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Macedonian Plan To Regulate Media Comes Under Fire


A newspaper stand in Skopje (file photo)

A newspaper stand in Skopje (file photo)

The Macedonian government's plan to regulate the work of foreign media and distribution of foreign press and information has come under strong criticism both at home and abroad.

The EU hopeful's Social Democratic opposition and the Association of Journalists have accused populist Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's government of trying to limit media freedom.

The most controversial parts of the law on the import and the distribution of foreign press and dissemination of information, which was discussed in the first reading in the parliament last week, are the foreign minister's discretionary right to revoke foreign press accreditation and a provision about the polls that is ambiguously explained in the draft law.

Some of those who have read the law say the polling clause could be interpreted as referring to a journalist conducting a simple "vox pop" on the street, asking ordinary people about their opinion on current affairs.

Justice Minister Blerim Bedzeti said the updated draft of the law -- under which the authority for foreign press would move from the cabinet's secretariat to the Foreign Ministry -- would address all "technicalities" that were unclear.

"We have followed the discussion closely even in the part about the polls, and I think we will overcome this. Deputies have submitted amendments that will probably be acceptable for us," Bedzeti said.

Olivier Basille of the Paris-based organization Reporters Without Frontiers said it was unusual for an EU hopeful to target foreign media.

"If you want to join the EU, then you have to consider the EU press as part of your own press," Basille said.

He said some countries require accreditation of foreign journalists but only, for example, to regulate access to institutions and certain kind of information.

But, he said, in no way should foreign journalist be prevented from coming to Macedonia on their own to investigate and report on the country and ask citizens for their views.

"If you want to organize by the law that this is becoming impossible, then you organize a censorship, as clear as that," Basille said.

-- Written by Nedim Dervisbegovic based on reporting by Blagoja Kuzmanovski in Skopje and Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels

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