As of the 1st of March 2023, the “Media4EU” project has officially started. The latter is meant to improve the quality of the journalism and media sectors in North Macedonia, as well as the general information environment in the country. This includes activities such as working directly with journalists in capacity building workshops, facilitating exchanges of expertise between less and more experienced journalists – be they Macedonian and EU journalists – and aiming for European media standards.
More in details, one loophole targeted by the project is the lack of youth interest in journalism, largely due to a lack of trust. Therefore, “Media4EU” seeks to provide answer to the above-mentioned issue, with activities to encourage greater participation, and education on specific skills and how to use instrumental tools in the field.
From a general perspective, North Macedonia has a good legislative backing for a productive media sphere and freedom of expression; thus the Constitution guarantees the rights of freedom of speech, thought, expression, and public access to information, as well as protection of journalists and blocking of censorship. However, there are numerous issues that hold journalism and the media back. For instance, frivolous lawsuits, such as “Strategic lawsuit against public participation” (SLAPP) suits, and pressure from publishers in the television industry are commonly used as an instrument to intimidate the media and induce self-censorship.
Media4EU contributes to a good relationship between the media and civil society
Yet, lacking journalism and media sector may bring many potential challenges – among them:
- allowing anti-factual ideas to spread more easily,
- weaken responsiveness to the problems of the constituency,
- greater distance from Europe – considering the specificity of this project.
On the contrary, a better media sphere has a plethora of benefits including the opportunity to have a more informed decision making from the constituency, greater access to accurate information, and greater participation.
Overall, this project is another way of testifying the commitment of ALDA to build up the capacities of the local sphere in the Balkans and ALDA Skopje commitment to the process of Europeanization and EU presence in the Balkans. Unfortunately, North Macedonia’s Europeanization process is notably quite troubled, and in the areas of media and freedom of expression not many improvements have been done.
With rising Euroscepticism and the slowing of progress, it is essential for the project to contribute to an environment where North Macedonia facilitates a good relationship between the media and civil society, as well as combats disinformation and reactionary ideas. The youth are not only the future of the profession, but they are also the future of the country, and this project will help further stake their place in society and help improve the information sphere.
The 3-year “Media4EU” project will be implemented by a consortium of partners lead by EUROTHINK – Center for European Strategies in partnership with ALDA – European Association for Local Democracy and BIRC – Balkan Institute for Regional Cooperation.