Draft Law on Media – how many islands of freedom will we manage to keep?
In theory, there is a possibility that this entire mess and debate about the Law on Media could result in a solution which will be beneficial to the citizens of Macedonia. In practice, the upshot will surely be a bit different.
Today, for the first time on the public scene, at the debate organised by Diversity Media, on the same table with the journalists and editors Olivera Trajkovska and Zoran Dimitrovski, we heard a stance on the reports of the State Department and Reporters Without Borders from a high representative of the Government of RM, the Deputy Prime Minister in charge of European integrations, Fatmir Besimi.
If I understood him well, Besimi said that he will not comment on the reports’ relevance, which are read and deemed pertinent both by the American Congress and the international expert and political public, but will dedicate himself to working for the improvement of the situations noted therein, as well as in the part of the freedom of speech and the media as one of the overriding priorities in the current “high dialogue” (read resit) with the EU.
Besimi states that he does not have direct competence in the Media Regulation, and he observes the process from the aspect of fulfilling the EU obligations. We shall see how he will act if the Media Regulation is adopted, which is now proposed by the competent Ministry of Information Society and Administration. This Regulation is contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, the recommendations of the Council of Europe, it does not fully implement the EU's AVMS Directive, nor does it address the problems noted as priority subjects in the current dialogue with the EU, such as non-transparent state advertising and the enormous influence of politics in the media. Besides the fact that it is opposite to what the minister mentioned several times with piety during the debate – Article 16 of the Constitution of RM, which explicitly prohibits the censorship.
It is a good thing that Besimi has expressed his opinion. But, correct me if I am wrong, we have still not heard any of the high representatives of the biggest ruling party take up a stance on these reports. Zekiri from NDP became a former MP, but I do not believe that he received an answer in writing on the report of Reporters Without Borders, a promise which the Prime Minister of RM had made in one of the sessions on MP's questions in the Parliament several months ago.
Unless we consider that this precise Regulation which is offered to the journalists and the media is a stance. Or, God forbid, the “arguments” of some journalists and editors close to the government that the Reporters Without Borders are “Sorosoids”. Or, heaven forbid, that due to the non-observance of the Laws on Labour Relations and Copyrights a new Law on Media is to be made, which again does not resolve the problems in the mentioned areas, but causes new ones, particularly in the field of human rights.
However, this matter necessitates a more serious and more constructive approach by the biggest ruling party. They have experts among their ranks, they should not abuse this debate through those who use hate speech, who discriminate and violate all the principles of journalism.
Particularly because these policies and relation endanger not only the Constitution and domestic legal order, but also the international principles in the mechanism in which Macedonia is a full member. The sooner this is understood by the representatives of the government, the better.
In theory, there is a possibility that this entire mess and debate about the Law on Media could result in a solution which will be beneficial to the citizens of Macedonia. In practice, the upshot will surely be a bit different. Perhaps because, as rightly indicated by some of the participants in the debate, for many people both in our country and in the world bread is a real necessity, and is given priority before freedom, which is imaginary. Some consider that even freedom is a luxury, isn't that right.
Obviously this battle will last for a while. The answer as to how may islands of freedom and human rights we will manage to save together depends on the persistence of the people, the revival of the natural union between the journalists and their audience, and whether the citizens will understand that this is not just a battle of the journalists defending their freedom but their battle as well.
This post is also available in: Macedonian