Friedensförderung durch Brücken der Verständigung
Peace Building through Bridges of Communication




RFE/RL Balkan Report Vol. 8, No. 10, 12 March 2004



The Macedonian parliamentary elections of fall 2002 brought about a change in the government, which calmed the waves in the country's political life. However, a short flare-up of violence, the kidnapping of two persons, and a subsequent large-scale police operation in September 2003 caused a government crisis, which showed that the governing coalition of the Social Democratic Union (SDSM), the Liberal Democrats (LDP), and the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) is not as stable as it initially appeared to be (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 2003 and 2 February 2004, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5, 12, and 19 September 2003).

The situation of Macedonian journalists improved in 2003, but some obstacles remain. Politicians are still trying to influence reporting, for instance by suing journalists for libel. In 2003, a Skopje court found three journalists guilty of libel in separate cases; two of the journalists were fined, and one even received a conditional three-months prison term.

In October 2003, the government presented draft changes to the Penal Code raising fines for libel. The Association of Journalists of Macedonia (ZNM) protested the plans, demanding that the government follow the Council of Europe's recommendation and remove libel and slander from the Penal Code altogether.

Media outlets are often aligned with political interests, and journalistic standards are accordingly low. "Macedonia has no neutral newspapers. All take...sides," Erol Rizaov of "Utrinski vesnik" said, adding that, "We have independent, but not neutral journalism" (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 December 2003).

As was expected, the new government tried to secure its influence over the state-owned Macedonian Radio and Television (MRTV). When MRTV Director Ljubomir Jakimovski, who was appointed by the previous government, resigned on 30 October 2002, the SDSM named Gordana Stosic as new director (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 31 October 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 22 November 2002).

After her appointment, Stosic "launched a program to transform MRTV into an effective public broadcaster, and received widespread support from the international community, particularly the OSCE; however, the transformation will not become effective unless there are changes in the broadcasting law," according to the U.S. State Department's annual report on the human rights situation in Macedonia.

In addition to its Macedonian-language radio and TV broadcasts, MRTV also broadcasts in the Albanian language and, to a minor extent, in Turkish, Vlach, Romany, and Serbian. Among the country's approximately 150 local radio and TV stations, many broadcast in minority languages.

These private radio and TV stations often have arrangements with the foreign-languages services of international broadcasters such as RFE/RL, VOA, BBC, or Deutsche Welle. The Albanian-language services of RFE/RL and VOA have affiliates in all regions with a strong Albanian population, including Skopje. VOA's Macedonian service has arrangements with some local radio and TV stations, while RFE/RL's Macedonian newscasts are broadcast by the nation-wide Kanal 77.

The biggest change to the media landscape took place in the print sector.

In August, the German WAZ media group bought up the country's three major dailies, "Dnevnik," "Utrinski vesnik," and "Vest" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July and 1 August 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 August 2003). Taken together, the three dailies had a circulation of 120,000 to 150,000 copies, thus accounting for about 90 percent of the Macedonian newspaper market.

The dailies are now formally owned by the newly formed Media Print Macedonia (MPM); its director is Srgjan Kerim, a former foreign minister and ambassador to Germany and the United Nations. Trifun Kostovski, a wealthy businessman, who is also an independent lawmaker elected on the ticket of the governing Social Democrats, is a minority shareholder in "Utrinski vesnik" and "Vest."

After the purchase, MPM tried to dispel the notion that it has a monopoly on the Macedonian-language newspaper market by pointing to the fact that WAZ was the first international publishing house to sign the OSCE declaration on editorial independence. However, MPM's competitors "Nova Makedonija," "Vecer," and "Makedonija denes" had minimal circulations before the WAZ deal. And in October 2003, the bankrupt Nova Makedonija publishing house, which published "Nova Makedonija," "Vecer," as well as "Birlik" (in Turkish) and "Flaka" (in Albanian), went into liquidation (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 December 2002 and 31 October 2003).

Only "Fakti" remains as an independent Albanian-language newspaper, but its sympathies clearly lie with the more radical political parties such as the opposition Democratic Party of the Albanians or the governing BDI. Many observers believe the weekly "Lobi" to be the most important and most independent Albanian-language publication in Macedonia.

At present, it is hard to assess the role of the Internet on the Macedonian media market. Given the economic situation in Macedonia and the limited accessibility of the Internet, it is likely that radio and TV will dominate the market for a long time to come. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz,


source:  RFE/RL Prague
published by: Daniela Mathis date of release on this site 16/03/04 


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