Friday, 26 November 2021
Address of President Xhaferi at the Regional Conference on “Improving the dialogue between Parliaments and Journalists from the Western Balkan” co-organized by the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia and the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM)
Dear President of the Assembly of Montenegro, Mr. Bečić,
Dear Vice-President of the Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, Mr. Tvrdišić,
Dear Representative of the Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr. Prodanović,
Dear President of the Association of Journalists of Macedonia, Mr. Chadikovski,
Dear Colleagues MPs,Dear Representatives of Journalists’ Association from the neighbouring countries,
Dear media representatives,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Before we start with the introductory and the working part, let me ask you for a minute of silence, to pay tribute to the 44 citizens of our country, victims of the bus accident that took place in the neighbouring Republic of Bulgaria, with the hope that we will never witness such a sad event again.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honoured to host today the first of its kind regional conference, which we organize together with the Association of Journalists of Macedonia, and to which my colleagues from the region and journalists from several neighbouring countries are invited and present. I would have liked if the composition was indeed wider, and I believe it will be in future conferences of this format, because the media are present and necessary in every country, region and every part of the world. The same rules apply to the media, first of all from the ethical, and then from the professional and legal aspect, although you know that from that aspect, the media work is regulated by the laws
of each country individually. As a rule, the primary legal basis should be the same in all countries, that is, it should be aimed at improving the safety of media workers, and at the same time, enabling the right to free expression, as a basic human right. That was the reason why I accepted the Assembly to be a co-organizer of this event together with the Association of Journalists of Macedonia, because I believe that journalists are our partners, they are partners of the institutions, and partners of citizens in building better societies, more humane and more tolerant societies where free expression is imperative and close cooperation is crucial, both inside the country and outside its borders, that is, regionally, enabling transparency and publicity in the work of institutions.
Domestic journalists know, but I would share this information for the others present at this conference. Namely, my personal position and the joint position of the Presidency of the Assembly from the moment I was elected was that we should always be open and accessible to the media, and through the media to the citizens, open to non-governmental organizations and, of course, international organizations. I have established regular monthly briefings to which all accredited journalists are invited, where I sit with them and openly answer their direct questions without gloves. In addition, I am always available on the phone, without protocols, without announcements. Because I know, as you all know, that information is a powerful tool. It is not in vain that the media is called the seventh force. He who has the information also has the power to act. And it is the duty of journalists to find out, investigate or discover the information first, and with that, of course, comes the biggest responsibility. That is why the personal integrity of the journalist or the media house that owns the information is essential. Second, but no less important question is the reliability of the information. How accurate and verified is it? Because there should be a clear line between informing the citizens and thus fulfilling the duty, and chasing and publishing fake, unconfirmed news, just to get a higher rating, attract more readers or gain fame of the media house, without taking into account how much damage a false, unverified and inappropriately published news will do. How accurate and verified it is? Because there should be a clear line between informing the citizens and thus fulfilling the duty, and hunting and publishing fake, unconfirmed news, just to get a higher rating, readers or fame of the media house, without taking into account how much damage a fake, unverified news and published at an inappropriate time will cause.
Now, regarding the improvement of the legal regulation of the media policies, you know, in the Republic of North Macedonia was adopted the Law on Defamation in the drafting of which media workers were also involved. Of course, there is a need for further regulation, because every law best demonstrates its weaknesses during its implementation, right? The legal framework should continue to be improved, in which the fundamental principles will be the freedom of expression and the safety of journalists, according to the recommendations of UNESCO, OSCE, Council of Europe and the Directives of the European Commission, bearing in mind that the full membership in the European Union is our long-established strategic goal. One thing is clear, there must be legal regulation, laws must apply and must be respected equally by all actors, stakeholders and institutions, where professional cooperation must not be evaded and professional responsibility and conscientiousness in publishing the news should be at the highest possible level, to be well verified and reliably confirmed. Here, a huge role also plays the personal and collective integrity of the journalists, editors, public figures and above all the personal responsibility and susceptibility of the journalist, for x reasons such as financial weakness, a better position, promotion or some other benefit. I will point out one more question, although I know there are still a small million that need to be addressed, however, we really need to work on the unequal treatment of journalists, their greater susceptibility to intimidation and threats. The profession should not have a gender sign; professionalism should be the only measure for each profession.
I know there is still a lot to say and a lot to do, however, this regional conference as well is a good start, right? It is enough that we sat at one table, legislators and journalists from the region, it is good that we will have the opportunity to express and exchange our thoughts, ideas and it will be even better if we conclude the Conference by signing a joint Declaration which will be a kind of a catalyst for a deeper regional cooperation and a step towards the European Union integration, by improving the dialogue between the parliaments and journalist associations in the region. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to express my support to the Association of Journalists of Macedonia for the initiative with encouragement to continue and enrich the presence of such regional conferences with representatives from all Western Balkan countries. The Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia, as always, will be your support.
Thank you for the attention and I wish you successful work at the Conference!