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Twinning Call for Proposals: Freedom of Expression support to Media Reforms


The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 23 June 2015

 

The Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services (AVMU) adopted guidelines on promoting media pluralism, on enforcement of sanctions, and on fair competition in the media sector. Furthermore, it improved its capacity for monitoring of content and oversight of media ownership and concentration and such efforts need to continue.

Given that media independence and pluralism as prerequisites and major factors of democratization, the freedom of the media has been identified in the enlargement strategies as one of the main priorities to be addressed by IPA.

Even though the country has made significant efforts in developing an effective legal framework for media, additional efforts are required to cement a culture of independence and sustainability in the media sector. Further effort is also required to consolidate professional structures and to raise professional and ethical standards in this area. In this respect it is expected that this project will further support the development of strengthened, free, independent media in the country, thereby contributing to heightened pluralistic democracy.

The policy for the development of the media freedom aims at enhancing the self-regulatory mechanisms, thereby increasing the possibility to provide media work of higher quality. This will strengthen the independence of the media professionals from the direct influence of the business and political interests of the media owners. The newly established self-regulatory body is the Media Ethics Council (CMEM), composed of representatives of media owners, journalists and representatives of civil society. CMEM acts upon citizens' complaints related to media content. Decisions taken by CMEM, according to its Statute, are mandatory for its members. The creation of the CMEM was championed by AJM and supported by media outlets, editors and other stakeholders. The goals of the CMEM, inter alia, as established in its Statute are: promotion and protection of the journalist profession by promotion and protection of the ethical standards in the media, strengthening of the self-regulation in the media, organising of workshops, training, conferences, debates, promotion of investigative reporting, exchange of experiences and information with similar associations and other civil society organisations in the country and abroad.

Political criteria

The situation as regards freedom of expression continues to be highly problematic. This is in spite of the introduction of comprehensive new media legislation at the end of 2013, following extensive public consultations and advice from international organisations.

There is indirect state control of media output through government advertising and government-favoured (and favourable) media outlets. The public broadcaster does not fully play its role as the provider of balanced and informative media content, and its political bias was noted by OSCE/ODIHR during both this year’s and last year’s elections. This results in a scarcity of truly independent reporting and a lack of accurate and objective information being made available to the public by the mainstream media. Poor journalistic standards and ethics contribute to the situation. A positive development has been the establishment of a self-regulatory body, set up in December 2013 by media actors themselves. This should be supported in order to become operational as soon as possible. In September 2014, the government made data on government advertising, including partial figures, publicly available; however it is still unclear which media outlets are the primary beneficiaries of such campaigns and according to what criteria public funds are disbursed. Defamation actions continued to be raised by journalists against other journalists (highlighting the low level of solidarity within the profession), by politicians against journalists (creating a chilling effect on the freedom of expression) and by politicians against other politicians (in the place of open public debate). Court judgments upholding claims of defamation have been relatively low in number and have been relatively conservative in their award of damages; however there are exceptions, including cases involving public figures. This sends a damaging message, both as regards the freedom of expression and the impartiality of the courts. Non-judicial means for resolving such cases should be developed and strongly promoted by the government and by journalists and public figures should lead by example.

The objective is to encourage and accelerate media reform, consolidate European standards focusing on media protection, professionalism and independence, improve the implementation of the media legislation by creating an environment for freedom of media, as well as to promote effective competition on the media market.

The purpose is to increase the efficiency of existing regulatory mechanisms in the media sector, ensure respect for the code of ethics, improve the profile of the media community and industry, to improve implementation of European standards in the area of freedom of media and freedom of expression and increase public awareness about the issues related to media freedom protection and the importance of competition rules for proper functioning of the media markets. The purpose is also to build the skills of journalists and of editors regarding the new media environment and new media policies, as well as to improve the delineation of the competences among the different regulatory bodies to ensure functioning of the Media Ethics Council and to improve the quality of the Public Service Broadcaster.

The following mandatory results, which should be jointly achieved by the MS and BC Twinning Partner, will directly support the achievement of the project’s purpose:

  • Mandatory result 1: Enhanced current capacities of the AVMU to perform a role of protector and promoter of media freedom

  • Mandatory result 2: Improved capacities of AVMU, AJM, MRT and CMEM for communication with the public and increased public awareness

  • Mandatory result 3: Improved capacities of CPC, AJM, CMEM and MRT.

 

Submission Deadline: 2 September 2015

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