OSCE Media Freedom Representative Urges Skopje to Halt Alarming Deterioration in Media Freedom in the Country

Vienna, 11 August 2011 – The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic, in a letter sent to Skopje to newly appointed Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki, said today that she is alarmed by the sharp decline of media freedom and the continued repression of media and critical voices in the country.

“This is, unfortunately, the fourth time in the last two months that I have raised different issues related to the ongoing deterioration of media freedom. Despite repeated calls to the government to reverse the situation and show respect for OSCE media freedom commitments, the situation seems to be getting worse,” Mijatovic said.

Last week the Council of MRT, the public service broadcaster, announced it had terminated the mandate of all seven members of MRT’s management board on 31 July, although the appointment process for new members has not yet started. This decision leaves the management board without any members and unable to operate.

“It is crucial that the Council when deciding on changes to the MRT management board interprets the law in the best interests of maintaining a politically and editorially independent public service broadcaster,” Mijatovic said.

In addition, on 9 August Tamara Causidis, who serves as the president of the Independent Trade Union of Journalists, was dismissed without notice by her employer, television station Alsat-M. Causidis was reportedly pressured to reduce her activities related to the Trade Union.

“While this move by Alsat-M TV could be seen as purely a business decision, it is, in fact, also indicative of the highly politicized nature of media affairs and a fear of critical voices,” Mijatovic said.

These actions are the latest in a series of disturbing events affecting the media freedom situation in the country, she added.

The Agency for Electronic Communications controversially decided to revoke the licence of A1 TV, the country’s oldest television station, which faced a nine-million euro tax levy and was declared bankrupt last week. It was forced to stop broadcasting on 30 July.

In addition, three newspapers also stopped printing in early July after they could not pay their tax debt. A1 TV and the dailies have been under investigation for tax evasion and money laundering since late 2010. Their bank accounts have been frozen since 27 January.

The closure came on the heels of amendments to the Law on Broadcasting Activity increasing the number of members of the Broadcasting Council from nine to 15. The additional six members will be nominated by bodies currently controlled by the parliamentary majority.

“These amendments run counter to the purpose of the law, which is to ensure the political independence of the regulatory authority,” Mijatovic said in a letter sent to the authorities on 19 July.

Mijatovic offered the authorities her Office’s assistance in helping the country to reverse this disturbing trend and fulfil its OSCE commitments and international standards on media freedom.

Source: OSCE