Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
The Macedonian legal framework contains most of the basic laws protecting freedom of the press and of expression, and government representatives generally respect these rights. That said, libel is a criminal offense, and in 2005 courts revealed they were still willing to apply such laws. In November, Zoran Bozinovski, the editor of Radio Tumba, was found guilty of criminal libel and sentenced to one three-month prison term as well as two six-month suspended prison terms for articles published in Bulevar magazine. Television journalist Ira Protuger was sentenced to a three-month suspended prison term for libel. Albanian journalist Rajmonda Malecka was sentenced to five years in prison for her alleged participation in terrorist activities after she interviewed the leader of a paramilitary group. The court of appeals, however, annulled the Skopje court's decision in October. Macedonia remains one of the only countries in the region without freedom of information legislation, although a draft law was proposed in December. In 2005, the Parliament approved a new broadcasting law, covering public service television and radio broadcasting, which stipulates standards and licensing procedures for commercial broadcasters and establishes an independent broadcast council. It remains to be seen how well the government will implement the new law, as authorities have had mixed results implementing other media legislation, such as the Copyright Law, the Telecommunications Law, and licensing regulations.
While the number of libel and defamation cases are of particular concern to press freedom advocates, Macedonian journalists have been relatively free from physical harassment and abuse since 2001. Nonetheless, ethnic tensions sometimes cause problems for the media. For example, in June the Macedonian National Unity, an opposition political party with a Christian Democratic orientation, appealed to television and radio station owners to ban the broadcasting of Serbian music because of the continuous wrangling between the two countries' churches.
The media are becoming increasingly independent and diverse and frequently criticize the government; even so, they are at times constrained by political and commercial pressure. Some observers question the high number of media outlets for a small country-over 150 exist, largely because there is no registration process-which has led to a fragile media environment with low economic sustainability. Financial constraints hindered pluralism in 2005 when two newspapers-the weekly Lobi and the daily Koha Ditore-suspended publication, leaving only one Albanian-language newspaper, the daily Fakti. Although the newspapers ceased publishing for economic reasons, the government pledged under the 2001 Ohrid peace agreement to provide greater rights for ethnic minorities. Minority-language media have relied primarily on foreign aid, which has not proven to be sustainable. The television and print media are not monopolies, but Macedonian Radio and Television is the only public broadcaster in the country and usually favors the government in its reporting. There are no major state-controlled print media, but private ownership is concentrated, with the German group WAZ owning the three major dailies. Even though the government does not place any restrictions on access to the internet, its usage remains relatively low, at just under 20 percent of the population, owing to lack of access and high prices.