The NGO Info-centre, in cooperation with the Helsinki Committee of Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia, under the auspices of the Project “Civic Monitoring of the Office of the Ombudsman” supported by the U.S. Embassy in Skopje, monitored the media reporting on the work of the Ombudsman in the period from May 1 to November 20, 2017.
The monitoring covered 15 media outlets:the primetime daily newscasts of TV stations 24 Vesti TV, Telma TV, Sitel TV and public service broadcaster MRT1; the website of TV21 broadcaster; news websites A1on.mk, Plusinfo.mk, NovaTV.mk, Republika.mk and Kurir.mk; and the electronic versions of dailies “Sloboden pečat” and “Večer”.
The qualitative and quantitative analysis focused on the news articles and reports dedicated to the Ombudsman and the work of his office.The contents of published material are analysed from the viewpoint of the subject/topic they cover, the journalistic approach and the tone of reporting.
During the reporting period, the monitored media published a total of 236 news reports and articles, at an average of 33 articles per month, covering the work of the Ombudsman.The news-sites accounted for the major part of the published contents – 45% of the total, followed by the television newscasts with 33.5% of the total analysed coverage.Online editions of newspapers and television broadcasters (TV21) published 21.5% of the total number of articles dedicated to the work of the Ombudsman.
Contents published per type of media (%)
Per media outlet, the coverage was led by A1on.mk news-site with 18% of all articles dedicated to the Ombudsman, followed by Plusinfo.mk (14%) and NovaTV.mk (9.5%) news-sites, and the online portal of TV21 with 10.5% of all articles.The least coverage of the Ombudsman was published by news-sites Kurir.mk (1%) and Republika.mk (3%).
As far as TV broadcasters are concerned, Telma led with 7.5% of all articles, followed by 24 News TV (6.5%) and Kanal 5 TV (5.5%).The public broadcasting services MRT, in the newscasts on its First Programming Service, accounted for just 4.5% of the total number of articles analyzed under this programme.
Contents published per media outlet (%)
The quantitative overview shows that online news-sites demonstrate the greatest interest in the work of the Ombudsman, followed by television networks. The media close to the former government, i.e. the VMRO-DPMNE party, offer very little or no coverage of the Ombudsman and its activities. One exception of that rule is Kanal 5 TV. As far as the public broadcasting service MRT is concerned, it evidently fails to fulfill its role as public service for the citizens and demonstrates inexcusably low interest in the role and importance of the Ombudsman.
During the period covered by this report, the coverage of the Ombudsman mainly focused on the topics of children’s rights, refugees’ rights and the treatment they receive in Macedonia, freedom of expression and religious freedoms, the situation in correctional institutions, local elections, and the relations of the Ombudsman with the Government and the Parliament.
The media relied primarily on statements and press releases issued by the Ombudsman and other stake-holders and interested parties. The coverage offered very little in terms of applying analytical or investigative approach. The tone of the coverage is predominantly neutral, and only in a handful of articles we noted attempts at manipulation.
For instance, on September 19, 2017, reporting on the reaction of the Ombudsman to the violation of freedom of religion and freedom of expression in an elementary school in Ohrid, the news-site Republika.mk published an article with the headline: “The Ombudsman doesn’t think that girls can go to school with heads covered with scarves” (in Macedonian, the headline uses the word “zabuleni”, which could be translated as “head-scarfed” or “hijab-ed”). While the article is impartial and presents the position of the Ombudsman, the tone of the headline and the use of the term “zabuleni” instead of “head-scarf” is manipulative and seems to suggest that Ombudsman’s reaction was wrong and not in accordance with the Constitution and the Law.