Freedom of the Press
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 legal framework contains most of the basic laws protecting freedom of the press and of expression, and government representatives generally respect these rights. In January 2006, Parliament approved the Law on Freedom of Information, which requires government agencies to release information as long as the public interest is greater than any harm that might result. The law gives some protection to whistle-blowers, limiting punishments for public employees who reported corruption or a significant threat to human health or the environment. A special commission will hear disputes related to the law, but appeals of its decisions will be processed through the normal court system. In May, Parliament passed legislation that eliminates imprisonment as a penalty for libel and defamation. Nevertheless, investigative journalist Zoran Bozinovski was sentenced to one to three months in jail for defamation in a December 2003 newspaper article. He spent several days behind bars in November before being released, reportedly as a result of intervention by the European Union. Bozinovski, who still faced the possibility of a retrial as well as numerous other pending libel cases, had been physically attacked in the past for his reporting.
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. However, on September 23 two employees from the television station ALSAT M were attacked while reporting on a story in Lazec. The attackers threatened to decapitate the reporters if they broadcast their story concerning the construction of a mosque. Most of the country’s numerous and diverse private media outlets are tied to political or business interests that influence their content, and the state-owned media tend to support government positions. In early 2006, the independent newspaper Vreme reported that a number of journalists at major news outlets were moonlighting for a public relations firm, working on speeches and talking points for government ministers. Most other outlets failed to cover the ethics scandal, which added to widespread distrust of the media.
Macedonia has a high density of media outlets for its population, including 5 private nationwide television broadcasters, more than 50 local stations, some 160 radio stations, and nearly 20 newspapers. The resulting competition for advertising revenue and audiences has led to low pay, small staffs, and a general lack of professionalism. Observers have noted the prevalence of speculative reporting and anonymous sources. Financial constraints hindered pluralism in 2005, when the closure of two publications left only one Albanian-language newspaper, the daily Fakti, to serve the ethnic Albanian minority. Minority-language media have relied primarily on foreign aid, which has not proven to be sustainable. There are no major state-controlled print media, but private ownership is concentrated, with the German group WAZ owning the three major dailies. The government tried unsuccessfully to take over the private newspaper Nova Makedonija, which would have been a breach of the constitutional pledge regarding freedom of entrepreneurship, according to the International Press Institute. 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.