Freedom of the Press 2010 - Macedonia
|Publication Date||30 September 2010|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2010 - Macedonia, 30 September 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ca44d8d32.html [accessed 16 September 2014]|
Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 12
Political Environment: 18
Economic Environment: 16
Total Score: 46
|Total Score, Status||51,PF||49,PF||45,PF||47,PF||47,PF|
Macedonia's constitution includes basic protections for freedoms of the press and 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. The Macedonian Journalists' Association reported in May 2009 that there were more than 160 pending cases against journalists, and that cases filed in 2007 and 2008 had already resulted in fines totaling US$358,000. The association also said that members of the ruling party had merely converted their criminal libel cases against journalists to civil suits, rather than dropping them as the party had promised in December 2008.
The nongovernmental organization Pro Media reported in September that state agencies had not properly implemented a 2007 law on open access to public information, noting that information on procurement deals was the most difficult to obtain. The organization also found that 59 of 66 public entities did not yet accept information requests online.
Both the Broadcasting Council, which regulates television and radio outlets, and Macedonian Radio and Television (MRTV), the public broadcaster, remain underfinanced and dependent on the government, as the license-fee system that is supposed to fund them is essentially inoperative.
The parliament failed to fill three of the Broadcasting Council's nine seats before presidential and local elections in March 2009. Nevertheless, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reported that the council impartially and effectively enforced its regulations during the campaign period, though the courts were slow to adjudicate related lawsuits. MRTV showed some bias in favor of the ruling party, airing positive reports about government activities, but most private stations and print media offered relatively balanced political coverage. Macedonian-language outlets often devoted more attention to the main ethnic majority parties, while Albanian-language media focused on ethnic Albanian parties.
On a number of occasions during the year, journalists and news outlets complained that the government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski was providing support to favored reporters and shutting out others in an attempt to control coverage of Macedonia's interactions with the European Union in Brussels.
In December 2009, the Journalists' Association criticized MRTV for attacking former interior minister Ljube Boskoski on the air, in part by broadcasting footage related to his 2004 arrest on suspicion of war crimes. Boskoski, who was acquitted in 2008, had broken with the ruling party to run as an independent in the March presidential election, and had found fault with Gruevski's performance as prime minister. Separately, the Broadcasting Council admonished MRTV in January for repeatedly airing government sessions on a channel dedicated to the parliament.
In June 2009, a member of parliament representing a small Romany party verbally attacked a group of journalists, accusing them of working for foreign intelligence agencies and threatening to have them jailed. The lawmaker, Amdi Bajram, later apologized, explaining that he felt the press and political leaders had ignored him and his ethnic group. In March he had reportedly threatened to burn down the offices of the daily Dnevnik.
Macedonia has a large number of media outlets for its population, including five private nationwide television broadcasters (in addition to the public MRTV), dozens of local television and radio stations, and 10 daily newspapers. Ownership of the top print publications is concentrated in the hands of a few firms, including Germany's WAZ Media Group, which holds three leading dailies. The government is the country's biggest advertiser and reportedly favors outlets it perceives as friendly. A number of television stations and newspapers are owned by or linked to political party leaders, and outlets are typically divided along ethnic lines. Hundreds of journalists demonstrated in May 2009 to protest low pay and interference in their work by government and business interests.
Access to the internet is restricted only by cost and infrastructural obstacles, with around 52 percent of the population accessing the medium in 2009.