Reaction to pressures exerted on the Agency for its election-related monitoring

Skopje, 3 October 2016 – Ever since the start of monitoring media coverage ahead of the elections, which are due on 11 December, the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services has been more and more exposed to pressure, especially after it imposed the first measures against violations of the Electoral Code.

The Agency did not want to respond to this, striving to leave room for freedom of expression as much as possible, however, the accusations have gone so far that the Agency is being pointed at as the “censor”, a “privatized”, “politicized”, “unprofessional” institution, without taking into account the actual situation and the regulations in force.

Namely, the Agency imposes measures against the broadcasters who have violated the Electoral Code strictly upon the proposal of the Ad-Hoc Committee for Observing Media Coverage, which means that the Agency cannot impose any measure unless the same is supported by the Ad Hoc Committee.

This Committee, composed of five members, has been appointed in line with the latest amendments to the Electoral Code. To regulate its work, the Committee unanimously adopted Rules of Procedure, on the basis of which it makes decisions by majority of votes. All reports on the monitoring conducted by the Agency are submitted to the Committee, and these do not contain assessments as to the balance in reporting. This time, in line with the Electoral Code, this is exclusively the Committee’s job. All members of the Committee have access to the recordings of the broadcasted radio and television programmes and may individually check all findings stated in the reports.

Considering the above, it is extremely unprofessional on the part of the broadcasters against whom misdemeanor proceedings have been initiated to pronounce measures, to involve the Agency in any way in the process of making decisions to impose measures. The Agency has always performed its work with professionally, without bias, and observing principles, and will continue to do so in this same manner, regardless of the pressure exerted both on the regulator and on its employees. Media should do the same and inform their audience objectively about the ongoing events and developments, without imposing any viewpoints or opinions.

For all those who are trying to depict the Agency as a censor, and the electoral regulations as censorship, let us remind once more that censorship in Macedonia is forbidden by the Constitution. Had the electoral regulations been counter-constitutional, this would have so far been noted in some of the reports by the foreign observation missions in the years before. Hence, to claim that the regulations – acknowledged in the European broadcasting space – are censorship, may only mean two things: either that someone does not want to observe the rules of play, or that they do not know them at all.