2020 report presented, increased number of attacks on journalists, poor progress in media freedoms

The Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM) today presented the Annual Report for the Indicators on the level of media freedom and journalists’ safety in 2020 in North Macedonia prepared within the project Regional Platform of the Western Balkans, funded by the European Commission.

The research methodology developed in 2016, has been harmonized over the years to standardize data collection and analysis and to adjust the research focus towards the changes in the traditional and online media environment in the Western Balkans.

Based on this standardized research tool, journalists’ associations from the Western Balkans assessed the latest developments in their countries and engaged in various advocacy activities to improve the political, legislative, and institutional environment in which journalists and media work and with the support of the European Commission monitored the development of media freedom and the safety of journalists in their countries.

In all three main indicators of the report, the legal framework for media freedom, the position of journalists in newsrooms and the safety of journalists, in 2020 there are no fundamental changes in the media sphere but there is increasing trend of attacks, i.e., the security situation of journalists and media workers has not improved unlike last 2019 but on the contrary has deteriorated.

In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic crisis further worsened the media’s financial situation due to declining commercial advertising revenue.

In 2020, the country grew on the scale of Reporters Without Borders, out of total of 180 countries, it was ranked 92nd, which is three places higher than in 2019.

The report for 2020 notes that the journalists’ associations AJM, SSNM, MIM and CEMM strongly emphasize their opposition to amendments to Article 102 of the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, which would allow advertising of public institutions in the media. AJM, SSNM, MIM and CEMM believe that the situation in the media industry should not be returned to the level of four or more years ago, when astronomical amounts were paid to the media in non-transparent manner with state funds. This practice, which we opposed to, was assessed as bad example of state bribery of the media and contributed to the deterioration of the situation in the media and increased bias in their reporting.

AJM’s position is that paid political advertising in the audiovisual media should be abolished, because in that manner the owners of the media are “bribed”, the editorial policy of the media is negatively affected, but it also “shifts” the balance of opposing views in the public sphere. In order to overcome this practice, interventions are needed in both the Law on Audio and Audio-Visual Media Services and the Electoral Code.

This report for 2020 notes that the reform of the public service broadcaster has hardly begun, and the financial independence and sustainability of the public service broadcaster remain open question.

According to AJM statistics, since the beginning of 2020, a total of 14 attacks and harsh threats against journalists have been reported, out of which more than half are against women journalists. In comparison, last year there were only four such incidents, which means that this year the attacks and threats are three times more numerous. In December 2020, the Basic Civil Court in Skopje issued judgments rejecting the claims by journalists Natasha Stojanovska and Dushica Mrgja, who sought damages from the state for violating their rights during the events in the Parliament of the Republic of North Macedonia on 27.04.2017. These lawsuits followed the earlier call from AJM to provide legal assistance to journalists and media workers who were attacked or had their equipment destroyed in Parliament during that unfortunate event. This verdict is another proof that there are double standards for the court when it comes to politicians and journalists. The Annual Report for the Indicators on the level of media freedom and journalists’ safety in 2020 in North Macedonia, prepared within the project Regional Platform of the Western Balkans, funded by the European Commission has been prepared, proofread, and translated into Macedonian, Albanian and English language.

You can find the Annual Report on the following link

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