Media community in Macedonia debates “Media Integrity Matters” findings

Media community in Macedonia debates “Media Integrity Matters” findings
Event date: 
Wed, 2014-10-08 15:30
Problems and solutions are noted precisely-there is a lack of political will to change the situation.
”Stenkovec” (name of a refugee camp in Macedonia during Kosovo crisis in 1999) – as a synonym for a journalist that is “politically inadequate”.  “Boss” – as a man who has absolute ownership of the media and the newsroom, and “black mambo” – indicating the brutal practice of censorship, are just some of the common symbolic perceptions that journalists themselves have on practices and ways in which Macedonian media newsrooms operate today. These are, among other things, some of the findings in the new research “Media Integrity Matters”, a part of SEE Media Observatory regional project and research efforts aimed at monitoring the integrity of the media and promoting media reform, which was promoted at a round table held in Skopje on October 1st 2014. The research findings were presented by Biljana Petkovska, director of Macedonian Institute for Media (one of the partner organizations in SEE Media Observatory) and the researchers Snezana Trpevska Ph.D and Igor Micevski M.A, responsible for conducting the research in Macedonia. The event gathered over 30 prominent editors, journalists, representatives of media professional organizations and experts, and only few representatives of state institutions that responded to the invitation to participate at this roundtable. 
But, what are the factors that affect the democratic development of the media, and why are we often hearing the term “democratorship” (demokratura) instead of democracy (demokratija)? Zoran Findanovski, an experienced journalist and editor who now represents the Association of Journalists of Macedonia in the Council of the media regulator, the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, says that the road to “democratorship” starts with disabling working environment and different financial and non-financial pressures on journalists in the newsroom. Fidanoski, whose voice is in minority in the Council of the regulatory body, agrees that almost all of the findings of the “Media Integrity Matters” research describe accurately the situation, in which Macedonian journalists, media and society are found today.
Zoran Fidanovski, member of the Council of the regulatory Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services
It is obvious that the relations between the employees and the media companies and owners are distorted. Tamara Chausidis, the head of the Union of Journalists and Media Workers, says that many media have closed, and that many newsorooms, even in those media that are profitable, are shrinking. It is difficult to find a job as a journalist once you’ve been let go. In these circumstances, obedience to the owner becomes a key prerequisite for getting and keeping a job, and it affects the integrity and independence of journalists within the newsrooms.
Tamara Chausidis, president of Journalists’ Union in Macedonia
Journalists are increasingly being called as “microphone holders”, while in terms of wages they fall into the category of citizens with lowest salaries in the country. However, the president of the Association of Journalists of Macedonia, Naser Selmani, thinks that there is a way out of this situation. The media community has precisely noted the problems and possible solutions, and it is now up to the politicians to make the change, but they still lack political will to do it.
Naser Selmani, president of AJM
The role of the audience, the way in which it consumes media content and perceives media, is also an important factor that contributes to this difficult situation. In the opinion of Sasho Ordanoski, a prominent media expert and former owner ad editor of several media outlets, the audience in Macedonia, as elsewhere in the world, is inert and is more interested in seeking refuge from the difficult reality in entertaining and trivia media content.   
Sasho Ordanoski, media expert
The introduction of the research notes that the integrity of the media is very important, and that media and journalism as a public good are endangered, and need to be monitored and protected. The research also notes that journalism is evolving, from being the fourth power and watchdog of the government, into a tool for advertising. The report cited a paradox in the fact that media freedoms in Macedonia were greater when the law was more restrictive. According to the findings, despite of the improving of the laws according to EU standards, in practice, the media and regulatory body have become more dependent on various political and economic interests, while journalism has become completely degraded and unprofessional.