Tamara CausidisPresident of SSNM - Independent Trade Union of Journalists and Media Workers (Samosten sindikat na novinari i mediumski rabotnici)
Skopje, Republic of Macedonia- FYROM, May 2016,Respect for the work of and journalists’ professional rights are key dimensions for freedom of expression. In this region, Journalistic unions are non-existent in some countries, or if they exist they work in hostile environment. Union leaders and representatives are being sacked or subjected to constant verbal attacks. There is a direct connection between media ownership and policy makers, and there is a weak legal framework and institutional support for the unions. Weak implementation of laws, lack of proper work inspections, and slow judicial systems are making the situation even more complicated. The consequences are that journalists are vulnerable, low paid, frightened to be members of the union and increasingly choose to leave the profession. They are afraid to strike, to fight for their rights and to inform the public of what is happening to the profession, to ask for protection. In this position journalists cannot resist the pressure and cannot perform their core professional duty – to inform professionally and independently. As a result, there is a decline in trust of the media in all the countries and declining freedom of speech which jeopardize democratic capacities of the societies in the region.
Project officer at European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Journalist, blogger
Brussels, Belgium, May 2016, To understand the relevance of media freedom in today's world, you have to look at people's general reaction when they face a big crisis like terrorist attacks, refugee crisis, financial crisis, etc. People are first trying to have access to credible and verified sources of information and react according to the facts. For this reason, it's so crucial to protect journalists, to have access to information, to avoid propaganda and act based on public interests. I support #WPFD2016 and I ask you to join us.
President of TUCJ - Trade Union of Croatian Journalists (Sindikat novinara Hrvatske)Zagreb, Croatia, May 2016, Despite the fact that Croatia took the 63rd place (and Serbia the 59th) in the latest Reporters Without Borders media freedom statement, the perspective of most journalists in both these countries is that there is little to no media freedom. The influence of politics is still very strong, even though it is not as visible as it was before. Each rotation in the ruling parties brings along changes in media outlets, which was apparent during the last change of government in Croatia that brought many dismissals within the public broadcaster. But it can be reproached to all the current and previous ruling parties for failing to create an environment in which the broadcaster would truly be a public service outlet led by professional journalists and editors, leaving only a few people susceptible to political dismissals.
The current ruling party in Croatia has turned its back against non-profit media and shut off their income, and a similar pattern seems to be happening with outlets belonging to minorities (La Voce del popolo). What will come next, will the state shut down the national news agency Hina, as it did the daily Vjesnik?
With old issues such as non-transparent media ownership of private media, no national collective agreement and high acceptance of journalists working without a contract, the Croatian media space is also burdened by the insufficient legal protection of journalists. Owners of media can skip out on paying a financial fine for a sentence based on defamation or libel, and ‘forward’ it to the journalist, which creates self-censorship. If anything can potentially be a reason for lawsuit and sentencing, then nothing can be written or reported about.
Journalists can hardly count on legislative protection -disrespect of their rights is a daily occurrence, and court cases last too long - some even up to eight years. There can also be no justice when it is financially unattainable for a media worker. Legal fees and taxes in Croatia are among the highest in Europe, which significantly decrease the number of journalists willing to fight for justice.
Economic difficulties in the region are big, but that can’t be a justification for the disregard shown towards journalistic rights and freedoms. Without truly independent journalists there can be no independent media, and without them the fight against corruption decreases on all levels.
Petra Lesjak Tušek
President o DNS - Slovene association of journalists (Društvo novinarjev Slovenije)
Ljubljana, Slovenia, May 2016, Media freedom is not crucial only for the work of journalists as such but also for building critical and demanding public. Media must work responsibly and professionally so that the public can rely on the information and interpretations that independent media provides as the core part of democratic societies.
Zaklina Hadzi Zafirova
Investigative journalist SCOOP Macedonia
Skopje, Republic of Macedonia- FYROM, May 2016, As the declarations for free and democratic societies grow in the region, media freedom is facing more and more challenges. It is sad to acknowledge that journalism, especially in daily newsrooms, in the past years is on the edge to lose its basic role - and that is to be in the favour of the citizens, and not in the favour of the politicians and business figures as it is now. Independent media initiatives give a little sparkle of hope, which, I believe will, in the long term bring back the importance of the media freedom in the region, which will enable the transparency of institutions, accountability of the government and by that will open a wider space for practicing democratic values in our societies.