VIENNA, 22 July 2013 – Following a legal review of the latest draft Law on Media and Audiovisual Media Services, the OSCE media freedom Representative Dunja Mijatović welcomed the efforts by the authorities in Skopje to harmonize the law with international standards, including OSCE commitments to media freedom and expressed concern about some remaining problematic provisions.
“Given the current state of media freedom in the country, I am concerned that this legislation could be used to silence critical views and limit free speech. While many of the regulations are acceptable, I am concerned that their formulation could lead to misuse,” Mijatović said.
In a letter sent to Ivo Ivanovski, Minister of Information Society and Administration, Mijatović outlined key issues to be addressed:
· The powerful role of the Media Agency and its composition procedures do not guarantee independence, and the new supervisory function (Article 29) could allow it to potentially interfere also with print and online media content.
· The existing penalties in the law are considerably high, lack incremental steps, and ultimately raise concern that disproportionate sanctions may lead to self-censorship.
· References made to issues of national safety, inciting intolerance or hatred are too vague and could be abused.
· There is no need to define who is a journalist in the law. The definition is superfluous and may also be used to exclude some media workers and people engaged in journalism, thus is not needed.
· Insisting that “majority journalists’ association” participate in the Media Agency and governing board of the Public Broadcaster risks creating tensions between the associations, especially as there is alleged pressure on journalists to join a particular association. This should be avoided.
“I welcome cooperation my office has enjoyed with the authorities in drafting of this important law and look forward to the new draft that will safeguard media freedom and freedom of expression in the country”, concluded Mijatović.
The full text of the third legal review is available here: http://www.osce.org/fom/103791