As of the 1st of March, the implementation process has officially started for “Media4EU”, a project designed to address gaps in capacities of the journalism and media spheres of North Macedonia. The 3-year 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. The action is financed by the European Commission under the IPA Civil Society Facility and Media Programme 2021-2023.
With this project, the goals are to help to improve the quality of the journalism and media sectors in North Macedonia and 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 and Macedonian and EU journalists, and aiming for European media standards. One of the problems the project is addressing is the lack of youth interest in journalism, largely due to a lack of trust, and the project seeks to remedy that with activities to encourage greater participation, and education on specific skills and how to use instrumental tools in the field.
North Macedonia in theory has a good legislative backing for a productive media sphere and freedom of expression. The Constitution of the Republic of North Macedonia 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, and pressure from publishers in the television industry are commonly used as an instrument to intimidate the media and induce self-censorship. A better media sphere has a plethora of benefits including allowing for more informed decision making from the constituency, greater access to accurate information, and greater participation.
This project is a testament to the commitment of ALDA to build up the capacities of the local sphere in the Balkans and our commitment to the process of Europeanization and EU presence in the Balkans. North Macedonia’s Europeanization process is notably quite troubled, and in the areas of media and freedom of expression, there haven’t been any notable improvements in recent years. With rising Euroscepticism and the slowing of progress, it is imperative 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.