Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: Media Legislation
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
Within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed the:
Right to freedom of opinion and expression: Article 19 Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)
The resolution 2200A (XXI) of 16 December 1966 adopted by the General Assembly came into force on the 10th of September 1978. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia reaffirmed the obligations assumed towards the The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1993, two years after its independence. The International Covenant states:
- Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
- Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
- The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.
- Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.
- Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.
European Regional Agreements
Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
Section 1:Rights and Freedoms
- Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
- The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
The Constitution of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of information at Article 16:
- “The freedom of personal conviction, conscience, thought and public expression of thought is guaranteed.
- The freedom of speech, public address, public information and the establishment of institutions for public information is guaranteed.
- Free access to information and the freedom of reception and transmission of information are guaranteed.
- The right of reply via the mass media is guaranteed.
- The right to a correction in the mass media is guaranteed.
- The right to protect a source of information in the mass media is guaranteed.
- Censorship is prohibited”.
There is no specific law regulating the journalistic profession or defining who can be a journalist, and neither is there a press card or any form or registration for journalists. Also, there is no specific act regulating the press, nor is a license is required to found a printed publication. A new law on media which is in preparation should include regulations related to this subject. The main regulatory framework related to the sector comes from the Code of Ethics. This may change as a new draft media law is currently being discussed in the country.
Defamation and libel were decriminalized in late 2012 by amendments to the Penal Code and by a new law on civil responsibility. Some provision of the Penal Code can still be applied to block content that incite violence and national, racial or religious hatred (Article 319).
The Law on Free Access to Information of Public Character (which entered into force in 2006) regulates “the conditions, manner and procedure of exercising the right to free access to information of public character disposed by state administration bodies and other bodies and institutions established by law” (Article 1).
Article 6 lists some specific exceptions to the free access to information, for example in cases of classified information or information obtained or compiled within an investigation.
Information can be requested by the citizens in oral, written or electronic forms. In case of rejection by the public official, the requester has the right to initiate a complaint in front of the Commission for Protection of the Right to Free Access to Information of Public Character. According to the Law, public bodies have to appoint officials to be responsible for the implementation of the act. The law does not explicitly make any difference between normal citizens and journalists requesting information.
Journalists working in the public service are considered to be public servants.
Public service broadcasting is mainly regulated by the Law on Broadcasting Activity (pdf here; the law was published on Official Gazette No.100/2005 and has been amended several times) which establishes the Council of Macedonian Radio Television (MRTV) as an independent public service broadcaster and the Broadcasting Council as a regulatory authority. The law sets the main framework related to broadcasting, including rules to protect pluralism and transparency in public television. According to Article 2, the law aims to provide for freedom of expression in the broadcasting activity; the protection of interests of users; and the encouragement, improvement and protection of the cultural identity.
Freedom of broadcasting can be limited according to Article 69 of the Law for “programme contents aimed at the violent overthrow of the constitutional order of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, (and) programmes which encourage or invite to military aggression or incite national, racial or religious hatred and intolerance”.
Article 70 specifies that programmes “may not contain pornography, excessive violence or other programmes that may cause serious damage to the physical, mental and moral development of children and youth”.
Section 3 of the Law aims to protect pluralism, diversity and transparency of the broadcasters’ work. Article 13 of the Law also contains provisions to limit media ownership concentration stating, for example, that it is illegal to own a share in the founding capital of a newspaper and be a broadcaster at the same time. Some provisions concern the broadcasting of TV programmes in different languages to guarantee pluralism and diversity in the public service and satisfy the different ethnic and linguistic communities in the country. The law does not include any provisions specifically referring to online media.
The Law on Broadcasting Activity also guarantees the protection of sources, at Article 68 stating that radio and television programmes shall be based on several values among which the respect of the confidentiality of sources of information. Sources are also directly protected by Article 16 of the Constitution and by the Code of Ethics (Article 4).
The above cited Council of MRT has also some self-regulatory tasks related to the programme and the principles of the public broadcasting but it cannot be considered as a regulatory body since its main function is supervisory and managerial (see MIM analysis on media development, p.69).
The Law for Electronic Communications governs the conditions and the procedures for ensuring business operation in the area of electronic communications in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and decides the establishment of the Agency for Electronic Communications. The purpose of the law is to protect the users’ interests and prevent the abuse of market position by operators and service providers.