North Macedonia ranked 57th on the Reporters Without Borders’ 2022 World Press Freedom Index, climbing 33 places compared to 2021. Our country, together with Montenegro, marks the biggest leap in the Balkans region in the media freedom ranking. In this year’s list, Montenegro marks a leap of 41 places compared to last year, but it is ranked 63rd on the World Press Freedom Index i.e. behind North Macedonia, writes Meta.
Regarding media freedom, the only Balkan countries that are better ranked than North Macedonia are Croatia (ranked 48th) and Romania (ranked 56th). At the bottom of the Reporters Without Borders’ 2022 World Press Freedom Index for this region is Turkey (ranked 149th), and there is a significant decline of Greece (108th) and Albania (ranked 103rd). The World Press Freedom Index was published on May the 3rd – World Press Freedom Day.
“Although journalists do not work in a hostile environment, widespread misinformation and the lack of professionalism contribute to society’s declining trust in the media, which exposes independent outlets to threats and attacks,” states the resume about the condition of the media in North Macedonia.
Regarding the media surroundings, the Reporters without Borders notice there is a big gap between viewership and trust. As a result, the most-watched TV stations have a low reliability index. Television remains the dominant source of information although online media play an important role. Yet, on the Internet, a distinction must be made between professional online newsrooms that employ professional journalists and publish original content and individual portals that plagiarize and copy-paste such content.
The Reporters Without Borders state that the overall environment remains favorable to press freedom and allows for critical reporting, although the transparency of the institutions is rather poor. Due to strong political polarization, the media can be subjected to pressure by the authorities, politicians, and businessmen.
“The two largest parties (in power and in opposition) have created parallel media systems over which they exert their political and economic influence. The public broadcaster lacks editorial and financial independence,” indicates Reporters Without Borders.
There was also a remark this year that this country lags behind in terms of harmonizing the media legislation with the standards of the European Union, which it intends to join. They warned that the judicial abuse of the Law on Civil Responsibility for Defamation incites self-censorship in the media.
“Lawsuits are used as a tool for intimidation and pressure on independent media” states Reporters Without Borders.
In this year’s report about North Macedonia, it is stated that state funding is limited and non-transparent, and independent media rely heavily on donors. Project-based foreign grants contribute to mere survival, but not to further development.
Regarding journalists’ and media workers’ safety, even though 2021 has been relatively calm, Reporters without Borders have noticed that the journalists are regularly the targets of verbal attacks. Under the pretext of protecting state secrets and personal data, they may be exposed to legal pressure and abusive prosecution (SLAPP).
“However, the courts tend to uphold freedom of the press and protect journalists. Amendments for better protection of journalists are being prepared,” state Reporters without Borders.
During the last ranking, it was Albania which marks a drop in the freedom of media, and Meta.mk has requested from the Albanian news portal Faktoje a comment on the freedom of speech in the media in Albania and the countries in the Western Balkan on the occasion of 3rd of May – World Press Freedom Day.
Faktoje state that in Albania, but also in the countries in the region, the journalists are facing similar problems – censorship, pressures from the government and people in authority, that are also using lawsuits as means of pressurizing and silencing journalists, and these are among the main threats on media freedom.
“On the other hand, the government’s dedication (at least in Albania) by investing more logistics and human resources for propaganda, is yet another way of endangering the media freedom,” said Faktoje.
The Faktoje also said that disinformation and misinformation, along with the widespread use of propaganda and hate speech are the main threats to media freedom in Albania, but also in the Western Balkan region.