Journalist Standards in the Focus of the Agency’s Second Public Meeting in 2017

Skopje, 29 June 2017 The Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services held its second public meeting in 2017 today. During its introductory part, Agency Director Mr. Zoran Trajcevski, Ph.D., presented the activities that the Agency had conducted in the previous quarter.

Apart from the regular supervisions conducted over the broadcasters, operators of public electronic communication networks and the print media publishers, the Agency also carried out many ad hoc supervisions as part of its official duty considering a number of legal provisions, including Article 61 (principles of performing one’s business activity) and Article 48 of the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services (LAAVMS) banning hate speech. As a result, one television station was found to have violated the principles of performing its business activity, while another one was found to have committed discrimination along ethnic lines and on the grounds of membership of a marginalized group. A total of 21 warning measures were imposed against broadcasters, four warning measures against cable operators, and two warning measures against print media publishers. A decision was adopted to grant a license for radio broadcasting of a programming service – a music/talk radio of a general format – in the Macedonian language, at the local level, in the area of Krivogashtani municipality, as well as a decision to announce a public competition to grant a license to a non-profit broadcasting institution for radio broadcasting of a programming service at the local level, in the Roma and Macedonian languages, in the area of Shtip municipality.

A study was conducted for the needs of the Agency, aimed at establishing the justifiability of announcing a public competition to grant a license to a non-profit radio at the local level, in the area of Shtip municipality, as was a research into the reach of the radio stations and the total viewership share of the television stations broadcasting programme at the state level via satellite or a public electronic communication network and the television stations broadcasting programme at the regional and local levels, covering the first four months of 2017. In the past quarter, the Agency also prepared an Analysis of the Initiated Misdemeanor Procedures Against the as he previous period saw the completion of two legal analyses – Analysis of the Administrative Disputes Initiated against Broadcasters, Operators of Public Electronic Communication Networks and Print Media Publishers in the period 1 January-31 December, 2016. Recently, it also started preparing the Strategy for Development of the Broadcasting Industry, 2018-2022.

In the past period, on several occasions, the Agency strongly condemned the cases of violence against journalists and journalist crews, as well as the threats addressed at one regional television station, stressing that any violence against the media was unacceptable and represented a direct attack on the freedom of expression. At the same time, the Agency appealed to the media to be up to the weight of their role and assume the responsibility for reporting objectively and without bias, not to transmit speculations and unverified information, and not to hide facts, but to strictly abide by the principles of their profession.

Feeling the need for a dialogue that would lead towards improving the situation in journalism – and considering the continuing decline in the respect for journalist standards that constitute the foundation of journalism and media’s work – the Agency dedicated this public meeting to the professional journalist principles and manners for their improvement. With the aim of providing the opinion of part of the representatives of this profession, Zoran Fidanovski, Member of the Agency Council; Ivan Mircevski, Chair of the Macedonian Media Association and Director of the Kanal 5 TV; Marina Tuneva, Executive Director of the Council of Media Ethics, and Dejan Georgievski, President of the Centre for Media Development, conveyed their views and experiences regarding the current aspects related to the media, journalist responsibility and the way to ensure higher standards in journalism.

A conclusion shared by all participants was that the journalists’ role is to communicate information, ideas and opinions and that they have the right to comment in an honest, objective and truthful way, investigate and maintain ethics in their reporting. Journalist profession should be promoted consistently, by investing in the journalist staff’s continuous education and the quality of reporting, by way of forming what are called the “editorial schools” within the frameworks of the media. Media and journalists should be an epitome of confidence and should protect public interests, be unbiased, and should manifest integrity, editorial independence and self-regulation through implementing moral sanctions against those who do not respect the professional standards or the Journalists’ Code. Media need to be provided with stable financing. As for their part, they should take seriously the importance of the role they play in society, i.e. the necessity to provide truthful information and diverse and objective viewpoints on all social and political issues.