The Macedonian Association of Journalists (MAN) condemned the Government’s proposed regulation meant to combat “fake news” warning that it will lead to censorship of actual news that are critical of the Government. Prime Minister Zoran Zaev announced the regulation, the details of which are still being thought through, after he embarrassingly fell for the Russian pranksters Vovan and Lexus not once, but three times.

The Government must give up on the idea that it has the right to decide which news is good, true, fake or suspicious. This would constitute censorship which is unacceptable in the 21st century. If it wants to combat fake news, the Government should look into its own practices first. It has no legal authority to evaluate the news published by media outlets, or their veracity, based on its political needs, MAN said in a press release.

The association adds that Macedonia has an established court practice in cases of libel, which is the proper way to get media outlets to publish corrections, on top of the basic market principles.
The ZNM association of journalists also came out in opposition to the proposal, insisting that the plan includes some concerning proposals.

The Government must know that the decision whether some journalist is media outlet is acting ethically can only be made by fellow journalists and the public, and not through a Government institution or task force. We are concerned by the proposed “proactive measures” which imply paid advertising campaigns in the private media outlets, and the announced introduction of criteria for journalists who can attend events organized by the Government. Any lack of clarity in these proposed measures can lead to limiting of the freedom of expression, ZNM said.

Zaev expressed his gratitude to the British Government for supporting the project. British Ambassador to Macedonia Rachel Galloway announced via Twitter that the UK is giving 9.5 million pounds in media projects for the Balkans, meant to “strengthen independent media and to support freedom of expression”.