Journalists Take Macedonia Media Law to Task
The first of a series of debates on the new media law revealed that Macedonian journalists and media organizations are still deeply suspicious of the proposed changes.
After the government of Macedonia two weeks ago released a draft law on the media, which foresees a new regulatory body that many fear will be used as tool for censorship, a debate on the new law, was organized on Monday.
Organised by the Centre for Media Development, a civil society organization, the event entitled “Discussion on the need for the media law” gathered numerous journalists and media organisations.
Their main complaint is that the government prepared the draft without the participation of journalists, the NGO sector and other key factors.
Some of the several dozen participants in the debate claimed that it was pointless for the media community to negotiate with the government, as the draft law was already prepared.
“We do not need this kind of law. We do not need regulation of the media. We need freedom of the media. We have to stay together and find the strength to say ‘no’ to a law about which we were not consulted”, the head of the Independent Union of Journalists and Media workers, Tamara Chausidis, said.
Biljana Petkovska, from the Macedonian Institute for Media, said the new law would merely create new problems.
“This proposal does not solve any actual problems, it just opens up new ones. I think freedom of speech will regress,” Petkovska said.
“The question is what is the minimum regulation that we need so the media can function properly. We don’t think that print and internet media should be regulated,” Roberto Belicanec, from the Media Development Center, said.
The draft law provides regulation of the internet as well as the print media, which was not the case till now in Macedonia. It also defines journalists as only those regularly employed in a media organization.
Another concern felt by journalists is possible restrictions on media freedom included in the provisions concerning “the preservation of health and morality”, which fail to define what that includes. Critics say the provision could be easily abused to exert censorship.
The draft comes at a time when concern is being expressed for the future of media freedom in Macedonia.
The World Media Freedom Index 2013, published in January by the organisation Reporters Without Borders, ranked Macedonia in 116th place out of 179 countries, marking a hefty drop of 22 places from the previous year.
Four years ago, the country was ranked in 34th place in the same media freedom report.