Self-regulation of the media – challenges and expectations
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“At the moment the media are facing many difficult problems of professional and political nature. The first step is the establishment of the Council of Media Ethics, the Complaints Commission. So something is moving, but not very fast. A clear distinction should be made between those who are journalists and those who are not journalists. It should be determined whether a journalist informs or comments, whether he makes propaganda, whether he works for his own interests or protects the public interest”, said Sefer Tahiri, journalist and university professor.
According to him, we have a Media Law which is not respected at all, and we are all to blame for the situation because the Macedonian media do not fulfill their basic task.
Journalist Aleksandar Comovski pointed out that in terms of non-transparent government and opposition with infantile behavior it is hard for the media to impose self-regulation. According to him, the media environment in Macedonia ranges from false information to wonderful journalistic investigations.
Director of the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, Zoran Trajcevski said that there had been some improvements in the media in comparison to last year. However journalists should not expect that someone else would complete their work.
“We as institution are working on a project for co-regulation between the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services and televisions and marketing agencies as a third party. For the portals it is obligatory to have an Impressum and know the authors of the articles”, said Trajchevski.
This statement caused reactions from the President of the Association of Journalists of Macedonia, Naser Selmani.
“So the idea is not to establish order, but control, he said, with self-regulation we want to accept the colleague to judge our offense, and here someone wants state institutions to do that. Why strive for self-regulation, as we accept responsibility for everything that happens to us, but we cannot take your responsibility”, said Selmani.
He noted that the Agency spends public money and they do not tell us why they spend it and how they finance the media. Why not funding local media that have terrible problems, why not help the print media. Why not organize a debate on MTV, the EU wrote in a report that it is not functioning as it should, why not debate on government advertising, asked the head of AJM.
Katerina Sinadinovska, president of the Council of Media Ethics of Macedonia which has officially been operating for a month said that for their body it was acceptable to conduct co-regulation and everything covered with self-regulation, we accept that the state should no longer interfere, she said.
“We have been operating, existing for a month, seven people at our own expense have been trained, we have established the Complaints Committee which includes representatives of NGOs, media owners and journalists. We have already received dozens of complaints about violated standards in printed or electronic media. We have received comments of admiration and severe criticism”, said Sinadinovska in the debate. She informed that as a main tool in its assessment the Council used the existing Code of Ethics for Journalists and that there was an idea for its improvement. Most often complaints relate to hate speech, propaganda, lies, lack of a second party in the text. The Council, she clarified, has no mandate for sanctions, but it is a moral warning to the media.
Union representative Dragan Antonovski asked: Is code of ethics possible in terms of stunted social standards? “We have the form but we do not have the essence, we have a union which cannot help journalists, we have democracy but we have no media. I do not see the logic in financing investigative stories and publish them on internet portals, it is like practicing a striker perfectly to score goals and never let him play in the match. At the same time there is no journalism on TV”, noted Antonovski.
“Self-regulation was not invented in Macedonia. It is a concept that we have to implement in Macedonia, too”, said university professor and journalist Sefer Tahiri who directly addressed the Director of the Agency, Trajcevski and asked him how that institution was responsible for development of pluralism in the society.
“I think you come here and talk about regulation of the Internet space, you humiliate us. The Agency is an independent institution, you give report to the Parliament and you should do it to the public, those who pay you, we pay the broadcasting fee, and you hold meetings closed to the public and not even try to promote a public system of operation. I know that you are politically determined and come from a political party and as such you cannot regulate the media. Is it true that you consider the TV novels that are dubbed in Macedonian to be programs with domestic production”, Tahiri asked Trajcevski.
Trajcevski replied that the data about the soap operas was not correct and that Tahiri was not informed and was talking led by some personal frustrations.
Then the president of AJM Naser Selmani asked Trajcevski not to use hate speech and not to insult as he did it talking to them.
Trajcevski justified Agency’s transparency with the Internet portal where all information is published.
Trade unionist Dragan Antonovski asked for responsibility from the Agency as the TV media space overflows with foreign soap operas. Trajcevski explained that each TV station regulated its program and under the legal obligation they had to have 20 hours of films and 10 hours of program of own informative production per year. He noted that besides MTV all televisions would be of general entertainment format.
At the end of the debate Luuk Sengers, journalist and university professor from the Netherlands gave his view. “While we are talking about standards, young people are enthusiastic and full of hope. This is an important debate, I wonder why we do not have this debate in the Netherlands. However, we have no regulation or self-regulation. Journalists’ standards are too high. If professionalism is correct, it is enough people who work to be professional as it should be – that is regulation. There are also bad media…We also have the Council of Media Ethics, every editorial office and media must respect the code of conduct. In the United States they are concerned about professional standards, and the first responsibility is accountability to the public, all other standards arising from this, you are bound by the public and everything must be based on this principle”, said Sengers.