The visibility of the CSOs and the state of the journalism in Macedonia

oktobar 24 2017

My name is Aleksandar Cvetkoski, I am president of ACTAC. I also work in the national institution "Institute and Museum" Prilep - as curator. I run the tobacco museum, the department for social and spiritual culture, and I am ethnologist and anthropologist. I can say that both the state organization where I work and ACTAC can be called the "Soldier Schweik" for all these changes that have taken place over the past 27 years and for which I can say that they are walking in place or going backwards.

The public aspects of the work of the CSO organizations or the national institutions are a different story in Macedonia. It is very uncommon for us, especially for the journalists - which questions to ask, how to follow some project, especially when the project spends state budget funds, and the access to the media space is very problematic. For a CSO organization, to be visible and to place its products in the media is alpha and omega, that is our Modus Vivendi, that is why we exist, for the public to know what have we done, but there arise a series of problems. The first problem is of course the partization. In Macedonia we always have 2 stories, from the position and opposition parties, the local media houses are always paid by the local self governments, and consequently they advocate their interests.

We have very few local and regional TVs and they are usually in deep connection with the sources of financing. The journalists, even if they want to, cannot have resistance to the fake or spin information, from the reason that the major will simply make a quick decision to stop financing their TV. That is the story with the websites, TV portals and with every other source for informing.

The journalists themselves are working on every subject, it is almost impossible to find a journalist who is specified in one subject. For example, when on a press conference we can serve anything we want to the journalists, and it is only important to be interesting, they would not ask how much does the project costs, who is financing the project, what kind of capacity have we engaged, is the project self-sustainable or not, what is the connection with the activities and the needs of the organization or the society, and usually they don't even ask if we are connected somehow with our constituents, our target groups. Simply the journalists are there to record "something" which will later broadcast on their TV. Most often, the appearance of the journalists on our event itself is not connected to media or public interest, but we have to pull some strings and connections for them to appear and to broadcast it later.

The media houses have money, that is a fact, we have seen in the previous period that the ex-government has transferred a lot of money to some media houses, but in others they transferred nothing. That is how the media space is impaired, and the same destiny is passed on the CSO organizations as well, if we want to criticize the government, then the only media that are available for us are the media houses that are connected with the opposition and reverse... and that story is the most common thing in Macedonia.

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How that affects us. We must have remarkably creative activities that must have a political background in some way, which "kills us" as an organization, because we do not want to serve some political party or to advocate some of their interests, but to monitor the government. But how can we make it interesting for the public? Journalists determine what is interesting to the public, and what is not, in their own way, normally. And how can they do it when they do not know the mechanism of the project itself, nor did they want to be educated about it? We have tried many times, even we have done projects where we want to tell the journalists what is important to us in the project, and from which social motivations we have started some particular project, but it does not encounter sympathy, and therefore it reduces our visibility.

For example, they are interested in our surveys, how much we will attack the government, how much we will attack the opposition, or whether we are tempting some topics, for example, if we talk about the PRO, then it is the TOP topic, if we talk about the judiciary, it is TOP topic, but if the judiciary is not a government focus at that moment, it will not be a top topic. So, we are confused and our visibility is put under question.

 It is really difficult to get to that information, for example, how much is a TV viewed how much a certain TV participates in national viewing… We have to get this data in various ways because they are very expensive to pay from those systems, and often we wander in this entire story. Politicization is just one of the segments. The second thing, in the way that we communicate with the public are the journalists’ motivations. Many journalists have such a difficult agenda through the day; for example, our former mayor had to perform 5 to 8 times on every evening news, which left no room for anything else. If we take that the leader must appear once, otherwise there is no funding. Simply, the TV will collapse because there will be no one to give the money. The social responsibility is very small, the ads are very cheap for a TV to be maintained, and all this will normally affect the very interest of the journalists. So, we have to do a lot of tricks that go back to that reference frame for additional earnings for journalists. Little stories from the field are almost nonexistent. We do not have stories of single mothers, people with disabilities, and people with mild mental disabilities who can work. We have many projects, but we do not have any projects that concern these groups to enable them for the labor market, as we had the opportunity to see in Spain and elsewhere, where they have strong laws that involve these people in the market labor. This is not a topic for us here. We are used to great stories, and if you do not enter the policy field, you simply do not have a television article. Especially on national TV, you cannot place yourself, no matter how strong is the activity you will do, if you do not have such a story. It necessarily colors the society, and makes it black and white. This affects us a lot, especially in the project planning; we have to plan black and white, because we have to plan the public appearance. The story of our CSO is the story of journalism in Macedonia, especially the local. I have spoken to many journalists, we are constantly contacting, because we constantly strive to be present in some way in the media, and they have nothing good to say about this as well, and the level of their disappointment is unfortunately, really great.

I understand them completely, they also need to bring food on the table…But for this, first, the state should be asked, after which the journalist organizations themselves should be asked, and lastly, a public long-term education of the citizens should be made, next, to raise awareness about the rights of women, young unemployed, for those special groups with special needs, for which we really need to raise awareness - that these stories are valuable to hear, and that they essentially tell the story of this non-inclusive society where you must to enter a political party and become someone and something to be seen or to be able to express a public word without people laughing at what you say.

In Macedonia, there is a lot of work to be done. CSO life will not succeed without a more thorough education of the journalists and raising the sensitivity of the public to specific issues of people who had no luck in life, or people who were laid off from those socialist factories, or especially people who need more care than us, which in some ways can be called "normal", normally, as much as we can be normal in such a society. I think that in a "sick" society, it's very difficult to be normal.

Aleksandar Cvetkoski

President of ACTAC

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