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Montenegrin Media Most Free in Balkans, Report Says

May 8, 2012

A survey of world media freedom in 2011 carried out by US-based watchdog Freedom House put Montenegro in top place in the region. Kosovo has also moved up the rankings while Macedonia has moved down.

Bojana Barlovac, Sinisa Jakov Marusic, Balkan Insight, 08.05.2012

BIRN Belgrade

The report by the Washington-based organisation on media freedom in the world in 2011 found little change in the Balkans from 2010.

Ranking 197 countries’ levels of press freedom, based on legal, political, and economic criteria, Montenegro came top in the Balkans in 76th place.

Macedonian Journalists Say Talks with Government Have Failed

Marking international journalists’ day, May 3, journalists said attempts to maintain direct talks with the government as a way of resolving some of the dire issues troubling reporters have failed.

The two key journalists’ association in the country said the talks within a special formed joint work group are “practically nonexistent”.

“We have reached out a hand to improve the condition in the media. We have set deadlines and even signed a cooperation memo. But after eight months, the results are lacking and the dialogue with the government is unsuccessful,” said Naser Selmani, head of the Journalists’ Association of Macedonia, ZNM.

Similar words came from Tamara Causidis, the head of the Journalists’ Union. She said journalists and media are under significant control by politics and business and “the social dialogue in the media sphere does not exist”.

The joint group was formed in October last year. The talks started as the government of Nikola Gruevski faced strong criticism for its treatment of the media. Last summer the closure of a popular pro-opposition TV station, A1 TV, and several newspapers was widely blamed on government pressure.

But Teuta Arifi, the government’s vice-president, in charge of European Affairs, who leads the government team in the talks, does not agree.

“There is still space for resuming negotiations,” she said. Insisting that the talks have produced progress she takes the example of defamation and libel.

In February the government pledged that as a result of the talks it would remove defamation from the penal code. However, since then the government has been silent about the details and there have been no fresh talks within the joint group.

Montenegro, which was in 80th place in 2010, has made modest improvements by decriminalizing defamation and libel, according to the report.

Kosovo, listed in 98th place, has also moved up the rankings significantly compared to last year, when it stood in 104th place. It benefited from a “continuing trend of fewer attacks on journalists and greater ownership transparency,” the report said.

Serbia, which was in 72nd place in 2010, dropped to 77th place in 2011.

The worst rated is Macedonia, down from 96th to 115th place, “due to the declining legal environment, including politicized decisions by regulatory bodies and the lengthy pretrial detention of a leading opposition-oriented media owner in a politically fraught tax case.”

Macedonia’s most popular television station and three affiliated newspapers were forced out of business in 2011.

The other countries in the Balkans largely maintained their scores from last year’s report, with Bulgaria ranked in 78th place, Croatia on 84th; Romania 87th; Bosnia 95th, and Albania in 107th place.

The countries in the Freedom House report are ranked partly according to legal criteria, which concern the country’s laws and regulations that “could influence media content and the government’s inclination to use these laws and legal institutions to restrict the media’s ability to operate.”

Political criteria, including the evaluation of the degree of political control over media content in the country, are also part of the assessment.

Finally, economic criteria focus on the structure of media ownership, assessing elements including the concentration of ownership, and the costs of establishing media.


Related posts: Freedom of the Press Report, Freedom House 2012

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