Conference Held on “Electoral Integrity In the New Information Environment”

Skopje, 7 April 2022 – The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services (AAAVMS) and USAID organized a conference titled “Electoral Integrity in the New Information Environment”, which was held in Skopje, on 5 and 6 April 2022. The Conference was dedicated to media and their regulation during electoral processes.

The Conference was aimed at encouraging discussion among civil society organizations, associations and institutions from the country and relevant stakeholders from the European countries on election-related issues, so that recommendations for improving the current situation could be offered based on their experiences.

At the beginning of the event, AAAVMS Director Zoran Trajchevski referred to the importance of media coverage during electoral processes and the Agency’s activities for monitoring broadcasters’ media coverage of the elections during such periods. He also emphasized the position in favour of abolishing the financing of political parties’ paid political advertising (PPA) from the State Budget funds, or, if this is not possible, the parties should receive funds for PPA according to an equality model.

The Member of AAAVMS’ Council, Zoran Fidanoski, reminded the present of some of the obligations broadcasters have during electoral periods and made a retrospective of several electoral cycles in terms of the results of the monitoring of media coverage of the elections and the role of the regulatory authority in these.

The participants in the event also discussed the impact of digital disinformation on electoral integrity and the ways to deal with them. The other speakers shared experiences and good practices from the European countries in dealing with disinformation and fake news in the election campaigns, stressing the importance of regulation and self-regulation in the media during electoral processes, the editorial independence, and media reporting free from political and economic interests.

On the second day of the Conference, the AAAVMS and Italy’s Regulatory Authority for Communications (AGKOM) shared their experiences in terms of monitoring media content and paid political advertising aired by the broadcasters. The Head of the AAAVMS’ Programme Affairs Sector, Emilija Janevska, explained the process and activities related to the monitoring of paid political advertising aired by the broadcasters and the challenges the Agency had been facing during the electoral cycles. She also presented AAAVMS’ viewpoints regarding the provisions of the Electoral Code concerning paid political advertising. The State Commission for Preventing Corruption also shared its experiences in the area of ​​transparency of the political parties, election campaigns and political marketing’ funding, including online advertising.

Some of the recommendations that emerged from the Conference refer to ensuring empowered institutions that would be conducting fair and efficient elections and to enhansing the institutions and political parties’ transparency so as to reduce the disinformation related to them. A need was stressed for cooperation among the regulatory bodies and for capacity- and skills-building among their employees, as well as for raising the citizens’ awareness of critical thinking. Editors and journalists should observe public officials and political parties and, should these fail to fulfill the promises they give, call them to responsibility. A need was perceived for thorough revision and amendment of the Electoral Code, especially in the area of ​​paid political advertising, so as to eliminate ambiguities and ensure a stable regulatory framework that would establish legal certainty, without amending the Code before the holding of elections. At the same time, the way in which internet portals function and the manner of advertising through these media should be legally regulated as well.