Macedonia’s Free Speech Backsliding Worrisome | Freedom House

Macedonia’s Free Speech Backsliding Worrisome

Washington

Freedom House, a member of the International Partnership Group on Freedom of Expression in Macedonia, urges the government of Macedonia to take steps to improve the deteriorating situation for free speech and media freedom in the country.
 
The International Partnership Group was in Macedonia Nov. 17-18 to meet with representatives of the government, the parliament, civil society, journalism associations, and media development organizations, as well as individual journalists amid worrying developments in the media sector and issued a joint statement outlining key concerns and offering recommendations for improvement. 
 
“Media freedom in Macedonia has deteriorated alarmingly over the past year,” said Paula Schriefer, Freedom House vice president for global programs. “Reform of the legal and policy framework on the media and a more equitable enforcement of existing media laws should be undertaken immediately to ensure that journalists are able to play a genuine democratic watchdog role and to ensure that Macedonians have access to independent and diverse sources of information.”
Key findings of the mission include:
  • There is an absence of media pluralism and diversity in Macedonia, and media ownership structures lack transparency and accountability.
  • The government should decriminalize defamation and reform civil defamation to properly protect freedom of expression.
  • There have been instances of pre-trial detention of managers of media companies since December 2010, a pattern which is alarming and contrary to international and European human rights standards.
  • During this session of parliament, the government should develop a genuine public service media with the ability to raise revenue at arm’s length from the political process to ensure that this sector is not overly politicized.
“Participation by the government in a new working group on media and commitments to engage in an open consultation process on the proposed new media legislation are steps in the right direction on media freedom and freedom of expression,” continued Schriefer, “but it is equally critical that such efforts lead to a regulation environment that promotes, rather than restricts, freedom of the press.”
 
The International Partnership Group on Macedonia includes: ARTICLE 19, Freedom House, Index on Censorship, International Press Institute, Global Forum for Media Development, Media Diversity Institute, Open Society Media Program, South East Europe Media Organization and South East European Network for Professionalization of Media.
 
Macedonia is ranked Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2011, Freedom House’s annual assessment of global political rights and civil liberties and Partly Free in Freedom of the Press 2011.
 
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