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Political propaganda, instead of equal treatment of diverse attitudes and beliefs the everyday Macedonian media scene is filled with hate speech and disorder of moral values

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The Agency for audio and audiovisual media services, invited the media to show professional responsibility and do their job in accordance to the highest standards and principles of journalism. And only five days later, the Macedonian media scene confirmed the seriousness of the media situation once again.

The crisis of Macedonian media began in 2008, but escalated in the last few years. The result was breaking all existing ethical and moral journalist rules, the disappearance of professionalism in journalism and the loss of the media’s role as guardian of democracy. No one has thought of a solution yet.

As AVMU pointed out, “in this moment which is very vulnerable for the Macedonian society, it is very important for media to stay impartial and to treat all different opinions and beliefs equally, enabling the public to shape its own opinion about different events and questions”. But the interview with Zoran Zaev, leader of the biggest opposition party SDSM on the pro-government TV program Sitel, ruined all beliefs and expectations of society about media treatment as expression of democratic society and principles. This interview takes place in the period of negotiations between political parties about the necessity of media reforms and confirmation if the conditions for fair and democratic elections (which should take place on the 24th of April) are in accordance with the Contract from Przino. One of the conditions in this contract is the creation of fair and equal media treatment of all political subjects.

Breaking the law and non-existing functional regulative frame. Is the exit from this media crisis possible only through self-regulation?

According to the Media law, the broadcasting of contents that might provoke or spread discrimination, intolerance and hatred based on race, gender, religion or nationality is forbidden. The same law guarantees the freedom of speech which indicates the responsibility of media to be open for different opinions and diversity of contents, be respectful of people’s individuality and dignity, to transmit the information in order for the public to be informed and to ensure media pluralism.

The interview with Zoran Zaev in the daily news on the most popular and watched TV channel “Sitel” broke most of the rules of the Media law. The audience could witness the insults and accusations expressed by the managing editor of “Sitel” with which he broke the rule for acceptance of human individuality and dignity, discrimination towards certain nationalities was expressed and also, the rule for acceptance of different opinions in media wasn’t respected. The behavior of the managing editor also broke the basic principles of broadcasting anticipated in the Law for audio and audiovisual media services. According to this law, the humane and moral values of people should be nursed and developed; one person’s dignity should be protected; people should feel that the public is just and reasonable and that it defends democratic freedom by objective and impartial representation of events and equal treatment of diverse opinions and beliefs.

The long standing media crisis in this country baffles media in fulfilling their primary role which is – serving the public interest. Instead, the Macedonian media scene is filled with political propaganda, hate speech and disorder of moral values. Until today, there hasn’t been any serious sanction against it.

The interview was held in a tense atmosphere, fulfilled with personal offenses and discredits, with both parties trying to outcry each other. The image of Macedonian media scene was even more imperiled by the way different media followed and represented the interview. Instead of staying objective and distant, most media insisted on discussing the interview by taking a certain political side and discrediting the main member of the opposition or by qualifying the journalist-editor as the main reason for the catastrophic interview that shocked the Macedonian public. Only one day after the interview on Sitel, the

opposition had another interview on one of the three most watched TV channels in Macedonia – Canal 5. This time, guest in the daily news on Canal 5 was the vice president of SDSM – Radmila Shekerinska while the host of the interview was Lidija Bogatinova – the chief editor of Canal 5. She didn’t miss to mention that the invitation for the interview was the first one she got from this TV channel after 8 years. However, this interview was also held in a tense atmosphere, followed by mutual interruption, aggressive presentation of “arguments” from both parties and obvious mutual intolerance between the vice president and the host-editor which was actually the main characteristic of the previous interview on Sitel. There was a complete absence of objectivity, distance and professionalism in the realization of this television form of confrontation.

One day later, the portal “Central News” published the information that the editor Bogatinova was fired from Canal 5, or more precisely moved to another media – Radio Free Macedonia. Apparently the reason for her removal from Canal 5, as mentioned on some portals is “her unsuccessful mission to defend government’s attitudes in the time of the two interviews”. This information hasn’t been confirmed yet by other media or by Bogatinova herself.

Discrimination based on nationality – reactions from the Turkish embassy in Macedonia

The interview on Sitel was followed by offenses on the account of nationality towards the Turkish population, expressed by the managing editor of the daily news on Sitel. This provoked fast reaction from the Party of Turkish development in Macedonia, National unity of Turks movement and the nongovernment organization “Ufuk” who ascertained that “this vocabulary is not only unprofessional, but it is also humiliating for the 300 million Turkish population and it is jeopardizing the friendly relations between the Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Turkey”. Quickly after the interview, the managing editor of “Sitel” acclaimed his mistake and he gave his apologies to all the Turks, announcing that what he said before “is neither his attitude nor belief but rather a phrase”. Feeling offended the Turks in Macedonia called on a protest in order to express their frustration. The offensive speech was also condemned by the Turkish embassy from where it was revealed that the managing editor of “Sitel” is far from making up for the damage he made with his inappropriate attitude.

Reactions from AVMU, ZNM and MAN

AVMU condemned the managing editor of “Sitel” for not respecting the professional journalistic principles and standards: “Instead of a proper journalist interview in accordance with the standards of the journalism rules, the audience witnessed an interview which completely lacked professional distance, respect of the interlocutor’s dignity and other individuals mentioned in the conversation.” AVMU also called the journalist associations for a proper reaction while having in mind that the respect of journalism standards is the act of self-regulation.

The Council of honor of the Assembly of Journalists in Macedonia also condemned the behaviour of the managing director of “Sitel” explaining that it has seriously damaged the reputation and honour of journalism by abusing the media for his personal confrontation with the opposition’s leader.

From the second most active association in this country, Macedonian association of journalist where the secretary general is no one else but the managing editor of “Sitel” himself, the reaction about the interview was completely opposed to any previous critique. Instead of discussing the behavior of “Sitel’s” managing director, they blamed the guest speaker for the failure of the interview.

From here we can ask the question: “Is self-regulation really enough for the Macedonia media sphere to be put in order?”

 

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