By EDRi

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Deutsch: [Mazedonien: Ruf nach Rücknahme der geplanten Mediengesetze | https://www.unwatched.org/EDRigram_11.16_Mazedonien_Ruf_nach_Ruecknahme_der_geplanten_Mediengesetze?pk_campaign=edri&pk_kwd=20130828]

The Front for Freedom of Expression, an informal coalition of nine civic
associations, demands from Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia to
retract the proposed media bills – the Law on Media and the Law on Audio
and Audiovisual Media Services, which threaten to further undermine
freedom of speech in Macedonia, especially due to the unjustified
decision to cover both print and internet-media with new regulations.

The majority of issues allegedly resolved with the proposed bills are
already covered in the Broadcasting Law, the Criminal Code, the Law on
Civil Liability for Defamation. At the same time, the new media
legislation disregards completely a number of key measures that permit
the use of public funds to undermine the freedom of the media and,
contrary to best practice democratic societies and to regulate
self-regulation of the journalists.

We reject the strategy of proponents of the new media legislation, which
consisted of creating the impression of a public debate and constructive
approach, bringing international experts to Macedonia, consulting with
them during the process of preparation of the bills and then, once they
left the country, reinstating the problematic provisions that were
amended or deleted through amendments proposed by parliamentarians from
the ruling majority.

The proposed legislation, in its current form, can only lead to
increased control of the government over the majority of media outlets
in Macedonia. Furthermore, the decision to entrust regulation of both
print and online media to the powerful new Agency for Audio and
Audiovisual Media, reveals a desire to extend control over those media
sectors.

The proposed legislation does nothing to regulate or eliminate the
existing practice of distribution of the so-called “government
advertising”, which is now the main instrument used to manipulate the
independence of the media. Instead, the proposed amendment to Article 92
of the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, provide to the
Government a new source of funding that can be redirected towards the
“friendly” media, using undefined and unspecified criteria.

For other media, instead of that carrot, there is a stick in the form of
penal provisions and sanctions which, in addition to prescribing fines
that are too high in the Macedonian economic context, may be subject to
arbitrary decisions of a single person, the Director of the Agency for
Audio and Audiovisual Media. The Director of the Agency becomes a de
facto “media tzar” who will hold the fate of media in Macedonia in his
or her own hands.

Although the proposed bills never mention the word “censorship”, they
create all of the conditions to push the media and journalists into
quasi-compulsory self-censorship, as the only means of guaranteeing
their survival in the so-called “media market” in Macedonia. From the
point of view of freedom of expression, that is a far worse and far more
dangerous situation than outright censorship.

The Front for Freedom of Expression (sloboda.kauza.mk) is a wide
platform of individuals, organizations, institutions and informal groups
that shares a common goal – to preserve and advance the basic human
right of freedom of expression, primarily in the Republic of Macedonia,
but also all over the world.

The following civic organizations are involved in the Front: the
Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in the Republic of Macedonia, the
Media Development Centre (MDC), Metamorphosis Foundation for Internet
and Society, Civil Centre for Freedom, the Foundation Open Society
Macedonia (FOSM), the NGO Infocentre, the Coalition “Sexual and Health
Rights of Marginalized Communities” – Skopje, the Macedonian Centre for
European Training (MCET), the “Javnost” Centre for New Policies and
Freedom of the Media, “Jadro” – Association of the Independent Cultural
Scene, and Civic Association “Kontrapunkt”.

EDRi-gram: Macedonia: Freedom of expression endangered by new law
(5.06.2013)
http://www.edri.org/edrigram/number11.11/macedonia-freedom-of-expression-endagered-by-law

Statement in Macedonian (27.08.2013)
http://sloboda.kauza.mk/frontot-za-sloboda-na-izrazuvanje-bara-povlekuvanje-mediumskite-zakoni/

Statement in Albanian (27.08.2013)
http://metamorphosis.org.mk/sq/lajme/maqedoni/2466-makedonija-frontot-za-sloboda-na-izrazuvanje-bara-povlekuvanje-na-mediumskite-zakoni-od-sobraniska-procedura