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The Council of Media Ethics of Macedonia has successfully implemented the regional conference “Challenges for the press councils in the region of Balkans”, in Skopje, from May 18 – 19th, where representatives of the self-regulatory bodies from Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro took part. The event was organized together with the OSCE Mission to Skopje and the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands.

The work of self-regulatory bodies in the Balkan region is followed by a multitude of challenges which determine the success in their overall operation. The number of challenges increases with the progress of the technology. While print media only were in the focus in the past, today a growing number of self-regulatory bodies have all kinds of media under its "umbrella". And each of them has its own specifics. The press councils are responsible for all of them. However, media are not the single challenge. Authorities in almost all countries in the Balkans are increasingly inclined to "tighten bolts" i.e. to introduce regulation even in cases when this is not needed, such as in the online space.

The two-day conference in Skopje was an opportunity for the participants to discuss the situation of self-regulation in their countries. They discussed the importance of dealing with hate speech in the media, issues and challenges of ethics in the digital world, discrimination in the media and the role of press councils. Participants also tried to answer the question of whether to use all the capacities of Internet for providing media liability, in terms of ethics in their coverage and towards the public. They also discussed actions and campaigns involving different actors in the work of the press councils, ideas and challenges for the councils in terms of their accountability and transparency and innovative ways to involve citizens in their work.

Participants were welcomed by Marina Tuneva, Executive Director of the Council of Media Ethics of Macedonia, Rezarta Schuetz, Chief of Rule of Law Unit at OSCE Mission in Skopje and Wouter Plomp, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Netherlands in Macedonia.

Expressing satisfaction with the event, Tuneva stressed that the workshop will respond to numerous questions about the difficulties, but also positive aspects and opportunities in the process of raising professional standards. She has also expressed confidence that the cooperation and coordination among the self-regulatory bodies in the region will be strengthened.

As Rezarta Schuetz emphasized, self-regulation becomes a key by setting standards to which journalists should adhere in preserving of their profession. At the same time, in her opinion, the actions and decisions of the press complaints committees provide an internal mechanism to improve the situation. "For all these reasons, the OSCE Mission in Skopje, together with the representatives of the Department of Media Freedom, gladly supported the Council of Media Ethics since its inception in 2013 and we were extremely happy to see how effective and functional body it became and managed to establish links with colleagues from the region ", the representative of OSCE said at the conference.
The Ambassador Plomp said that self-regulation is often more effective than regulation, because media understand the environment in which work better than the government.

"That's why we provided support in the establishment of the first self-regulatory body in Macedonia. The Council of Media Ethics managed to solve many problems at the same time retaining its independence", Plomp emphasized. According to him, the signing of the Charter of Ethical Reporting during Elections was one of the events that are worth praising. Plomp said that the media have been transformed into a battleground of political bickering, where those with the deepest pockets make the greatest noise. Such a turn of events, according to him, shows how important it is to have an independent and free media and self-regulatory bodies. These self-regulatory bodies must be very vocal about standards of professional work: accuracy, objectivity, impartiality and fairness. This is the only way in which they can have a role in maintaining standards of professional reporting and bringing media to the next level of development.

 

The opening session of the workshop was about the importance of dealing with hate speech in the media, where Dragan Antonovski of the Managing Board and Sefer Tahiri of the Press Complaints Committee of the Council of Media Ethics spoke. The session on ethics in the digital world - issues and challenges was opened by prof. Enes Osmancevic from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Introductory speaker at the second day of the work of the workshop was professor Dejan Donev, who spoke about discrimination in the media and the role of press councils. Bisera Zankova from the Press Council in Bulgaria addressed the audience with the topic: Ethics in the media and the public: do all capacities of Internet are used to ensure media accountability? Majda Bahto Kestendzic from the Press Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mirce Adamcevski and Meri Jordanovska talked about activities and campaigns involving various actors in the work of the press councils, accountability and transparency of press councils - ideas and challenges and about innovative ways to involve citizens the work of the councils.

In the discussions about the topics, participants contributed with their insights starting from experiences in their countries. They also concluded that it is necessary to continue exchanging experiences, in order to meet the challenges by finding solutions to them.

Within the workshop, the publication "Guidebook for basic professional standards in journalism profession" was promoted, whose author is Professor Dejan Donev. According to him, "The idea was to create something that will be brief, but a helpful tool in the media work and, therefore, we decided to only present the basic, four moral principles of the journalistic work, and yet we did it in a practical way and with an understandable overview. This Guidebook should be a link between the theory and the practical examples of the profession, but also to nice things not so much in aesthetic sense as in ethical”.