Anticipating of the upcoming media sector reforms arising from the Przhino’s Agreement, a group of media organizations submitted to the Government a Request for implementation of systemic media reforms that emphasized the priority issues that require urgent legislative changes and practical measures to be implemented by the competent institutions.
The Government is also required to launch inclusive and transparent process of public consultation with all stakeholders, both on priority issues and on other issues whose resolution can lead to improved freedom of expression and the situation in the media sector.
- Manner for implementing the reforms
Reforms in the media sector, which according to the Przhino’s Agreement 2 were agreed for the period after the establishment of the new Government, should be implemented as a well-planned, inclusive and transparent process that will take place in two parallel phases. The first phase should consist of identifying priority issues requiring urgent legislative changes and practical measures to be implemented by the competent institutions, and second phase from detecting all medium and long-term issues that need to be addressed in the media sector and which require comprehensive analysis. Both phases should take place in open and continuous cooperation between the competent state institutions and civil society organizations from the media sector.
The implementation of reforms implies changes in the legislation in different areas, and also series of practical measures and activities of the competent state institutions that will enable the implementation of the legislation and will solve urgent problems that hinder the free practice of the journalistic profession or impede the right to provide the public with objective, impartial and truthful information on all issues of political and social life.
All proposals for urgent changes to the laws should be made in transparent process of consultation with civil society organizations before they are submitted for adoption at government session.
This document notices only the urgent problems that need to be addressed in the first phase and the proposals for legislative changes and other measures. For most of these problems, in March last year, the five civil society organizations in the media field – signatories to this request, submitted Initiative for amending and supplementing the Law on Audio and Audio-Visual Media Services with a Draft Law, which was supported by the MPs from SDSM. This initiative is attached to this Request. We also emphasize that we, as organizations, remain behind the proposed solutions in this Draft Law and we are asking the procedure for amending the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Activity to start as soon as possible and to be maximally inclusive and transparent.
- Priority issues that need to be addressed urgently in the first phase:
2.1 Increasing the safety and security of journalists and eradication of the practice of impunity for attacks on journalists
- Government officials, civil servants and representatives of all public security institutions should approach as to extremely serious problem and regularly condemn the attacks on journalists in the public;
- The Government should take all necessary measures to protect journalists and to oblige the competent institutions urgently to investigate all cases of attacks on journalists. For that purpose, we expect the Government to discuss this issue at the first subsequent session and to issue conclusion obliging the Minister of the Interior to prepare report on the situation with the measures for detection and prosecution of the perpetrators;
- In order to increase the security of journalists and eradicate the state of impunity, one should investigate the possibility of imposing a special sanction for attack journalists and journalists at work in the Criminal Code.
2.2 Respecting the work and professional rights of journalists and other media workers
- Immediate implementation of the undertaken obligations in the government program for amendments to the Labor Law in the area of providing real protection for workers, including journalists and media workers;
- Amendments to the provisions of the Labor Law in the strike section, where workers are discouraged from exercising this right and where the penalties for a wrong union procedure are higher than the ones for employer.
- Changing the Labor Law in the area of representativeness of trade unions and the real assessment of which union is representative, along with the shortening the long and complex procedure for determining these facts.
2.3 Transparency of public institutions and improvement of conditions for investigative journalism
- The Government, the relevant ministries, the Parliament, the courts and all other public institutions should ensure fast, fair and equal access to public information for all media. They need to work transparently, to have open, non-discriminatory and fair attitude towards the media and should not have privileged attitude towards certain media. The government and all relevant ministries should commit themselves to holding joint press conferences (preferably once a week) to give detailed answers to all questions asked by journalists.
- To consider possibility for amending the Law on Free Access to Public Information in order to (1) establish shorter deadline for access that would enable journalists quickly to obtain the requested information and documents (preferably between 7 and 10 Days); and (2) to minimize the grounds for refusal of requests for free access to public information, that is, not leave room to institutions for arbitrary interpretation of the grounds for refusal in order to hide information and disable right to access;
- To provide journalists free access to the documents in the Central Registry or the Cadastre, whereby the journalist submits appropriate document from the editorial board.
2.4 Independence, competencies and funding of the Audio Agency and audiovisual media services
- Amendments to the provisions of the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services with regard to the manner of proposing and appointing members of the Council of the Audiovisual and Audiovisual Media Services Agency in order to depart this body;
- To find a solution for long-term, stable and independent financing of the Agency given the inefficient collection of the broadcasting fee.
2.5 Institutional autonomy, editorial independence and MRT financing
- Amendments to the provisions in the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services regarding the manner of proposing and naming members of the MRT Program Council in order to depart this body and represent the true interests of the civil society as a whole;
- Amendments to the provisions in the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services regarding the manner of proposing and appointing members of the MRT Program Council in order to depart this body and to represent the true interests of the civil society as a whole;
- Amendments to the provisions of the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services regarding the manner of selecting the responsible editors of the program services, by which the MRT Program Council will be empowered to elect on the basis of conducted public call procedure;
- In addition, the criteria for the election of the Director of MRT must be strengthened, in order to professionalize this management function, and not to be party-political;
- Having in mind the provisions of the Law on AAVMS and the Law on State Aid, the competent institutions should conduct detailed audit of the financial performance of MRT in the past few years in order to comprehensively comprehend its situation and to take appropriate measures for its consolidation;
- To find solution for long-term, stable and independent financing of MRT given the inefficient collection of the broadcasting fee,.
2.6 Prevention of hate speech and inciting violence in audiovisual content
- Amendments to the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services in order to introduce sanctions for “hate speech” or incitement to violence in audiovisual programs (Article 48 of the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services), which will allow AAVMS to Initiates a misdemeanor procedure.
2.7 Breaking up clienteles’ ties between media owners and government and improving working conditions for private media
- Amendments to the provisions of the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services in order to introduce ban on any kind of “state advertising” in commercial audiovisual media and to define precisely the notion of “public campaigns” that could be broadcast freely only to the public service;
- Amendments to the provisions of the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services in order to introduce ban on party-political advertising during and outside the election period;
- Amendments to the provisions of the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services in order to reduce the fee for the license paid by the broadcasters in order to encourage their financial operations and media owners to invest in development and professionalization.
2.8 Abolishing the provisions of the Law on AACMS with regard to the production of domestic documentary and feature program on national television
- Abolition of the provisions of the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services related to the so-called “cultural quotes” for the production of domestic documentary and feature program on national television, including the provisions relating to the allocation of the funds from the budget intended for that production, as well as the financial sanctions for non-compliance with these regulations.
- Manner for implementing the second phase
- Systemic reform in the media sphere should not be reduced to the changes that will be made in the first phase;
- The second phase should begin immediately with the elaboration of detailed plan that will detect all issues for which in-depth development and debate is necessary;
- All relevant institutions and representatives of the civil sector should be involved in the debate on systemic changes;
- One of the possibilities for coordinating the entire process is the competent ministry to initiate the establishment of wide-ranging working group that will initially discuss all issues and draw conclusions as to which direction and the pace of systemic media reform.
Association of Journalists of Macedonia
Independent Union of Journalists and Media Workers
Council of Media Ethics of Macedonia
Macedonian Institute for Media
Institute for Communication Studies