Freedom of the Press 2009 - Macedonia
|Publication Date||1 May 2009|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2009 - Macedonia, 1 May 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b274207c.html [accessed 21 September 2014]|
Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 12 (of 30)
Political Environment: 19 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 16 (of 30)
Total Score: 47 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)
Covers events that took place between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2008.
Macedonia's legal framework contains basic protections for freedoms of the press and of expression, and government representatives generally respect these rights.
Journalists remain subject to criminal and civil libel charges, although imprisonment has been eliminated as a punishment. In December a court ordered columnist Ljubomir Frckoski to pay US$45,600 after Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski sued him for slander. Frckoski, writing in the daily Dnevnik, had accused Gruevski of mismanaging the privatization of an oil refinery while serving as finance minister in the 1990s. Several days after the controversial ruling, Gruevski's party decided to drop all 12 pending lawsuits by its members against journalists. Gruevski had drawn criticism in June for arguing that Macedonian reporters covering the European Union in Brussels should shape their reporting to suit the country's interests.
The parliament in January passed a lustration law that would require government officials and other key figures in society, including journalists, to formally state whether they had cooperated with the communist-era secret police. The statements would be investigated by a special commission chosen by a supermajority in the parliament. Opponents of the measure expressed concerns that it could be subverted for political purposes.
Both the Broadcasting Council, which regulates television and radio outlets, and the public broadcaster remained underfinanced and dependent on the government, as the license-fee system that was supposed to fund them was essentially inoperative.
The Broadcasting Council and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) both reported political bias among television broadcasters during the run-up to parliamentary elections in June. The public broadcaster, MTV, clearly favored the ruling coalition, while private stations collectively represented a range of views. The Broadcasting Council issued dozens of warnings and nonbinding recommendations to television stations for violations of election-coverage guidelines, but the measures did not have the force of law because the parliament had dissolved in April without enacting the relevant legislation.
Thieves stole key transmission equipment from the private television station Alstat-M at the peak of the election campaign in May, disabling its broadcasts in crucial areas. The station was seen as favoring the ethnic Albanian party that was then in opposition, and it had reported pressure from the Democratic Party of Albanians, part of the ruling coalition, in the past.
Several journalists received death threats during the year, apparently from ultranationalists who objected to their support for a compromise in the country's long-running dispute with Greece over its official name. Separately, radio station owner Goran Gavrilov was severely beaten by two masked men in January. Three suspects, including the owner of a cable television station about which Gavrilov's outlet had reported, were charged but later acquitted in the case.
Macedonia has a large number of media outlets for its population, including five private nationwide television broadcasters (as well as one public one), dozens of local television and radio stations, and nine daily newspapers. Ownership of the top print publications is concentrated in the hands of a few firms, including Germany's Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, which holds three leading dailies. While the government does not own or control any of the newspapers, it is a major advertiser and reportedly favors outlets it perceives as friendly. A number of major television stations and newspapers are owned by or linked to political party leaders, and outlets are typically divided along ethnic lines.
Access to the internet is restricted only by cost and infrastructural obstacles, with 44 percent of the population accessing the medium in 2008.