The NGO Info-centre, under the auspices of its “Media Mirror” project, conducts a qualitative monitoring of the media, focused on the manner in which they inform the public about the events and developments surrounding the Presidential and Local Elections 2009.
The monitoring programme covers six daily newspapers and six national television broadcasters: “Večer“, „Vreme“, „Dnevnik“, „Utrinski vesnik“, „Koha“, „Nova Makedonija“, A1 TV, Kanal 5 TV, MTV1, AlSat-M TV, Sitel TV and Telma TV.
The analysis of the media coverage of the 2009 Elections, one week before the official start of the campaign activities and the first week of the campaign (February 23 to March 7, 2009), shows that the media have directed their criticism mostly to the Government and its inappropriate behaviour.
Majority of the media included in the monitoring conclude that the Government is meddling in the official part of the election campaign, in favour of presidential candidate George Ivanov and the candidates for local offices of the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party. According to the press, through application of the model seen at last year’s early Parliamentary Elections and the “billion Dollars of Vasil Tupurkovski” in the 1998 elections, the Government prepared its own agenda for support of VMRO-DPMNE’s campaign efforts, promising new investments of eight billion Euros in public works and projects. Press photographers and TV cameras constantly caught the highest echelons of the Government as protagonists of campaign related events. Also, government ministers were seen campaigning for some of VMRO-DPMNE’s candidates for mayoral positions.
The media were more inclined to criticise the Government because of its efforts to influence the election campaign, candidate George Ivanov for his unusual behaviour and rhetoric, rather than SDSM’s candidate Ljubomir Frckovski and the opposition in general. The media seem to have expected from the candidates to present clear position on whether Macedonia should make a compromise with Greece over the disputed name of the country. Most media approved of, in their view, Frckovski’s direct and clear position on the name-dispute and criticized Ivanov for his hesitant and uncertain views on the matter.
The media claim the Government used the continuous media campaigns to spin the reality and cover up the truth about unfavourable international position of the country. The Government is increasingly in disfavour with the media who emphasize that it tries, rather clumsily, to avoid taking responsibility for the consequences suffered by Macedonia to the “antiquisation” of the country. The media criticise the Government that its policies create division in the society into so-called “Macedonoids” and “Slavs”, i.e. “isolationists” and “integratives”. That is the main reason why most commentators refuse Government’s attempts to excuse itself from the responsibility for the current situation in the society.
Most journalists agree that Macedonia has entered political and economic crisis, and that the Government lacks political capacity to deal with the problems faced by the state. In their view, although Government’s ratings and public approval figures remain high, citizens are increasingly interested in the solutions proposed by the opposition.
The media owned by politically active owners close to the ruling coalition have secured great amount of coverage in their news programmes that directly or indirectly commend and promote Government activities. Therefore, at times it wasn’t at all clear what of the presented were VMRO-DMPNE campaign activities, what parts were Government campaigning. Such biased reporting makes an impression in the public that the media do act as Government’s coalition partners.
The NGO Info-centre will prepare two more analysis of the media coverage of Presidential and Local Elections, by the end of April 2009.