Mladen Cadikovski, the recently appointed head of the Macedonian Association of Journalists (ZNM) repaid the favor by nominating his predecessor Naser Selmani as the next ZNM member to the board of the powerful Media Agency (AVMU). The move reveals attempts by this journalist association seen as close to the ruling SDSM party to expand its influence in the Media Agency, which has the authority to “discipline” media outlets for their reporting.

Cadikovski was named head of the ZNM after an election seen by many of its members as fradulent, after he served as editor in chief of the strongly pro-SDSM 24 Vesti TV station. In the race he beat Stole Naumov, another pro-SDSM nominee, albeit supported by different journalist circles, which prompted criticism of influence peddling and vote rigging in the association.

Cadikovski today denied that he is repaying the favor to Selmani by nominating him to the well paid and influential position in AVMU.

We don’t have a deal. Selmani was elected by the members of the ZNM board. We were not driven by political calculations. We expect that Selmani will be appointed to the AVMU board, because failing to do so would damage the reputation of the Parliament and the country over all in EU and international circles, said Cadikovski.

The SDSM party has pushed for years to take over the AVMU board, to the point of refusing to take part in elections until an outside oversight body is created to lead its work. AVMU was mostly a hands off regulator but in the run up to the 2016 general elections it interfered in the editorial policy of conservative media outlets and issued numerous fines to journalists. SDSM officials, including its media ministers Robert Popovski – another former ZNM chief – have made no secret that they want to see representatives from civil society organizations close to SDSM appointed to the AVMU board.

AVMU board members are elected with a two thirds majority in Parliament, including the majority of ethnic minority representatives.