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21 Oct 10

Macedonian Journalists Call for Support

Macedonian journalists have again called for internal and external pressure to help eliminate pervasive censorship, after the country fell more than 30 places in a press freedom poll released this week.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Skopje

“There should be more pressure from outside on the local centers of power,” Gazmend Ajdini, the secretary of the Macedonian Journalist’s Association, told Balkan Insight.

In this year’s global survey on media freedom, the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranked Macedonia at number 68, a fall from its position at number 34 last year.

“Maybe the fall is not that big but the situation is definitely getting worse and we have reports from Freedom House, the EU and the US State Department which all say that,” Ajdini said.

In its annual progress reports on Macedonia, the European Commission has regularly focused on the media, criticising the country’s failure to guarantee freedom from political interference for journalists.

The watchdog organisation Freedom House, in its 2009 report, also said lack of press freedom is one of the key problems facing Macedonia.

But the problem cannot be solved by international pressure alone, Ajdini says.

“I would like this [survey] to raise the alarm among the local public as well, as we need support from the public if we want to make things better,” Tamara Causidis, a member of an informal group that seeks to improve journalists’ rights, told Balkan Insight.

“I am almost certain that press freedom will be mentioned in the European Commission report, this year even more pronounced and articulated than last year,” she said

Visiting head of the European Union Council Herman Van Rompuy on Tuesday in Skopje hinted that the report, which will be released in November, will include notes of concern about media freedom.

Macedonian journalists made their appeals public at a protest in Skopje in September.

Dozens of journalists held a rally to call for improved media freedom and working conditions after the controversial sacking of eight staffers from the television station Kanal 5, which touched a nerve among many working in the media.

Some of the fired journalists openly accused the government of being behind the dismissals as well as practicing censorship, influencing editorial policies and commissioning stories.

Kanal 5 is owned by the son of a well known parliamentarian from a minor party in the ruling government coalition, Boris Stojmenov. The station insisted it had fired the reporters for financial reasons.

In the 2010 Reporters Without Borders survey, North Korea, Myanmar, China, Iran Rwanda and Syria were ranked as the most repressive countries among the 178 included in the list.

Finland, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland are at the top of the ranking.

Among southeast European countries, Slovenia was ranked 46th, Bosnia and Herzegovina 47th, Albania 60th, Croatia 62nd, Serbia 85th, Kosovo 92nd, and Montenegro 104th.

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