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Media representatives fear censorship by new law

New authority to issue licences and impose penalties! Representatives of the media associations in Macedonia sound the alarm. A draft for a new media law presented by the government the week before is causing concern. There are fears that the new law could be used to censor the media, the internet portal Balkaninsight reported today, Monday.

The creation of a media authority is being pursued with suspicion, with the aim of issuing broadcasting licences and imposing penalties. The Macedonian journalists’ association ZNM, the journalists’ union and other media organisations fear a very extensive interpretation of the law. The same also applies to the provision in the draft law which provides for the restriction of media freedom in the name of “safeguarding health and morals”.

In the controversial agency, media representatives will only be represented by one member, and a further six will be appointed by parliament and the association of municipalities. The government alliance around the VMRO-DPMNE of the national conservative Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski has a clear parliamentary majority. In the most recent local elections, the governing parties also won in the majority of municipalities.

Macedonia ranks 116th out of 179 states in the January ranking of press freedoms published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The Balkan country slipped by 22 places compared to the previous year.

About Macedonia

North Macedonia (Macedonian Северна Македонија Severna Makedonija ; official Republic of North Macedonia , Macedonian Република Северна Македонија Republika Severna Makedonija , Albanian Republika e Maqedonisë së Veriut ) is a landlocked country in South Eastern Europe. It covers the northern part of the historical region of Macedonia.

The state was founded in 1944 in the resistance as the Socialist Republic of Macedonia, was officially the southernmost republic of the socialist Yugoslavia from 1946 and declared its independence as the Republic of Macedonia in 1991. Due to the name dispute with its southern neighbour Greece, the state was often referred to internationally as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in order to avoid an official designation. On 12 February 2019 the name was changed to North Macedonia.

Since December 2005 the country has had the status of a candidate country of the European Union (EU). Northern Macedonia has one of the weakest economies in Europe and is in a process of transformation, both economically and politically. The country is struggling with high unemployment, a weak infrastructure and a lack of investment.

In addition to Macedonians, who make up about 64% of the total population, there is a large minority of Albanians (25%). There are also smaller minorities of Turks (3.85%), Roma (2.66%), Serbs (1.78%), Bosniaks (0.84%) and Aromunians (0.48%) as well as other ethnic groups (1.04%). As a result of this situation, ethnically motivated conflicts have existed and continue to exist, especially between Macedonians and Albanians. After the civil war-like conditions in 2001 and the peace treaty signed afterwards, the overall situation in the country has improved considerably. However, social equality for all ethnic groups has still not been achieved.

Northern Macedonia has made considerable efforts in the transformation process since independence in 1991. Even in anticipation of its later accession to the EU, the country must reduce its customs duties and face increased competition under the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU.

The government’s main objective is to promote foreign investment and economic growth. However, potential international investors are calling for a consolidation of rule-of-law structures and an increase in the efficiency and transparency of public administration as well as in the conduct of public tenders. While tenders continue to be only partially transparent, the Macedonian government has significantly expanded its public administration in recent years, but without noticeably improving its efficiency or service character. Corruption remains a major problem.

In 2017, the economy grew by 1.7 %. The unemployment rate has been very high in recent years, but has declined slightly to 22 %. Youth unemployment is estimated at 50%.

According to official figures, the average net salary of an employed person is 380 euros per month, which corresponds to about 35% of the EU average. According to World Bank estimates, more than 20% of the population live in poverty.

Climate

Macedonia’s climate lies in the transitional area between the Mediterranean and the continental climate. The mountainous interior is relatively harsh. In general, in winter it is usually very rainy and cold, but in summer it is very warm and low in precipitation. The autumn and spring seasons are weak, i.e. the summers and winters last relatively long.

Origin of the name

The name of the state derives from the Macedonians and recalls the times when they founded a world empire under Alexander the Great, one of the most famous commanders of history.