Skopje, 22 July 2020 – Bearing in mind the need that all facts be presented, and not only the position of Telma TV, regarding their appeal against the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services and the verdict for violating the election silence, which was presented in the media outlet’s reaction during its 18:30 news, we are informing the public about the following:
During any election process, the Agency’s prime competence is to implement the Electoral Code consistently with regard to the media coverage of the elections, which means that the Agency monitors media coverage regularly and, should it detect any violations, initiates misdemeanor proceedings. With this, the Agency does assume the role of the media’s editor – on the contrary, these are the regulator’s obligations.
As the media outlet explained in its appeal submitted to the Court of Appeals, the right of the public to be informed about the developments related to the coronavirus pandemic and the relevant activities of the healthcare authorities, is indisputable, however, without violating the election silence. In line with the Electoral Code, during the election silence, no statements by public office holders should be broadcast and the information may have been conveyed in another appropriate manner that would have been in tune with the provisions of the Electoral Code, as the other broadcasters did, instead of the Minister himself, who also took an active part in the campaign of the “We can” Coalition through meeting citizens and appearing in advertising clips.
By pointing out that the Agency qualified the event where Minister Venko Filipce had appeared as “invented” and suggested to the media to broadcast the event after the elections,” this media outlet misled the public. It presented partial information, thereby distorting the facts. Namely, the report, excerpts of which were aired by Telma TV, refers to the director’s statement that, during the election silence, Telma TV could have reported on “the number of newly-infected, deceased and persons that had recovered from the coronavirus without airing recorded visual and audio materials of Minister Filipce.” while the airing of the part of the information concerning the opening of regional COVID centers due in September, could have waited until after the election silence.
The public was also misled by the quoting of OSCE’s report, especially because Telma TV is well aware that balanced reporting during a campaign and during election silence are not synonymous. However, to defend its offense, Telma TV made this parallel, while omitting the fact that this same Report noted violation of the election silence on certain broadcasters’ part.
Here, it is important to note that this same institution has been regularly giving positive assessments about the regulator’s work, and no remarks have been made about the Agency in its last report either.