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AJM: Steep fall of media freedom and worsening of the journalists’ status

Skopje, 13 April, 2017 - 16:26 (META) 

“In 2016, the government has used all of the government’s available instruments to limit the freedom of speech and to control the media. It is awarding the docile media with public assets while the critical journalists are constantly attacked and are exposed to various types of pressure said Naser Selmani, the president of the Association of Journalists in Macedonia (AJM).

AJM’s president presented numbers for spending assets from the budget on media.

-Last year, the ministries and municipalities in Macedonia have spent around one and a half million of euros on printed and internet media including regional and local media. Around 400.000 euros were spent in the first half of last year while more than one million of euros were planned to be spent in the second half. Also, out of 80 municipalities, only 42 have provided information about planned assets for spending in the second half of 2016 – said Selmani.

A record – breaker is the Ministry of information society and administration which has spent around 700.000 euros.

The second half of the assets of the ministries and municipalities are spent on advertising and newspaper subscriptions. The municipalities that have paid most assets on these activities were the municipalities of Bitola and Gostivar with around 60.000 euros i.e. 50.000 euros annually.

The ministries that have paid the least assets on newspaper subscriptions was the Ministry of Interior that in 2016 for that purpose has paid more than 50.000 euros.

Selmani said that in the last four years more than 40 journalists were attacked. Around half of the attacks have occurred in 2016, and most of the incidents remain as unsolved and none of the attackers were punished.

-The only bright light in this report is the improvement of the judicial practice of filing a lawsuit for a libel of character against the journalists. Unlike 2012, when there were more than 320 lawsuits for a libel against journalists, last year that number was 50 – said Selmani.

Bozinovski on Hunger Strike, AJM and EFJ Call For His Immediate Release

Skopje, 23 September, 2016 - 16:00 (META) 

Jailed journalist, Zoran Bozinovski started a hunger strike on September 14, due to the unjust extention of his pretrial detention and his court case, said today the President of the Association of Journalists in Macedonia, Naser Semani.

He said even though prison authorities knew of the hunger strike, they did not share the information with his lawyer or the Ombudsman.

“We call on Judge Sandra Krstic to immediately terminate our fellow colleague Bozinovski’s detention, otherwise we will hold her responsible for any consequences to his health or his life. Also, we call on the Ombudsman to visit Bozinovski in prison and to warn the institutions with haste of the consequences if they do not act adequately to the situation”, said Selmani.

He added that there is no doubt that the process against Bozinovski is a political process, so the Government can silence a journalist.
Also supporting the release of Zoran Bozinovski, is Ricardo Gutiérrez, the Secretary General of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ). He said he supports the AJM’s demand for Bozinovski to be released immediately.

“Although we asked the Criminal Court’s permission to visit Bozinovski, we did not recieve an answer. We have reported this case to the Council of Europe’s Platform for the Protection of Journalists. So far, Macedonia on have eight reported cases of journalists being  intimidated or were arrested, which is more than double the number in Albania, who have reported only four cases. The Macedonian government signed, on April 13, the Recommendation of the Council of Europe on the protection of journalism and safety of journalists. My question to the Government is: what have you done to improve the situation for journalists in your country?” Stated Gutiérrez.

Selmani will not exclude any possibilities that will aid their intentions to release Bozinovski.

Selmani: With the ad hoc body, parties want to fool the public that they’re reforming the media

Skopje, 11 August, 2016 - 16:02 (META) 

Not one of the candidates for the members of the ad hoc body of the Media Agency is a member of the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM).

“Journalists who irregularly pay their membership fee, automatically have their membership terminated”, said the President of the AJM, Naser Selmani, when he was asked whether any of the candidates were members of the association.

He reiterated the position of the AJM that they will not participate in the parties consultations to form an ad hoc body of the Media Agency, nor do they intend to do so when the party choose a new editor for the MRT.

“We are confident that these solutions will not only fail to improve the freedom of the media, but will further politicise the media system. With these amendments, the parties want to fool the public into thinking that they are  reforming the media. We are a serious organisation of journalists, not like some other associations who initially rejected the agreement of the parties concerning the media, and then offered their own president and secretary as members for the ad hoc body. Therefore, in the public eye we proved that their organisation is a party branch of the VMRO-DPMNE”, says Selmani.

He went on to say that he can not forbid a member of the AJM to apply for party advertisements, however, they must know that if they want to be members of this organisation, then they must respect the decisions. Otherwise, said Selmani, they risk being excluded as members.

Selmani: We will not participate in a game without borders by the parties

Skopje, 5 August, 2016 - 15:32 (META) 

“We need real reforms to the media and the signatories of the Pržino Agreement delivered a political farce. Once again I repeat, we will not participate in a game without borders by the parties”, wrote the president of the Association of Journalists of Macedonia Naser Selmani, on his Facebook profile.

Otherwise, news organizations at yesterday’s meeting with the leadership of the opposition party, the SDSM, flatly refused to participate in consultations regarding the ad hoc body or to consider the position as chief editor of MTV “Meta” has learned.

Vice President of the SDSM Radmila Sekerinska, talked with representatives of the Council of Ethics in the Media (CEM), the Union of Journalists and Media Workers (SSNM) Macedonian Institute for Media (MIM) about the way and the concept a member should be selected for the ad hoc body and the chief editor of the public broadcasting service. At the talks, representatives from the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM) were invited but were not present at the meeting.

“My colleagues have been asking me about yesterday’s consultations with the SDSM with journalists and media organizations for the ad hoc body of the Agency for Media. I am on vacation, but even if I was in Skopje, I would not go”, wrote Selmani.

Selmani: Blocked negotiations over the media is the Governments fault

Skopje, 27 December, 2015 - 12:33 (META) 

We do not know whether the negotiations will continue for the media at all. To be honest, I expected this behaviour from the government, because I believe this government needs the media most of all as they are important tools for maintaining power than, lets say, the prosecutor or the dismissal of a several ministerial positions, because the system of governance of the ruling party they need the media to spin the story to convince the Macedonian public, says Naser Selmani, President of the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM) in an interview with ‘Radio Free Europe‘.

“I think that the negotiations are blocked due to the ruling parties. It’s strange how DUI initially supported Mr Vanhoutte’s proposals and then in the meantime dropped out and now support VMRO-DPMNE, which offer virtually nothing has changed. Its probably due to the relations between the coalition partners and we can only guess what is behind DUI’s change of heart, to abandon support the views and proposals of Mr Vanhoutte. It is probably, pressure, threats, blackmail, only they know the truth, but it is important that the negotiations now have such a position that the opposition supports the views of Mr. Vanhoutte while the government strongly opposes them”, said Mr Selmani.
He says that if we go ahead with elections with the situation the media is in at the moment, people will be even more confused about the offer that is on the table.

Selmani: SDSM proposes solutions that lead to greater partisanship and politicization

Skopje, 2 December, 2015 - 18:30 (META) 

The Association of Journalists of Macedonia is not at war with anyone. The problem is that SDSM does not like any of the AJM proposals for real reform of the media system, says the President of the Journalist Union Naser Selmani on a the question on whether a war had begun with the SDSM and AJM and for what reason?
“We propose systemic and sustainable solutions that will relieve the pressure on the media because of political parties and business. We want accountability for attacks on journalists, and a ban on political advertising. It is propaganda being used as a media tool in the hands of politics. We also ask for institutional autonomy of the  public service and a professional media regulator”, said Mr Selmani.
He said that despite their proposal, which essentially requires de-politicization and de-partisanship of the media system, the political parties want to keep control of the media.

“The proposals of SDSM which offers the government and the opposition to divide the seats in the Council of the Agency for Media and Programming of MRT is absurd, because that leads to greater partisanship and politicization of the MRT and media regulator. Thus does not exist in other European countries. We remain with our request to be included in the talks. When the parties agree to include journalists in the talks, we will be ready to participate in the process “, said Naser Selami for “Meta”

Selmani: Large fines will close down the media

Skopje, 20 November, 2015 - 20:20 (META) 

If the news organizations and associations are not involved in these discussions on the media between political parties and the Belgian facilitator Peter Vanhoutte, journalists will protest in front of the MPs Clubhouse, stated the President of the Association of Journalists Naser Selmani.

He reacted to recent amendments ofthe Election Code, which includes Internet portals, and foresees fines up to 8,000 euros.

Mr Selmani went on to say, “The latest amendments to the Electoral Code adopted, are in a non-transparent procedure, they are scandalous. Big penalties, in turn, will increase the pressure on the media, and can cause their extinction. What is happening is unacceptable and we want Mr Vanhoutte to put us in the negotiating process immediately”, Mr Selmani said.

Tamara Causidis, the President of the Independent Union of Journalists and Media Workers, was at today’s press conference warning those who have made this the lowest paid profession.

“We will not stand by and let them come to decisions and solutions behind closed doors. We will not allow them to lead us into censorship. SSNM (the Independent Union of Journalists and Media Workers) are disgusted by this act and the insisting of a small door to let censorship into the media “, said Tamara Causidis.

AJM: Commission continually emphasizes non- transparent Government advertising

Skopje, 12 November, 2015 - 13:55 (META) 

Brussels clearly and unambiguously said that media freedom in Macedonia regressing, that there is violence against journalists, the Government directly and indirectly interfere in the editorial policy of the media through opaque advertising , said the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM), in response to the European Commission’s progress report.

– In the report the Commission pays appropriate attention to all forms of violence and intimidation of journalists, such as death threats, physical attacks and destruction of property of journalists. There is a physical attack on journalist by a government official noted in the report, stating that the attack was condemned by the government. The Commission highlights the wire-tapping scandal where journalists for years have been illegally monitored and wire-tapped”, said Naser Selmani, the President of the AJM.

From the AJM they believe it is good that in these reports the Commission continuously highlight the issue of non-transparent Government advertising, which has a major impact on the media market, directing government advertising to pro-government media to influence the reporting.

“We believe that the report will affect the Macedonian government,, and to take seriously the warnings from Brussels and sincerely commit to solving problems with the media, and we as the AJM are ready to help with concrete solutions to overcome all challenges”, added Mr Selmani.

ZNM: MANU and the Ombudsman to propose candidates to key position in the public TV and radio service

Skopje, 1 August, 2015 - 17:50 (META) 

The Journalist Association of Macedonia (ZNM) came with the proposal that key positions in the national public radio and TV service, MRTV, should be voted by a two-thirds majority. The people who will fill those positions should be proposed by the Macedonian Academy of Arts and Sciences (MANU) and the National Ombudsman, so that the national public service is finally depoliticized and free from party influence, reports 24 Vesti“.

“Key demand is the selection of the members in the program service and the way of bringing decisions in the service to be with two-thirds majority. That would compel political parties in the government and in the opposition to cooperate instead of clash so often,” said the president of ZNM Naser Selmani for 24 News.
For Selmani, the idea of introducing a second MRTV channel where the editors will be proposed by the opposition, is unacceptable.

“The idea that public service channels should be divided by political parties, one for the opposition, one for the Government and one for the ethnic communities, is unacceptable for us because that would mean giving up on the need of having a public service that serves the interests of the people,” said Selmani.

In accordance with the Przhino Agreement, the Action groups will have to find a solution that would free the public service from political, party and commercial influence.