Comments from MIM and ICS to the Draft Law on AAVMS

Comments from the Macedonian Institute of Media (MIM) and the Institute of Communication Studies (ICS) to the Draft Law on Amending and Supplementing of the Law on Audio and Audivisual Media Services (Law on AAVMS) September 11, 2017, Skopje Dear Mr Manchevski, We are hereby providing you with our comments and suggestions with an aim to improve the text of the Draft Law on Amending and Supplementing of the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services (Law on AAVMS) The draft law includes most of the remarks noted in our previous reactions and proposals for amendments to the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services regarding the establishment and functioning of the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services (AAVMU) and the Public Service-MRT. We propose that the mandate of the members of the AAVMU to be valid for the duration of 6 or 7 years, without the right of a renewal (Article 15 of the Law on AAVMS). That way, it will be impossible to "tie in" the position of a member in the long run, which is still a practice in the current council (considering that with each passing of a new law, some members of the council receive a new mandate). We consider that Articles 62a and 62b in the draft law, which refer to the political pluralism in the news, in the debates, in the daily informative and contact shows are unnecessary and should be removed. It is necessary to engage in an expert debate to determine whether and how the political pluralism in the media content can be promoted through objective, impartial and balanced informing with equal treatment of different views (Article 61 of the present Law on AAVMS).  We propose that in Article 16 of the Law on AAVMS (paragraph 2, in indents 1 and 2 – “terms of appointment”) an additional criterion should be inserted which will specify that the persons who performed or were active in the listed positions and functions in the past 5 years cannot be appointed as members of the AAVMU. The same criterion should apply to the MRT Supervisory Board (Law on AAVMS, Article 127, indents 1 and 2), where we propose to insert a provision stipulating that persons listed below and who performed or were active in the listed positions and functions in the past 5 years cannot be appointed as members of the Board. We believe that this will contribute to greater depolitization and departization of both the Council of the Agency and the governing bodies of MRT. A clarification is necessary in relation to Article 29 of the Draft Law on AAVMS, which refers to Article 105, paragraph 3 of the Law on AAVMS (financing of MRT), which includes the funds generated from broadcasting audio and audiovisual commercial communications as an additional source of funds for MRT. It is necessary to specify exactly what is meant by "audio and audiovisual commercial communications", given that the draft law proposes the abolition of the broadcasting fee and the commercial advertising of the public service.  We don’t support the abolition of the broadcasting fee and we believe that the financing of the Public Service from the State Budget is not the right solution. We believe that the improvement of the programme offer as well as the departization and depolitization of MRT's governing bodies will lead to improvements of the viewing ratings, along with improvements of the collection of payments of the broadcasting fee. The broadcasting fee is actually considered as a public fee in all European countries (apart from Bulgaria, Kosovo and Montenegro). We consider that it is necessary first to determine the needs of the public service from a programme and financial standpoint and (eventually) determine the amount of funds from the budget which will be used as a one-time aid (or used during a limited time-period) to assist MRT to strengthen its technical capacities. We’d like to remind you that the 2017 amendments to the Law on AAVMS envisage a separate channel broadcasted in Albanian language, for which there is currently no financial construction.  The Parliamentary Channel should be entirely under the responsibility of the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia. The public service should not be responsible for the editorial policy of this channel, and the channel should not be used for broadcasting programs other than content related to the work and functioning of the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia. Sincerely, Macedonian Institute of MediaInstitute of Communication Studies
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Hate speech should be suppressed with more speech deeming it unacceptable

Legislative amendments of the existing regulations aimed at more precisely defining hate speech, developing a consistent system for prevention and repression of acts of hate speech, including the application of the practices of the European Court of Human Rights by the judicial authorities, as well as ensuring urgent changes in the media regulations by introducing sanctions for hate speech and the inciting of violence through the audiovisual programs that the regulator would process in a misdemeanor procedure, are only part of the recommendations from the analysis of the MIM “The effectiveness of the legislation for protection against hate speech” by the author Nenad Zivanovski. The analysis was presented on the debate “How to effectively deal with hate speech”, where representatives of the civil society from Macedonia and Slovenia, as well as representatives from the lawyer's guild, took part with their speeches. The Attorney at Law, Lazar Sandev, believes that the Public Prosecutor's Office is inactive and does not raise initiatives aimed at protecting the public interest, in cases where hate speech is used. He underlined that journalists and politicians spread hate speech, and warned that this would continue to happen until the public prosecution begins to take appropriate steps. Sandev supports the idea of ​​changing the domestic legislation and advised to use the practice that emanates from the European Court of Human Rights, since there is no judicial practice in this area in Macedonia. Elena Brmbeska from the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights emphasized that, according to their experience, ethnic, political and sexual orientation, as well as gender identity are the dominant foundations for outbursts of hate speech. “The Helsinki Committee regularly addresses the Public Prosecutor's Office, but the results are disappointing. In 2016, there was not a single case, and currently there is only one case in the Basic Court, which is still pending the final ruling ... “, explains Brmbeska. She stressed that they face serious problems when scheduling meetings with the Public Prosecutor's Office and suspects that they either do not recognize hate speech or they do not recognize where freedom of expression ends, and hate speech begins. Brankica Petković from the Ljubljana Peace Institute noted that the legislation in Slovenia was more restrictive than the Constitution itself, and that the Public Prosecutor's Office was also not very proactive, although it processed more cases than in Macedonia. However, she said that it was necessary to change the awareness, and at the same time, the civil society should proactively demonstrate that no attack would go unpunished. “Still, there must be a symbiosis with the media. We should oppose hate speech with more speech deeming it unacceptable,” concluded Petković . The debate was organized as part of the project “#ReForMediaMKD - Civil society, institutions and citizens - together in enhancing media reforms”, implemented by MIM in cooperation with the Peace Institute from Ljubljana, Slovenia, with the financial support of the European Union . The full report of the analysis is hereby enclosed. The photo gallery of the event is available here. The effectiveness of the legislation for protection against hate speech3.42 MB

Investments by specialized foreign companies in the TV business will ensure better quality programme and greater independence

Unlike in Macedonia, where national commercial terrestrial TV stations are exclusively "home" owned, the most influential commercial media in Croatia and Slovenia are in the hands of international media groups such as the Central European Media Enterprises (CME) and RTL, which enables them greater independence from political and business centres of power. Neither company being an owner of the most influential TV stations in Macedonia is registered to deal in the media business as their core line of business. As opposed to that, the TV channels owned by the CME and RTL groups in Croatia and Slovenia pay particular attention to the development of their media business on various platforms to keep pace with the latest technological trends and demands of audiences.  These are some of the conclusions resulting from the analysis of the Macedonian Institute for Media "Ownership and financial models of the most influential TV channels in Macedonia, Croatia and Slovenia" presented at the conference "The future of national commercial TV channels: What is the formula to success?".  The event also hosted the presentation of the analysis "Programme diversity of the most influential TV channels in Macedonia, Croatia and Slovenia"", which resulted in the conclusion that most commercial terrestrial national TV channels in Macedonia are dominated by dull and unattractive programme containing numerous Turkish soap operas and Serbian entertainment shows with very little domestic production what is, moreover, of poor quality and non-competitive with the remaining media contents. On the other hand, in both Croatian and Slovenian TV channels prevail entertainment programmes and reality shows, as well as news editions which are among the ten most highly ranked TV contents in general according to their viewership ratings. When both countries were taken into consideration for comparison purposes in the survey, their most influential TV channels were assessed to invest heavily in their domestic production with said programmes being highly ranked on the viewership lists. The event was opened by EU Ambassador Žbogar, who said that on relatively small media markets, the media business and regulators have specific challenges which "often open some room for influence". "This is why it is important to have transparency with the media ownership and financing. It is also important that the regulator should have the authority, capacity and mechanisms to protect its independence and professionalism," said the Ambassador. He also emphasized the role of the citizens organizations that "should speak freely and get involved in an open, inclusive and effective public discourse," as well as of the Council of Media Ethics in Macedonia, which should help and provide direction to all stakeholders in the media sphere and comply with the professional standards. "Cooperation of the media business aiming to ensure transparency of the decisions and autonomous self-correction is an important goal," added the Head of the EU Delegation. The new Minister of Communications, Accountability and Transparency, Robert Popovski, also spoke at the conference who said that the crucial issue for him is that there should be no influence over the media and the media industry. ‘Neither the government nor the opposition should exert any influence. They should all be equally represented and the media should be equally open for the political entities, the civil society, etc.," said Minister Popovski. At the first discussion session about the ownership and financing models of the most influential commercial national TV channels spoke the director of Kanal 5 TV, Ivan Mircevski, who is also the president of the Macedonian Media Association (MMA). He pointed to the state and the institutions as being the culprits for the distorted TV market and the unstable financial situation of the TV channels for having enabled the decrease in the criteria for obtaining licenses for national and local TV channels. Ivan Lovreček, deputy-president of the Management of RTL, Croatia, addressed the work of RTL TV by indicating that the investment from international media groups has enabled the transfer of modern know-how, trends and standards from the media practice of the developed countries. On the other hand, the financial independence and stability, which are enabled by the international media groups, make the medium more resilient to any influences over its editorial policy. "Commercial TV channels will show integrity, firm standing and all that it takes for a so-called political independence at the moment when they have sufficient funds to survive on the market," believes Milan F. Živković, former media policy adviser at the Ministry of Culture in Croatia. In his opinion, there is an ever more present trend of internet advertising at the expense of advertising in television. In wealthy countries such as the United Kingdom, the internet migration is already a matter of fact, whereas in countries of Central and East Europe that process is being run more slowly, added Živković. As far as programme diversity is concerned of the most influential TV channels in the three countries, Atanas Kirovski, director and editor-in-chief of Telma TV, said that television not only has a commercial role, but also has a social responsibility when it comes to the programme it offers to the citizens. "We feel a social responsibility to show people what the Oscar winning films in 2016 were; what the winners of the Cannes and Venice film festivals were, etc.," says Kirovski. In his opinion, government advertising and disproportionate allotment of budget funds for advertising was the biggest problem faced by Telma TV on the media market in the past years. Domestic production is something that no television can do without with audiences in Slovenia, as stated by Tomaž Perović, former news and sports director at POP TV and Planet TV. " Last year there was practically no evening without a commercial television airing at least one show from the local production," added Perović. Lazo Petruševki, Council President of the Agency for audio and audio-visual media services, pointed that the protection and development of media pluralism are one of the core competences of the Agency. When it comes to media pluralism, Petruševki believes that there is enough room for further improvement of the media regulation, especially when it comes to the competences of the Agency Council. This is a first conference within the project "#ReForMediaMKD - Citizens, CSOs institutions and Institutions Reforming Media in Macedonia" implemented by MIM in cooperation with the Institute of Peace from Ljubljana, Slovenia and funded by the European Union. The reports from both analyses, as well as the presentations of the guests from Croatia and Slovenia are available below. The photo gallery of the event is available here. Programme diversity of the most influential TV3.51 MB Ownership and financial models of the most influential TV3.4 MB Ivan_Lovrecek_RTL_CRO.pdf547.01 KB Milan_Zivkovic_CRO.pdf344.29 KB Tomaz_Perovic_SLO.pdf74.45 KB

The Investigative Story on Crop and Livestock Production Subsidies Wins the First Prize on the Contest “EU Award for Investigative Journalism" for 2016

The journalist Aleksandar Dimitrievski won the first prize on this year’s contest “EU Award for Investigative Journalism" for the online data base and the series of texts regarding crop and livestock subsidies, which were published on the web page "Prizma".  The investigative story brings to the fore comprehensive and systematised data concerning the allocation of the 3% of the state Budget on the grounds of crop and livestock production subsidies. Furthermore, it analyses the potential connection between part of the subsidies beneficiaries and the executive branch of the government and the suspicious ownership structure of certain companies which have received subsidies. Zoran Jovanoski won the second prize for the story Ashes of Death, which was featured on the broadcast "360 Stepeni" on Alsat-M Television. The story tackles an environmental disaster, which concurrently relates to the phenomenon of dramatically increased mortality in the area of Kicevo, resulting from the operation of the thermal power station Oslomej and the inappropriate treatment of the combusted carbon ashes. Slavica Filipovska won the prize for the best story by young investigative journalist for the story Bulgarian Passport for "Pure" Macedonia, which was featured in the broadcast "360 Stepeni" on Alsat-M Television. The story, in an authentic and original manner, reveals how in an attempt to enter the EU member states as soon as possible, the citizens perceive the procedure for obtaining Bulgarian passport and citizenship as the way to achieve it.   The awards were handed by the Head of the Delegation of the European Union, H.E. Samuel Zbogar, who highlighted that being an investigative journalist all over the world is stressful, difficult and often dangerous. “Journalists face psychological and physical threats, they are taken to court for defamation, receive insults but also small salaries. In spite of all this, they are brave and stubbornly committed to doing their job. And we cannot do less than showing our admiration for them", underlined the Ambassador Zbogar. He added that disclosure of corruption and organised crime is maybe the most difficult part, since crime has its perfidy way to hide and distort the system that should actually protect society. Among the 32 stories from 26 authors, all featured in printed, electronic and Internet media, the winning stories were assessed with highest marks by the jury composed of: Marina Tuneva, Arta Tahiri, Lirim Dulovi, Boris Georgievski and Fatmir Aliu. Marina Tuneva, the chair of the jury, stated that despite the fact that the stories would not have an immediate effect, the tenacity itself with which the truth is expressed would be a great success for the journalists and the newsrooms. “At the same time, we encourage the editors to support the process of writing investigative pieces, especially when a journalist had discovered corruption related topics and issues that deserve to be treated thoroughly and extensively”, Tuneva said. In view of the fact that the majority of the stories shortlisted were well researched and addressed exceptionally important issues of public concern, the jury gave the maximum number of awards. The winning story was awarded with 4000 euros, whereas the reward for second place and for the best investigative article by a young journalist was 3000 respectively. The jury report is hereby attached. The photo gallery of the awarding ceremony is available here. The jury report133.3 KB
Mavrovo Rabotilnica

The application of the Court of Strasbourg practice will improve the domestic protection of journalists

The legal protection of journalists in accordance with international standards, the European Convention on Human Rights and national legislation was the subject of a two-day workshop organized by MIM on April 20 and 21 2017, in the frames of the project "Strengthening judicial expertise for freedom of expression and the media in Southeast Europe (JUFREX)" organized by the EU and the Council of Europe. Journalists and editors from print and online media on national and local level, participated at the workshop, which hosted prominent legal experts and representatives of the media community as key speakers. The international expert and former judge of the European Court of Human Rights, Ms. Mirjana Lazarova-Trajkovska, referred to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning freedom of expression and the practice of the Court in Strasbourg when it comes to cases related to violation of freedom of expression. Mr. Lazar Sandev, prominent lawyer who has been working on media related cases, in his presentation focused on key aspects of the legal framework that guarantees the implementation of the right to freedom of expression, freedom of the media and the work of the journalists in Macedonia. He shared his own experience in representing journalists and media outlets in front of the domestic courts, especially in cases when it comes to lawsuits for insult and defamation. The situation with media self-regulation in the country was presented by Mirce Adamcevski, the Chairman of the Complaints Commission of the Council of Media Ethics of Macedonia. Adamcevski highlighted challenges and support mechanisms for self-regulation by the stakeholders, in order to improve the professional reporting and protecting journalists from possible lawsuits. The president of the Association of Journalists of Macedonia, Naser Selmani, shared their experiences regarding the protection of journalist’s rights. He stressed the recent judgement of the Strasbourg Court, which stated a violation of the right to freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial in the case of expelling the journalists from the Parliament’ gallery in December 24, 2012. Participants agreed on the need to promote knowledge and awareness of journalists in relation to existing domestic laws that guarantee the right to freedom of expression, as well as to strengthen the skills of journalists in reporting on the work of the judiciary and the interpretation of court decisions and judicial terminology, including the work of the European Court of Human Rights. They also emphasized that in order to improve the legal protection of journalists during their daily work, a further improvement of legislation and its proper implementation is of immense importance.
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Active engagement of all stakeholders is necessary for promotion of media literacy

The media and information literacy represent life skills that need to be mastered by all citizens as active participants in a democratic society. So far, the states and the other relevant actors in this area do not have a sufficient level of understanding about the concept of media literacy and its importance in the society, nor sufficient will to implement it. Therefore, the development of media and information literacy requires a comprehensive approach and involvement of all stakeholders at national, regional and European level. These are some of the conclusions of the regional conference "Media Literacy and Education Needs of Journalists and the Public", which was held on 28 and 29 March in Skopje in organization of the Macedonian Institute for Media. The conference was organized within the regional project "South-East European Partnership for Media Development", implemented by the Center for Independent Journalism from Romania in cooperation with eight media organizations from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Bulgaria, with support from the European Union. The conference was attended by approximately fifty experts from the media sector, academia, civil society and representatives of institutions and international organizations from the countries in Southeast Europe and Turkey.   The participants had the opportunity to discuss the findings and the recommendations of the comparative report on the media literacy and the educational needs of the journalists and the audience in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro. Discussions were also held about the models of journalism education and about the situation in terms of the media literacy of the audience, as well as their importance for the freedom of expression and media freedom.   The discussants concluded that the states should provide the necessary support for the inclusion of the programs on media and information literacy in the educational process from an early age and to contribute to the greater promotion of the media education of the citizens. The civil society organizations should be an active partner in the process by developing innovative projects and awareness raising campaigns for the citizens about the importance of the media literacy, aimed at the promotion of the democratic values. The conclusion was that in almost all countries in the region it is necessary to improve and modernize the programs for journalism education through greater cooperation with the media industry and the professional associations, so that the students would be enabled to learn through practice and acquire basic experience in the journalistic profession. The photo-gallery of the event is available here.  

The story for the mysterious death of Kosta Krpac – The best investigative story for 2016

Miomir Serafinovic and Snezana Lupevska-Sozen won the first place on the MIM’ contest for the journalism award “Nikola Mladenov” for the best investigative story for 2016. The wining story, aired in the TV programme “KOD” on Telma TV, investigates the circumstances of the mysterious death of Kosta Krpac, one of the witnesses of the Special Prosecution and also one of many who were granted amnesty and abolition by the President. The story revealed details and moments related with the tragic event, which later were confirmed in the investigation that lasts by this moment, although the Public Prosecution assessed that it was a suicide. The second award was bestowed to Zoran Jovanoski for the video story “The ashes of death” aired in the TV show “360 degrees” on Alsat-M TV. The story reveals the terrifying health consequences of the people and of the environment caused by the work of the power plant “Oslomej”, in time when the country announces that it is going to continue the work of the plant.   Irena Mulacka, journalist in the weekly “Fokus” was awarded with the third prize on the contest, for the serial of texts which reveal frightening data for the death of 80 newborns at the Skopje Clinic for Gynecology in just six months. This year, the jury decided to give a recognition for distinguished journalistic engagement to the journalists Vlado Apostolov for the stories “Dots on the tender for cleaning the Government”, “How did the yellow building grew-up in neoclassic castle”, “Voters live in Sveti Nikole, but have addresses in Skopje” and the serial “ The estate of Vladimir Zdravev”, all published on the web-portal “Prizma”, as well to Stojanka Mitreska for the story “The mushroom factory got moldy earlier”, also published on “Prizma”. The MIM’ awards for the best investigative story of the year has been awarding since 2001, as part of the efforts for promotion of professional journalism and democratic values in the country.  

Professional journalists and media literate audience - key for active citizen participation in social changes

The media literacy of the audience and the educational needs of the journalists were the focus of the expert discussion and the two-day workshop organized by the Macedonian Institute for Media, in cooperation with the Center for Independent Journalism from Romania, as part of the regional project "SEE Partnership for Media Development" funded by the European Commission. The perspectives and the challenges in terms of the introduction of the concept of media literacy in the Macedonian society, as well as the role of the journalism education in terms of the affirmation of the professionalism in the journalistic profession, were the subject of the expert debate which was attended by representatives of the journalism faculties, the secondary schools, the regulatory body, the media and the civil society organizations which are working in the field of media literacy. During the event, the findings and the recommendations of the „Survey on the educational needs of the journalists and the media literacy of the audience in Macedonia“, were presented, which survey was made by the research team of MIM. In terms of the media literacy of the audience, the participants agreed that, despite the engagement of the civil society organizations, there is a need for more active involvement of the relevant state institutions, from the aspect of introducing media literacy in the education at the earliest age, as well as in terms of educating the older audience through campaigns of public interest. The negligence of the professional standards in journalism and the long-lasting crisis in the media sphere have a negative impact on the young journalists and students who are yet to be professionally upgraded. In this regard, the debaters stressed that greater involvement of the journalism faculties is necessary in order to better prepare the future journalists for work in the editorial desks. According to some participants, the faculties should ensure an effective balance between the theoretical and the practical skills, strengthen the cooperation with the media in order to provide practical training for the students, revise the curricula by including local examples from everyday life and educate journalists who will work ethically, professionally and in the interest of the public. Before the expert debate, a two-day workshop was also organized about the role of the media literacy in the more active involvement of the citizens in the democratic processes, which was conducted by Cristina Lupu and Ioana Avadani form the Center for Independent Journalism from Romania, as well as Zoran Bojarovski, a long-time journalist and editor in the Macedonian media. The participants were introduced to the concept of media literacy and its practicing worldwide, compared to the local perspectives, and they also discussed about the role of the different institutional and non-institutional stakeholders in the promotion of the media literacy. They developed ideas for advocacy campaigns about the concept of media literacy and its importance for a democratic society. The report of the "Survey on the educational needs of the journalists and the media literacy of the audience in Macedonia" is available below:

Journalism torn between professional principles and the business

Media business and journalism, and the role of state institutions in protecting media integrity were the main topics of the forum "Media integrity and funding - regional experiences and domestic perspectives", organized by the Macedonian Institute for Media within the project "Southeast European Media Observatory".