Media professionalism is crucial during election periods. A free and fair election is not just about the freedom to vote, it also depends on the information offered to citizens to engage in the public debate and make informed choices.
Around 80 participants gathered in Skopje, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, on 10 November 2015 at a conference entitled “Journalism Ethics and media values in a challenging environment and in times of elections”, organized by the Macedonian Institute for Media and the Council of Media Ethics, in cooperation with UNESCO and the Delegation of the European Union in Skopje.
"If elections belong to citizens then the media should make an additional effort in terms of representing the voters’ interests. They can do it in many ways, through surveys, debates, or through various online forms to promote the needs and opinions of the citizens," emphasized Martin Huckerby, an experienced journalist and editor in leading British media. Huckerby highlighted in his intervention the key duties of media during election process. Previous experiences, findings from the monitoring of media coverage and the influence of advertisers in the content of media during the past election processes in the country were among the topics on the conference’s agenda.
This brought the discussion to the question of media ethics and professional standards in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Representatives of the new self-regulatory body in the country, the Council of Media Ethics, presented the most typical violations of professional standards in the media and in particular the issue of non-balanced reporting. The President of the Complaints Commission of the Council, Mirce Adamcevski focused on media self-regulation and its future prospects. "Nearly a third out of the 50 complaints we received so far are related to hate speech, incitement to violence and discrimination on various grounds. There are also many complaints about the publication of unverified information without consulting two or more sources, breach of privacy rights, mingling facts and opinions, news and comments," noted Adamcevski.
Enes Osmanchevic, representative of the Press Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina highlighted the key challenges in the defense of professional and ethical journalism on the Internet and the role of self-regulatory mechanisms. According to him,hate speech has become one of the biggest challenges for online media in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the region.
Opened by Ambassador Aivo Orav, Head of the EU delegation in Skopje together with Marina Tuneva the Executive Director of the Council of Media Ethics of Macedonia and Vesna Nikodinoska from the Macedonian Institute for Media, the event was attended by representatives of electronic, print and online media, civil society organizations from the media sector, regulatory bodies, government institutions and international organizations.
To promote fair, safe and professional media election coverage, UNESCO supports full, fair and efficient disclosure of information to journalists covering elections and encourages professional election reporting through voluntary mechanisms such as codes of conduct, professional guidelines and self-regulatory bodies.
The national conference was the final activity of the project "Media Accountability in South East Europe and Tukey", which was implemented since 2013 by UNESCO together with the Macedonian Institute for Media as regional partner, with financial support of the European Union.