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Macedonia: Media law reform must safeguard media freedom

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ARTICLE 19

19 Aug 2013

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Today, ARTICLE 19 wrote to the Macedonian Minister of Transport and Communication, urging him to reconsider introducing statutory press regulation in Macedonia and to radically overhaul a proposed Audiovisual Law. Although the reform of media legislation is needed in Macedonia, the Government must make sure that new laws fully comply with international and European standards on freedom of expression and best practices of press and broadcast regulation.

The Macedonian Government is currently working on two laws that will provide new legal framework for media regulation in the country: a new Media Law and a new Audio and Audiovisual Law. Both laws were drafted by the Ministry of Transport and the Communication of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and will be shortly presented to the Parliament.

ARTICLE 19 reviewed both these laws for their compliance with international freedom of expression standards. Our analysis revealed the following.

 

Draft Media Law

  • The Draft Media Law replaces the current self-regulation system with the statutory print media regulation. ARTICLE 19 believes this proposal - made without a conclusion by independent and detailed review that self-regulation is ineffective - is not necessary and will have negative impact on the media independence from the state.
  • The Draft Media Law subjects the print media to the control of a statutory body, the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services (the Agency). ARTICLE 19 maintains that from a freedom of expression point of view the press should be overseen by a self-regulatory body.  The creation of statutory bodies with powers to police the press is a threat to its freedom because it can result in unnecessary interferences with its operation. Moreover, we are concerned that the Draft Law does not safeguard the Agency’s independence from the state.
  • Further, the Draft Law does not comply with international freedom of expression standards because:
    • It unnecessarily expands the scope of media obligations for protection of minors;
    • It contains the blanket prohibitions on certain expressions, the vague protection of journalistic sources;
    • It provides insufficient protection of media pluralism; and
    • It lacks safeguards against excessive fines.

 

Draft Audio and Audiovisual law:

  • The Draft Audio and Audiovisual Law lacks safeguards for the independence of the Agency of Audio and Audiovisual Media Services. Primarily, the ruling party may exert political influence over the appointment of the members of the Agency’s Council. The nomination process does not include civil society and guarantees for transparency.
  • Independence of the director of the Agency is not guaranteed as the Draft Law contains no rules prohibiting conflict of interests and on incompatibility ensuring that the Director is not under influence of political powers or economic interests. The Director can be dismissed easily “for any violation of the law determined from the annual report” and has no explicit right to appeal the decision against his/her dismissal.
  • The Draft Law is also problematic for the following reasons:
    • It contains blanket content prohibitions;
    • It does not envisage public consultations for the adoption of frequency utilization; and
    • It lacks guarantees for the transparency of licensing process and of safeguards for adequate funding and independence of the public broadcaster.

ARTICLE 19 recommends to the Minister of Transport and Communication amendments to both laws to ensure that they safeguard media freedom. The authorities must make sure that their reform proposals are always necessary and proportionate and restrict the media freedom in the least possible way.

Read letters in full here:

ARTICLE 19’s Letter to the Minister of Transport and Communication on the draft Media Law

ARTICLE 19’s Letter to the Minister of Transport and Communication on the draft Audio and Audiovisual Law

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