According to the Przino Agreement, the Ad-hoc body or Temporary Committee for observing media coverage during the electoral process was supposed to be established by August 19. However, the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services gave the decisions to the members of the ad-hoc group with a week’s delay from the date of the signing of the agreement. Nevertheless, the Committee does not consider this to be a problem, as according to the legislative acts this ad-hoc body is to begin functioning 100 days before the elections. The current four members: Ljubomir Kostovski and Goran Trpenovski (at the proposal of SDSM) and Slagjana Dimiskova and Cvetin Cilimanov (at the proposal of VMRO-DPMNE) are to to select the fifth member until August 21, who at their proposal will be appointed as president of the Ad-hoc body, with a decision by the Director of the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, Zoran Trajcevski.
In accordance to the Przino Agreement, this Ad-hoc body should provide minimal media regulation in the period of about three months prior to the elections. More specifically, the expectations of the opposition parties, however, are that the decade-long media darkness will start to break down and that greater flow of objective truths will be ensured, with balanced information to the public by the media that are directly under the “government’s umbrella”, which are in an enormous number.
On the other hand, the reactions of the associations, AJM, SSNM…, as well as the assessments of the experts are that this ad-hoc body is not a solution to the problems in the media sphere.
In regards to all these problems, CIVIL Media spoke with one of the members of the Ad-hoc body, Ljubomir Kostovski.
CIVIL Media: The reaction of the expert public, of the trade associations and of journalists on the social networks are quite loud and do not seem to stop. Everyone is simple doubting that the Ad-hoc body is a solution to the problems in the media sphere. They believe that the appointment of members at the proposal of the parties limits media freedom from the very start. What is your comment?
KOSTOVSKI: All the things for which we spoke cannot be resolved now, when we are facing urgent deadlines and anticipating elections. It is like knowing that a football game is to start, but that the goal will be left with no goalkeepers. And now, when the opposition has even a slight chance of correcting that huge imbalance, you are carrying out justice. There was a lot of time a while back for everything we are talking about, and there is much time ahead of us. These are not issues that can be solved in a day, a month, three months or in a year. And we are very aware of this. The issue of that self-regulation, here in Macedonia, has not shown to be so well. I cannot speak for other countries, but here in Macedonia, it is not successful.
CIVIL Media: But, how can this media regulation be ensured?
KOSTOVSKI: On the contrary, self-regulation here drives us to certain internal opportunism, because when we are left to ourselves, we are somewhat reluctant to punish each other. And that assumes that there should be punishment for reporting that is not in accordance with journalistic ethics. This should be performed by someone, a body that will be, for instance, selected by the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM), the trade unions, that is how it should function. However, I do not see other associations having this or being able to guarantee it. And, when speaking of the need of having reforms…, until now we haven’t had a president of the AJM coming to elections and saying: here is my reform and I stand here before you to implement…We do not have a concrete reform, we tell only some empty phrases that are really just meaningless words. We have nothing in particular to say – “wait for two more weeks, and it will go away”. And, the competition, that is, the elections will begin Here, let’s look at the other side. What would have happened if we did not have this body? We know how the Agency conducts its work, that is the reason why these special bodies are established. If there was a proper Public Prosecution, then there wouldn’t have been the need for a Special Prosecution. If the Agency was doing its job accordingly, there wouldn’t have been an ad-hoc body to observe the media. Hence, we come to a situation in which not even the media are important to us. Because the elections will pass even without the media, you can be sure of that. Without real media control, we will have even a less fair electoral competition for the political parties. In general, the acts are not that bad. The previous one, and the one that is being prepared now, are according to international models.
CIVIL Media: But, only if they are being respected?
KOSTOVSKI: If all of that was respected, then I think our work would be very simple. Accordingly, we have journalistic ethics, we are familiar with those rules of play, those qualitative determinations. Whereas, the Agency will assist us with the quantitative ones, because it has the technology with which it is able give us information, while we ourselves need to review the qualitative part. However, you need to do this in order to be able to see. And, what can we do? Not to do it and say that it is OK – the situation? I think that no one sees the other side of the problem. The elections could have passed without a complete media imbalance. It would be most certainly difficult, that I can tell you. After all, we have media that can afford to pay the fines, if of course they are fined, we are now speaking hypothetically…And to continue with the same practice, because these media outlets are financially very powerful.
CIVIL Media: Do you expect obstacles and barriers?
KOSTOVSKI: Well, I do expect obstacles, and it would be silly not to know that. These are powerful media, which by force and their influence will probably be attacking us. At this moment, we are mainly attacked by the oppositional media, because they believe that we are some kind of an ad-hoc body that is not needed. And after that, I expect that other colleagues will start to attack, from the pro-government media, and we will certainly be under heavy pressing, but you do have to start from somewhere.
CIVIL Media: What do you promise?
KOSTOVSKI: I promise, from my perspective, that we will have integrity and will be persistent to the very end. Of course, I cannot claim what others have on their mind, but in a normal setting and if we are left to work properly, we will create at least some path through which other generations that will come after us, will be more successful.
Camera: Dehran Muratov
Editing: Еrmin Klimenta