignity of the participants in the process, preserving the reputation of the court, etc. He went on to explain that the courts perform their PR function through press releases and spokespersons and he agreed that both professions should have more frequent meetings for purposes of improving their cooperation. The public prosecutor Jovan Cvetanovski, from the Higher Prosecutor's Office in Skopje, also agreed that the public should be informed through the media and all reporters requesting information should obtain it. He proposed that regular briefing sessions should be held with the journalists in order to improve communication of the prosecution office with the public and increase trust in the institutions.   The conference was held within the project ‘Reinforcing Judicial Expertise on Freedom of Expression and the Media in South-East Europe (JUFREX)' co-funded by the European Union. Find enclosed the presentation of the international expert Mr. Frédéric Grass, as well as the recommendation and declaration of the Council of Europe on the subject of reporting on criminal procedures. Transparency of judicial authority media coverage of court proceedings641.22 KB
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South East European Partnership for Media Development

The South East European Partnership for Media Development Project ends today, after four years of hard but rewarding work by partners in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania. It brought together journalists, media centers and institutes, trade unions, CSOs, academics and policy makers whose combined efforts aimed at the development of independent and accountable media in the Western Balkans. "It was a tremendous journey. We analyzed the lives of journalists and faced the challenges they face, all over the region. We tapped into positive energies but also hit obstacles more or less visible. We wish we could say that we find the region in a better state than four years ago. This is not the case. The threats to media freedom and independence are even more serious and the need for good, responsible journalism is bigger than ever. Good journalism needs not only good professionals and employers, but also good public, educated and willing to consume and support truth and transparency", said Ioana Avădani, director of the Center for Independent Journalism in Bucharest and project manager. Under the project, the partners produced two overarching regional studies: one on the labour relations in the media in the region and a second one focusing on media literacy and education. The studies have been discussed at national and regional level by hundreds of journalists and scholars and resulted in policy recommendations. The partners also monitored the freedom of expression in the region and produced a series of studies addressing issues such as the hate speech on religious grounds, the digitalization of the media or the role of social media in setting up the public agenda. "The project may end, but it will continue to produce results. We raised awareness of issues less addressed, we increased the advocacy capacities of media organizations, we put topics on the public agendas in the countries we worked in. It is important for our work to continue, for more and more stakeholders to join their efforts in protecting the freedom of expression, in all its forms", concluded Avadani. SEE Partnership for Media Development was implemented by a consortium coordinated by the Center for Independent Journalis, (Romania) and composed of: Albanian Media Institute, Mediacenter for Media and Civil Society Development (BiH), Media Initiatives – Association  for Media Development and Promotion of Professional Journalism (BiH), Macedonian Institute for Media (Macedonia), Montenegro Media Institute (Montenegro), Foundation  Media Center (Serbia), Media and Reform Centre Nis (Serbia), Media Development Center (Bulgaria). Media professionals from Kosovo and Turkey were also involved. More information about the project is available at: The Project was co-financed by the European Commission, the Civil Society Facility, Media Freedom and Accountability Programme, Europe Aid/134613/C/ACT/MULTI

Citizens can protect the public service broadcaster only if they have the confidence in it

It is necessary to open a public discussion regarding the thorough reform of all aspects of operation of the public service broadcaster, Macedonian Radio-Television (MRT), and the future development of this broadcasting-house, in order to transform it into a modern European public service. The election of members to the Public Service Programming Council should be conducted through an open public competition in order to reduce direct political influences. Moreover, all stakeholders should consider the option of a possible increase in the number of members in this body, in order to ensure a more appropriate representation of the various segments and interests in the Macedonian society. In addition, the direct entry of certain members, the reviewing of the ban on participation of public service employees in the Programming Council, as well as the introduction of the so-called staggered term of the members should also be taken into consideration. MRT should promote transparency in its work and develop channels and mechanisms for communicating with the audience. These are the main recommendations from the comparative analysis of the Programming Councils of the public service broadcasters of Macedonia, Croatia and Slovenia, prepared by Ms. Ljiljana Mitevska, MA, presented at the public debate “Depoliticisation of the MRT Programming Council - a prerequisite for the independence of the public service", organized by the Macedonian Institute for Media. Current and former members of the Programming Councils of the Public Service Broadcasters in Macedonia, Slovenia and Croatia participated in the event as speakers. Snezhana Klincharova, the President of the MRT Programming Council, noted that by abolishing the broadcasting fee, which is contrary to the recommendations of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the independence of MRT could be at stake. According to her, with the new manner of 0.5% funding allocated from the state budget for 2017, there would be less funding for this broadcasting-house in comparison to 2016, which would also be reflected on the programme quality. In addition, Klincharova highlighted the problem arising from the agreement between the political parties “Przhino 2”, by which the second channel of MTV should be completely transformed into an Albanian language programming service, the launching of which, according to the analysis, would require EUR 5 million. For Brankica Petković, a representative from the RTV Slovenia Programming Council, “the lack of transparency in the work of this body is absolutely unacceptable”. “The sessions of the Programming Council of RTV Slovenia are announced, and the session is publicly broadcasted. Our task is to react if something is wrong and if certain ethical working standards have been violated. We should not send a signal to the citizens that everything could be broadcast, because that violates the reputation of the public service broadcaster, and consequently the confidence in the PBS”, said Petković. According to her, it is very important for the president of this body to be a person with integrity, high ethical and moral values ​​and high intellectual potential. According to the experience in both Slovenia and Croatia, the abolition of the broadcasting fee and the financing of the public service broadcaster from the state budget is not a good solution. “If necessary, this can be a temporary solution, until a stable and lasting solution is found. Both Slovenia and Croatia testify that 90% of citizens pay the fee. Paying a broadcasting fee is like paying for education or health benefits. In this was you pay for the protection of journalists in the public service. RTV Slovenia has its own fee collection service. Still, the public service broadcaster must not spread ‘venom’”, warned Petković. The participant from Croatia, Mirjana Rakić, who is the former President of the Croatian regulatory body, as well as former director and editor of HRT, believes that “a connection should be established between the citizens and the public service broadcaster”, so that the citizens see the PSB as their own, and consequently have confidence in it and thus protect it. She informed that HRT’s Programming Council has no influence on the programme, i.e. they can only debate, and the Ombudsman only has an advisory role. Both Petković and Rakić ​​agreed that the decision where the Director General is elected by the Assembly, as is the case in Croatia, was not a good model that met European standards. The analysis and the debate are part of the project “#ReFormMedia - Improving Cooperation among Civil Society Organizations, Institutions and Citizens for Conducting Reforms in the Media Sphere”, implemented by the Macedonian Institute for Media and the Peace Institute from Ljubljana, and financed by the European Union. The full analysis report is hereby enclosed. Photo gallery of the event is available here. Comparative analysis of the Programming Councils of the PSB1.82 MB
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Fake news and media literacy - in the focus of the European institutions

The inefficiency of the media markets, the non-transparent financing of the media, especially from public sources, the endangering of media freedoms and rights of journalists, the growing trend of fake news and media literacy as one of the ways to deal with them, are in the focus of interest of both European institutions and European media organizations that monitor the development of the media landscape in the Western Balkan countries. This was emphasized at several meetings with European MPs, high representatives of European institutions and several international media organizations in Brussels, with whom the representatives of media organizations from the region met as part of their advocacy visit on October 10 and 11 2017. This activity is part of the project “Partnership for Media Development in Southeast Europe". Media organizations from the region, including the Macedonian Institute for Media, had meetings with MEP Renate Weber, Principal Adviser for Civil Society and Media at the DG NEAR, Andris Katheris, with representatives from the DG CNECT and with several international journalist and media organizations - the European Federation of Journalists, EAVI and the Global Media Development Forum. At the meetings, the situation with the freedom of the media at Western Balkans was presented, as well as the research on the labour rights of the journalists, as well as on the educational needs of the journalists and the media literacy of the public, which were conducted in all the countries where the activities were conducted. The project is funded by the European Commission and is implemented by the Center for Independent Journalism from Romania in partnership with the Albanian Media Institute, the organizations Media Center and Media Initiatives from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Media Center - Belgrade and Media and Reform Center - Nis from Serbia, Montenegro Media Institute, the Macedonian Institute for Media and the Media Development Center from Bulgaria.