Skopje, 17 July 2020 – The Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services was unpleasantly surprised by the status that Minister of Information Society and Administration Damjan Manchevski wrote on Facebook yesterday, stating that the Agency was politicized because it had filed misdemeanor charges against Telma TV and Alsat-M TV for violating the election silence.

The Minister either has no knowledge of the Electoral Code or, as usual, whenever the Agency is at issue, tries with might and main to discredit its work so that he could carry out the pre-set partisan agenda. If this was not the case, he would have known that the Agency is not a censor, but that, in line with the legal competencies it has been entrusted with, it monitors the media coverage of the elections and that, if it detects violations, it initiates misdemeanor proceedings.

During the election silence, the media must not, among other things, broadcast statements by holders of public offices in the government bodies and this is explicitly stated in the Electoral Code. Any statement made in one’s capacity as a minister is a statement by a holder of public office within the government bodies. It is not disputable at all that one may give information relating to the status of the coronavirus pandemic and the activities of the healthcare authorities even during the election silence, but not by the Minister himself.

It is also rather symptomatic that Minister Manchevski does not consider that the Agency is a censor in the case of the First Programme Service of the Macedonian Radio, against which it had also filed misdemeanor charges for violating the election silence. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the offense was committed by broadcasting statements made by Minister of Interior Nakje Chulev?

Just as it had never done before, the Agency did not discriminate between the parties this time either, and misdemeanor proceedings were also initiated due to statements made by Venko Filipche and Nakje Chulev, respectively. In this context, we call on Manchevski to read the Electoral Code before publicly presenting or sharing opinions. He can also read previous OSCE/ODIHR’s reports, which regularly give positive assessments of the Agency’s work, or the Statement on the Preliminary Findings and Conclusions by the OSCE’s Special Election Assessment Mission, which also notes down violations of the election silence on the part of the traditional media outlets