Skopje, 26 July 2018 – The Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services condemns the amendments to the Electoral Code adopted yesterday, in a shortened procedure, by the Parliament of the Republic of Macedonia, following an agreement reached at the political party leaders’ meetings.

The amendments envisage that paid political advertising during electoral processes – which used to be paid to the media outlets by the participants in the elections from their own accounts – from now on be paid from the Budget of the Republic of Macedonia, through the Ministry of Finance.

If, before this, the expenses for paid political advertising and its presence in the media were limited by the financial power of the political entities, this solution now makes it possible for their financial possibilities to increase, as these will be paid by the citizens’ money.

In European practice, there are isolated cases of compensating media for their expenses during elections by using the state budgets, but this only includes media outlets on which obligations for free political presentation of the participants in the elections have been imposed, in conditions where paid political advertising is banned. In the Republic of Macedonia this is not the case.

The new provision regarding the additional limits for paid political advertising affecting the radio and television stations again fails to provide equal access to paid political advertising for all participants in the electoral process, as it gives advantage to the ruling parties and the parliamentary opposition, without envisaging any advertising time whatsoever for the independent candidates.

Interference in the editorial freedom of the media is the new legal solution that the participants in the electoral campaign will be implementing to make the media plans for paid political advertising, instead of the media themselves.

Lastly, instead of removing the obligation to monitor media presentation by the Internet portals after two years of pointing-out on the part of the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media services, the Journalists’ Association of Macedonia, the civil society sector and the expert community – as it is contrary to the European standards – the amendments impose obligations to monitor the internet portals onto the State Election Commission.