The media workers from the southeast part of the country debated concerning the issue of reporting in COVID-19 circumstances

The media workers from the southeast part of the country debated concerning the issue of reporting in COVID-19 circumstances

Within the framework of the Project Support to Freedom of Expression in the Media in North Macedonia, implemented by CMEM with the support of the EU Delegation to our country, an online meeting was held with the media workers from the Southeast planning region that debated on the topic of Media Reporting in COVID-19 Circumstances – CMEM Experiences. The debate, inter alia, dwelled on the CMEM analysis in the section of self-regulation, accompanied by the challenges experienced by the journalists themselves in the course of the pandemic.

The Executive Director of CMEM, Ms. Marina Tuneva, highlighted that their analysis indicated that sensationalism in reporting was registered not only in the case of our self-regulatory body, but also in the case of the other councils of ethics, members of the Alliance of Independent Press Councils of Europe, witnessed by the increase in appeals concerning infringement of the Code of Ethics. The Director of CMEM underlined that particular attention was to be paid to the reactions on the part of the public when publishing journalistic contents on social media, and with a particular focus on those that contain hate speech. In this respect, as underlined by Ms. Tuneva, the role of media is of crucial importance in the denouncing of hate speech and its condemnation. Ms. Tuneva’s ascertainment followed the statements made by some of the journalists from this region about the lynching comments upon the release of relevant information supported by statements of the relevant institutions as regards COVID-19.

‘The comments posted on social media can be rather unseemly and lead to a discriminatory perspective or they may contain elements of hate speech. Hence, inter alia, media are to stay vigilant for the comments posted on social media pages and make attempts to denounce them so that the public may perceive it as a hate speech, substantiated by facts and arguments.

‘This would result in protecting the journalist, the media that the journalist works for and would convey the message to the public that the information was credible and reliable and that somebody was attempting to spread hate speech based on partial and unsubstantiated ascertainments,’ stated Ms. Tuneva.

The journalists from the Southeast planning region were interested whether in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic there was an increase in the number of appeals lodged to the Complaints Commission pertaining to the operation of media. Mr. Daniel Dimitrieski, the Program Coordinator of CMEM, underlined that the number had a continuous upward trend. In the year 2020, the number of appeals was increased by 50% compared to 2019. This upward trend can also be observed in the first three months of 2021.

‘Most of the appeals are lodged by citizens and civil society organizations pertaining to partial reporting regarding the COVID-19 crisis and predominantly concerning sensationalistic titles. In the course of last year, a total of 140 complaints were lodged to the Commission, out of which 109 were resolved, 18 were deemed unjustified, whereas 13 were resolved by virtue of mediation, i.e. by virtue of reconciliation between the parties concerned. We expect a significant number of complaints this year as well. In 2021 up to present date, a total of 93 appeals were lodged to the Office of CMEM, which is an increase by 30% compared to the same period last year,’ stated Mr. Dimitrieski.

The series of meetings on media reporting in COVID-19 circumstances shall continue in the other planning regions of the country.

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