The media often use their right to criticise public figures, particularly politicians, for their “rudeness,” “primitivism,” and their “demonstration of power and arrogance.” These assessments are so frequent that a lay person would assume that Macedonian journalists are the ‘defenders’ of the principles of public communication. But is this really the case? The public discourse in Macedonia has been so much contaminated by intolerance, hatred, trivialities and cynicism. Unfortunately, media fail to change this state of affairs, and furthermore, they reinforce such discourse.
By Tamara Causidis
A quick look at various pieces of journalism is enough to make one conclude that the media create stereotypes of various vulnerable groups; spread hate speech; and violate the presumption of innocence (forgetting that a person is innocent until proven guilty by the court), particularly when they are reporting on police arrests. Contrary to the code of ethics they publish photos, videos and names of victims, including abused children. Journalists also sensationalize the news by revealing personal and embarrassing information: they show little understanding for individuals and their families when reporting on medical issues or suicide motives.
The ease with which we ignore the main principles of journalism leads to its degradation. In Macedonia, there are journalists who operate as if they were “mercenaries”: propaganda is covertly packaged in their articles where they are expressing their client’s opinions (political leaders or business owners). Unfortunately, those journalists who promote higher professional standards give up the fight, therefore allowing this type of writing to dominate and to distort the meaning of the role that the journalists have in our society.
So, let us not be surprised by politicians’ exercising of power over us and their arrogance, primitivism and hatred. The distrust and disrespect by our audience is also understandable. Unless we start fighting against the failures “in our own ranks,” we are equally responsible for the dramatic decline of decency and humanity in public discourse. In this environment, the ethical and professional journalism needs to act as a ‘conscience keeper’ of society. This is possible only through self-regulation of journalism. Professional and ethical journalism has to prevail against its “mercenary culture” and mediocre standards or else it will serve against the very values it claims to protect.
Tamara Causidis is the President of the Trade Union of Macedonian Journalists.