Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How to say "NO" to political pressure on journalism?

By Aleksandra Temenugova

Something big is happening in Macedonia at the moment. And it is about journalism. And freedom of expression and political pressure. And it's been top news for last three days.
Ok, let me tell you the story. Eight journalists from one of the leading national TV station Channel 5 (I used to work there as a journalist and anchor for 6 years) out of blue were fired due to financial constrains that this TV station has been facing lately. When the journalists asked why they are fired at the same time when the TV station hires new journalists, they didn't got the right answer. It was more than clear for them that this is a punishment because didn't obey as the management wanted: follow the politics of the government.
But, among these journalists is a journalists, very tough and stubborn enough to say "No" to all of this. So, Vesna Kovacevska Trpcevska wrote two public letters: one to the Macedonian Prime-Minister and one to my previous employer, owner of the TV station. She spoke openly about the political pressure encountered while working there, sharing even some juicy details where the Chief of the Cabinet of the Prime-minister instructs the journalists on speaker-phone how they are supposed to cover a certain topic.
It aroused a huge impact to the Macedonian media society. And, of course to the asleep journalists. She's got an enormous support from her colleagues. Vesna speaks, as we say in Macedonia, without hair in her mouth and already there are some visible results: all electronic media (apart the above mentioned TV station) aired a minute silence and half black printed page at the print media as a protest to the political pressure, a lot of debates are going on on Facebook, there is a initiation for reforms of the Association of journalists in Macedonia in order to enhance the freedom of expression and to clearly divide journalism from politics. The case has got an international dimension: at his initiative, the fired journalists spoke to the American Ambassador, the European Ambassador, OSCE etc. We'll see the outcomes of this discussions in their annual reports. For sure, they won't be bright.

I wasn't sure should I bring this case out here. I've been thinking of it since the very begging. Not only because it is about my best friend and empathy with her as a single mother of nine years old son who out of blue lost her job, but because I admire her bravery to talk about the unpleasant experiences from point of view of almost all journalists in Macedonia. You gave us a lesson. Thank you, Vesna!

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