Research

Cover Macedonia Factsheet

Regulatory and self-regulatory framework against hate speech and disinformation in North Macedonia

his factsheet aims to analyze the national regulatory and self-regulatory framework against disinformation and hate speech in North Macedonia. Hate speech in North Macedonia has been on the rise throughout 2020 and 2021, particularly online. The regulatory framework on hate speech has been stipulated in several laws and the media self-regulatory body also has a mandate to react. Disinformation has not been regulated by law; it is within the mandate of self-regulation and fact-checking services. A high level of impunity, given the poor court practice on crimes related to hate speech or other serious verbal delicts, is still present in the country. The data gathered from 26 basic courts show that there are five court cases related to hate speech, or more specifically to causing national, racial and religious hatred, discord and intolerance. Download the publication in English. This publication was produced 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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Sustainability of Professional Journalism in the Media Business Environment of the Western Balkans

The Report provides a summary of the findings of research on the economic situation, needs and prospects of independent media outlets in North Macedonia, which was conducted between June and November 2019. The study revolves around an analysis of the structural conditions affecting media ownership, the commercial operating environment and the available sources of funding as well as media consumption habits and audience demand. The research was conducted by a research team based in the Western Balkans and working under the auspices of EU TACSO 3. The Report is available here.      
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Analysis: The structural position of female journalists in the Macedonian media

In Macedonia there is a legal framework guaranteeing gender equality and representation in all areas of society, including the media. The international recommendations that address this issue have been integrated into the legislation. However, the general worldwide trend that despite the fact that women are more numerous in the newsrooms, the editorial, managerial and executive positions in the media are dominated by men is reflected in practice. Research shows that this is also reflected in the media products, where there is gender asymmetry in terms of represented opinions and consulted protagonists. This is only part of the content of the Analysis on the structural position of female journalists in the Macedonian media, conducted by the Macedonian institute for media, within the project “ReForMediaMKD – Citizens, CSO’s and Institutions reforming media in Macedonia”. The project is supported by the European Commission. The aim of the research is to determine the position of women in the media structure in Macedonia, considering their representation in various levels of the governing structures of some of the most influential media in Macedonia, their educational background, opportunities for professional development, as well as their economic and security standing. The full report is attached below:
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RESEARCH: Professional Journalism and Media Literate Public – Crucial for Increasing Trust in Media

Complementing research on hate and propaganda models of media and communication and hate narratives conducted earlier as part of SEENPM’s Resilience project, this report analyses media trust and media gender issues in N. Macedonia and offers a set of policy recommendations. Download the publication in English The study makes the following conclusions: At the end of the series of three research studies conducted within the “Resilience – For Media Free of Hate and Disinformation” project, we can conclude that increased use of online media and social networks as a source of news and information by citizens in N. Macedonia calls for additional accountability mechanisms and greater responsibility of the media and the networks, particularly to restrict hate, propaganda and disinformation. In addition to the existing mechanisms of media self-regulation, we need a regulatory or self-regulatory framework and commitment from political and other centres of power to prevent the use of the media for the promotion of political agendas based on propaganda, disinformation and hateful narratives. On the other hand, we need additional effort from the education sector, civil society and the media to empower citizens of all generations for critical analysis of media content and the ability to recognize and value credible media, refusing propaganda and manipulation. The question of how to restore trust in the media therefore depends on various actors in society on both sides of the information flow – on the side of production and on the side of receiving and sharing news and information. In order to counter disinformation, hate and propaganda in the media and public communication in the country, a holistic approach is needed that will be based on the role of all actors that participate in the public sphere, assigning the responsibility to each of them based on their roles and power. Download the publication in English This publication was produced 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 media trust and gender issues based on research conducted in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, N. Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey (all publications are available on the SEENPM website).
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The political and economic basis of media and communication models spreading disinformation and hate speech

The reasons behind creating and spreading hate speech, disinformation and propaganda through the media in North Macedonia most often lie in the connection of the media with the political and business centres of power. The themes that “feed” these phenomena are generated by the long history of political and ethnic division of the society and are usually intensified in times of crisis or pre-election periods. Hate speech of a political and ethnic nature, as well as on grounds of sexuality and gender, is on the rise on social media networks. These are some of the conclusions of the Research “Political and Economic Foundations of Disinformation and Hate Speech in North Macedonia”, prepared by the Macedonian Institute for Media. The Research is part of the project “RESILIENCE: For Media Free of Hate and Disinformation” supported by the European Union. Furthermore, it is stressed in the conclusions that the outbreak of the global crisis caused by the coronavirus in North Macedonia in early 2020 coincided with the period before the parliamentary elections. These two topics created a “charge” for the escalation of disinformation and hate speech on political and ethnic grounds, but also on the basis of health. Some of the recommendations concerning the media community and the civil society sector are focused on the support of the self-regulatory mechanisms in the media sphere in order to prevent unprofessional and unethical work and to protect the public from misleading and unprofessional information published by certain media. In regards with the hate speech, the relevant institutions needs to show more engagement and be more proactive in prosecuting hate speech, especially on Internet, as the number of registered hate speech cases increases. The business community and advertising agencies should continue the debate on the social responsibility of large companies that should take into account the professionalism of the media when deciding where to advertise, and support the work of quality media in particular. The citizens should improve their knowledge and skills to distinguish truth and facts from disinformation, manipulation and propaganda through the media. The full report of the research is attached in addition.   The regional program ‘RESILIENCE: Civil society action to reaffirm media freedom and counter disinformation and hateful propaganda in Western Balkans and Turkey’ is implemented with the support of the European Union by partner organizations SEENPM, Albanian Media Institute, Mediacentar Sarajevo, Kosovo 2.0, Montenegrin Media Institute, Macedonian Institute for Media, Novi Sad School of Journalism, Peace Institute and Bianet.  
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Analiza Sibvencii

Analysis: Media and journalism subsidy mechanisms in Macedonia and the countries in Europe

The purpose of this analysis is to detect the opportunity for a possible introduction of a subsidy system or other type of assistance for the media, based on the experiences and practices of other countries in Europe and the region, as well as to analyze the effects from the previous application of subsidies or other types of support for the media awarded in the past years. The analysis was carried out from May to June 2018, through desktop research, by considering several media experts reports and analyses as a starting point, and by conducting a series of interviews with media professionals and institutions.2 Numerous secondary data from relevant official sources were analyzed as well. The Analysis is available in attach.
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RESEARCH: Hate Narratives and Disinformation in Online Media and on Social Networks

The purpose of this research that focuses on online media and social networks was to identify patterns and examples of hate and disinformation narratives, examining actors and events that serve as the main generators of ideas and messages, common targets, dynamics of production and dissemination of narratives, and possible reactions or preventive actions to combat them. Download the publication in English The combination of the pandemic, early elections and religious gatherings during the first half of 2020 in N. Macedonia created fertile ground for the escalation of the information chaos, spread of disinformation and hate speech, especially online. By analyzing different cases and events related to four target groups, the research identified hate and disinformation narratives appearing in online media and on social networks. In the cases analyzed, migrants were presented as the ones subverting society’s cultural values, who could settle in the country and thus take advantage of the socio-economic system or spread Islam. This narrative was largely supported and misused by political parties. Hate and disinformation narratives against political opponents have been triggered by strong nationalistic and identity issues constructed by centres of power and then perpetuated and reinforced by supporting media. Narratives against female journalists contain derogatory language, frequently on a gender basis, as well as stereotyped views and perceptions of women’s role in society. Misogyny and sexism are present in the reporting of a few media and used for pressure and blackmail. In relation to inter-ethnic and inter-faith issues, religious festivities during the lockdowns brought to the surface divisions and enmities among ordinary people on social networks and online media. The elimination of hate speech and hate narratives from the public discourse requires coordinated efforts of different institutional and civil society actors, including the political elites which have a crucial role in the production and dissemination of such practices, the research concludes.   This publication was produced 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 focused on hate narratives researched in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, N. Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey (all publications are available on the SEENPM website).  
Reading time 1 min.
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The Western Balkans’ Sketchy Media Literacy Landscapes

Major research by SEENPM member organisations finds that countries of the region lack comprehensive policies and institutional framework for developing MIL in a systematic way and at scale. By Brankica Petković and Sandra Bašić Hrvatin When studying media and information literacy (MIL), particularly in the Western Balkans region, the analytical approach is almost inevitably interwoven with the activist drive to make our democracies functional, to reform the corrupt media systems and to empower citizens for critical thinking and engagement. Therefore we see media and information literacy as a tool to democratise entire media systems and empower all the players in the systems, instead of only seeking to make citizens literate while absolving media law makers and media producers of any responsibility. Therefore, the most important critical and emancipatory potential of media and information literacy is in enabling citizens to demand that media and communication platforms work in the public interest. Our regional research, intended for mapping and better understanding of the situation and development of media and information literacy in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia, was conducted in 2018 by researchers from SEENPM member organisations, the Albanian Media Institute, the Mediacentar Sarajevo, the Macedonian Institute for Media, the Montenegro Media Institute and the Novi Sad School of Journalism, under regional coordination of the Peace Institute in Ljubljana. ABSENCE OF COMPREHENSIVE POLICY The context was provided by frequent references to media and information literacy in many current documents of European institutions and organisations suggesting MIL as an answer to various accumulated problems and shortcomings of media policies and practices. International organisations have shaped the conceptual framework, activities and strategic approach to media and information literacy in our region. They work with governments and NGOs, encouraging transfer of knowledge and often also acting as donors for MIL activities. The negotiations and preparations for EU membership set the political framework and influence the way media literacy is dealt with in the countries of the region. Despite this framework, no country in the region has comprehensive policies and institutional framework for developing MIL in a systematic way and at scale. Clearly, MIL is being left on the margins as a toy for civil society, public sector enthusiasts and international organisations. MIL is not explicitly or continuously included as a goal in policy documents, public policies or legislation. Some aspects of MIL are referred to in strategic documents and legislative acts concerning the media, information society and education. Our research has shown that electronic media regulators, such as the regulatory agencies in North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and partly also in Albania, can play an important role in the analysis and promotion of MIL as well as coordination of different stakeholders with a view to fostering comprehensive and harmonised actions in this field. POTENTIALS OF EDUCATION SYSTEM Civil society organisations in the region have long recognised the strategic role the education system can play in bringing about comprehensive, long-term and mass development of MIL. In 2010 and 2011, the Macedonian Media Institute and the Albanian Media Institute established cooperation with state authorities responsible for the education system, encouraging them to introduce media literacy as a subject or media literacy content in schools. The process included curricula development, teacher trainings (in North Macedonia, around 1,000 teachers were trained), and preparation of textbooks. Unfortunately, such initiatives did not get enough political support to grow into permanent schemes. Almost a decade later, media literacy has not yet been introduced as a subject in schools in these two countries, though some MIL aspects do feature here and there across other subjects. In the same time, subjects aimed at strengthening ICT technical skills have been incorporated in the curricula, though schools are often underequipped and teachers undertrained. In Montenegro in 2008 media literacy was introduced as a one-year elective subject in the second or third grade of grammar school curriculum. In Serbia an elective subject named Language, Media and Culture was introduced in grammar schools from the 2018-9 school year. Yet, our empirical research in Serbia and Montenegro (consisting of interviews, focus groups and student and teacher polls) suggests that a mere introduction of a subject is not sufficient. Good and continuous teacher training, good textbooks, access to equipment and teaching aids are essential. In Montenegro, the number of students attending media literacy classes dropped by half over a decade. Of the 20 grammar schools in the country, 11 have introduced the subject, but in the school year 2016-7 it was taught in only six schools, with a total of 164 students attending classes, while in the following school year numbers dropped further, with only four teaching the subject and 60 students attending. The question remains as to why, even when an agreement is reached to introduce a subject aimed at developing media and information literacy, education authorities opt for an elective subject and then limit it to grammar schools. MIL PIONEERS AND ABSENTEES Civil society organisations are pioneers of MIL promotion and development in the region. These organisations were active in raising the awareness and ability of citizens, notably youth, to critically examine and get involved in the work of the media and digital platforms even in times when the concept of media and information literacy was not as well-elaborated as today. A catalogue of all the civil society organisations in the region and the media and information literacy actions carried out by them would be extensive, as our mapping of leading stakeholders and initiatives shows. But the large number of civil society actors has not brought major advances: they appear scattered, their actions mostly short-term; and they are typically dependent on foreign donations. The media are not a particularly active player in the promotion of media and information literacy in the Western Balkans. Public broadcasters are doing almost nothing to promote MIL, even though working to empower and educate citizens should be central to their mission. The non-participation of media and journalists in the region in strategic measures and activities aimed at improving citizens’ media and information literacy is a historic failure on their part. The narrow focus of their attention and energy on fending off attacks on their independence and dignity is understandable, but their non-participation in activities to improve citizens’ media literacy means they have not recognised the opportunity to reconnect with citizens and invest in their empowerment as active and critical guardians of freedom of expression and democracy in general. In our view, it should be an imperative to design mechanisms for the continuous training and professional development of journalists and other media professionals to improve their own media and information literacy given the challenges resulting from new technologies and complex structures for organised spreading of false information, developments that threaten the survival and critical role of journalism. THE POWER OF NETWORKING AND COLLABORATION The fairly large number of actors working to improve media and information literacy and the advances that some governments in the region have made toward adopting a national strategy for MIL still amount to only sporadic steps with an uncertain outcome. At the same time, there are many proofs of the exceptional benefit that can be derived from networking and collaborative activities, especially when strategic work and joint actions are undertaken in cooperation with state bodies, civil society, but also other players, including the media. Our regional project “Media for Citizens – Citizens for Media” recognises the potential and momentum for putting media and information literacy higher on the political agenda by mobilising and connecting different actors in national coalitions and joint actions. The main purpose of our research was to map the field of analysis. We have shown that some good practices and good attempts to translate an idea into a concrete public policy can be found in each country. Fragmented attempts, mostly by individual activists and CSOs, should be turned into a coherent public policy with clear objectives, stakeholders and performance indicators. Media and information literacy is not a magic wand that will resolve all the accumulated problems in the media sphere. But it is an important step on the long road of transforming the system and making citizens’ information and communication needs an imperative for an active state policy in the public interest. Definition of priorities, creation of broad alliances for a reform of the media system (at both national and supranational levels) and an active defence of the right to credible information should make up the political framework for such changes. The flood of disinformation; negation of facts and science; hate speech; sale of privacy; disappearance of serious political debate regarding the past, present or future; populism, which offers quick solutions to complex problems; the lack of trust in political institutions; these are all results of the destruction of democracy that has been going on for a long time now. The worst that can happen is for media and information literacy to become a sort of Trojan horse of liberal policy that relativizes the rights of people by reducing them to the possibility to choose between different identity forms of media consumption. In this relativist view, critical understanding of, and a media-literate attitude vis-à-vis, the media and media content is but one possibility we choose as citizens. And what is the other possible choice? Media illiteracy and being doomed to non-critical acceptance of media manipulations? Can we allow this to be a matter of choice? Download the research publication in English: ‘Media and Information Literacy in the Western Balkans: Unrealized Emancipatory Potential‘ The publication featured in the article and the article were produced within the regional program “Media for Citizens – Citizens for Media: Strengthening the Capacity of NGOs for the Development of Media and Information Literacy in the Western Balkans” , implemented with the support of the European Union by partner organizations Mediacentar Sarajevo, Albanian Media Institute, Macedonian Institute for Media, Montenegrin Media Institute, Novi Sad School of Journalism, Peace Institute, SEENPM.  
Reading time 6 min.
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Analysis: Diversity in Reporting in the Central News Editions of the Most-Watched TV Channels in Macedonia

The main goal of the research is to determine how the eight TV channels in Macedonia (the most viewed 5 terrestrial and one cable, as well as the two channels of the public service broadcaster) report in the new socio-political conditions from the aspect of diversity in the thematic and genre representation, journalistic engagement, representation of different actors and geographical coverage. The intention is to determine how the public media function in the current circumstances and how they are trying to serve the public interest and ensure a better and a more comprehensive manner of informing the citizens. The Analysis is available in attach.
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