Reaction to the negative campaigns of the political parties

Skopje, 18.12.2015 – Acting upon certain complaints and reactions, the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services has looked into the contents of a number of paid political advertising spots ordered by VMRO/DPMNE and SDSM, which have been aired in the programs of the broadcasters these days.

Several of the sports constitute negative campaigning aimed at discrediting the other party. They show no not respect human dignity, represent negative framing and stereotyping, and place personal assaults against political figures of both parties. The Agency has sent to the Primary Public Prosecution in Skopje the spots titled “By voting for the VMRO/DPMNE you become an accomplice in these crimes!” (ordered by the SDSM), and “Bending the spine vs. the state interest” (ordered by the VMRO/DPMNE), while reminding the broadcasters that they make their own decisions on what to broadcast in their programme services, i.e. that they have the right to refuse to broadcast contents contrary to the principles of performing their business activities and to the rules for audio and audiovisual commercial communications.

The Agency wishes to highlight the following:

  • In accordance with Article 53, Paragraph 6 of the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, “theveracityandaccuracyofclaimsanddata contained in theaudiovisualcommercialcommunicationsshallbethe responsibilityoftheclient,whereastheconformity of the same with thelaw shall be theresponsibilityofthe editor-in chief of the audiovisual media service provider”.
  • Paid political advertising is covered by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, i.e. is included within the right to freedom of expression, however, at the same time, it may be subject to “such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society.” (Article 10. ECHR);
  • The Declaration on Freedom of Political Debate in the Media, adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 12 February 2004, stipulates that, as part of the free political debate in a democratic society, the media have the right to disseminate negative information and critical opinions concerning political figures and public officials,” while the political figures, having decided to appeal to the confidence of the public, have accepted to be subject to “potentially robust and strong public criticism through the media over the way in which they have carried out their functions.”;
  • In accord with the European Court of Human Rights’ case law, any restriction of the freedom of expression must pass what is called the tripartite test, i.e. must: be prescribed by law, have a legitimate aim and be necessary in a democratic society.

Considering all the above, the Agency underlines the following:

  • As regards paid political advertising, the rules prescribed in Article 53 of the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services shall apply, including the prohibitions under Paragraph 4, in accordance to which advertising must not:
  • Bring into question the respect for human dignity;
  • Include or promote any discrimination on the grounds of gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion or conviction, disability, age or sexual orientation.
  • In addition, paid political advertising is also subject to the specific prohibition under Article 48, Paragraph 1, of the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, according to which “the audio and audiovisual media services must not contain programmes that threaten national security, call for violent destruction of the constitutional order of the Republic of Macedonia, call to military aggression or armed conflict, incite or spread discrimination, intolerance or hatred based on race, sex, religion or nationality.”