As my colleague professor Milan Kangrga, PhD, wrote in 2002 in his book “Nationalism or Democracy”, “ethics of journalism, as a form of professional ethics, is divine dimension of journalism because not only the term correctness while doing your job lays in the term ‘professionalism’, but also the professionalism contains the ethic truth as something unavoidable, which as an effort for sustaining a certain level, as dignity and reputation in journalism, is especially important for the journalist, who adheres to it as self-conscious, free and responsible being”
Author: Dejan Donev PhD, Associate Professor of Ethics in Journalism and Ethics in Media
The Przhino Agreement, in accordance with all of its annexes, offered several “important” preconditions for holding snap elections, among which were the media reforms or the partial attempts for media reforms that turned out as most acute, and as usual, a precedent was made – “the politicians to decide the media’s fate via their own members and to influence them”.
The main conditions, at least in the media sphere, stated the following: “nominating editor in chief of MRTV’s news program proposed by the biggest opposition party in consultation with the other parties, who ought to come into power 100 days prior the elections”. Regarding this condition, the criticism of the experts and the public that followed in the meantime are yet to be practically proven how much and in what way are truthful!
Hence, in that 100-day “vacuum”, it is more than indispensable to consider, so later can be critically assessed by the public, the views and intentions of the “newly appointed” editor in chief of MRTV’s news program, Santa Argirova, who, regarding the announced “change in the media ambient via the entry of (…) unbiased editor teams and journalists in the public broadcasting service, Macedonian radio television”, is decisive at the very beginning and does not conceal that she is alone, without a team, at least as a technical support. But, what she states as most important motive in her decision is “my huge media experience and the conviction that the people here, who are victims of many changes and maybe their willingness to work is missing, that I can manage to awake them a bit, to make them wish to be a part of something dubbed reflection of social reality, and not to serve to politics, not to serve to the politicians. Because my mandate here is extremely limited both timely and substantially, and I accepted to make something, I will try to make it”.
SEEMING OR REAL “DON QUIXOTIAN” ENDEAVOR
In the conversation we had with her (on 4 September 2016) regarding her perception on this partial political solution for the media problems, and “burdened with personal stake of 30 years of working experience in journalism, and not looking for careerism and race who will win the function’s glamour”, as she says, her arrival in the MRTV is very coherent and crystal clear: “professional reporting, balance and true public broadcasting service, meaning that we need life stories, we need inclusiveness of all citizens, of all vulnerable categories. We need to address all of them because politics is one segment. The public broadcasting service cannot and must not deal only with politics in the news because that broadcasting service also belongs to those who do not vote. And it should stay like that”.
In the realization of this seeming or real “Don Quixotian” endeavor, that probably, as Argirova believes “there is no person who would like to throw 30 years of experience down the well in just 100 days”, it is important that “I don’t have personal interests to defend a certain political party, but only to defend the interests of a public broadcasting service, i.e. the segment where I am”, through the attempt to “normalize what’s broadcasted in the public broadcasting service’s news, to organize debates, to agree how we are going to cover the entire election campaign, i.e. not to be as previously – mother for the ones and stepmother for the others, but MRTV is the same for everyone. My idea is to open the MRT. I want topics that will portray the social reality, because there is no other way. So, what I am interested in is the content between the start-up and closing themes, but this will be difficult to achieve because there is a lack of people, some employees still have to work on themselves, there aren’t many cameras… Therefore, my ambition is not to turn the public broadcasting service into BBC or CNN…”.
Having in mind that many documents state that we have “absence of institutional autonomy and independence of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)”, i.e. the key reports state that we have “selective reporting and lack of editorial independence in the Public Broadcasting Service”, precisely because of the political pressures which take us back to the starting position with the idea of media reforms, Argirova claims that pressures are not in her area of interest. “I have rules written in MRTV’s Code of Ethics and that is my bible created by the MRTV prior my arrival. I just have to obey it. Everything not covered by the Code is a pressure for me and I will not obey it, even if I want to. I can just leave then”.
“THERE IS NO FAVORING OF THIS PERSON OR THAT PERSON”
That’s why she is convinced that the idea to normalize the news from the inside, and to return the lost confidence from the outside, to return the MRTV on the path of ethical journalism, has realistic chances in 100 days: “It is possible, but only if there is will. The greatest problem for me is the lack of technology which makes me unable to work. And the people are who they are, primarily with certain affiliations, refreshed in the moment when I ask them for vibrancy in the MRTV – vibrancy in the news. There is no favoring of this person or that person, but topics, thinking about topics, things that concern people. I hope that if I stimulate them they will give positive feedback, which allows me to say at the beginning that I cannot guarantee anything because there will be many things, situations, much work…”.
This opens the dilemma about the benefits and weaknesses after the hundred days of this solution regarding the possibility for changing the media reality in Macedonia. As Argirova says: “We have, above all, a problem with media who treat the political crowns as clientele, they benefit from that relation and they also implement editorial policies to the detriment of the country. They do not race to make better news. They race to make news that are paid more. Hence, the media are extremely divided in terms of polarization of affiliation with political parties and political subjects, and what’s forgotten in this entire story is that the public broadcasting service can play a key role and it should be like this because it must not be molded according to the private media, yet it should be the other way round. Take the CNN for instance. America is about to hold elections, CNN is pro-democratically oriented, but they do not exclude news concerning Donald Trump. They also do not conceal a poll in which Hillary Clinton’s ratings leg behind Trump’s. So, if things have firm grounds, it is possible to see a light at the end of the tunnel. But if things are not headed in that direction, they are not headed anywhere! So, everything can be solved if game rules are set! But, we need will and we need to follow those rules. No matter who is in power, if the incumbent sets game rules in the media sphere, and not to dictate them, but to adopt and practice them, then this problem is done deal”.
“THE PUBLIC MUST BE INCLUDED”
At the end, we remain to see the result that will be assessed by the public, as a moral judge, but only if the public itself is an active factor and not a part of the “actors’ team” in the media reality. Argirova firmly believes that “the public must be included. Not only you can do nothing without it, but you must not to! The public must watch, think, suggest and react. It must! After all, the people pay fee for the public broadcasting service. That is one big burdening element for the person seating here and who has to decide what’s going to be aired on the news this evening. The system I just entered is too immense. Nothing has changed, if fact the contrary, the situation has worsened. But I accepted and I will continue until I can, if I can. First, we have to make sure that this service won’t cause any damages in the future, and then we should try to raise the public awareness, to make people watch the public broadcasting service, to start suggesting, to start talking about the service and ultimately, to try if we can broaden all of this. So, I cannot promise anything, but I can do my best. And what’s going to happen at the end does not depend solely on me, because really I am only one. I couldn’t do what I should do, even if I were Superman. I am here all the time and I do everything I can”.
There are less than 100 days for confirming or denying this solution, but the criticism related to it that: “instead of finding a systemic solution for the public broadcasting service, the MRTV, not to be a polygon for party employments, instead of securing some kind of all-embracing civil control, such as the BBC, which will not suffer changes with every shift of government, a “feeble” solution is offered prior the elections and that is to be led by a personnel officer from the opposition. For four years the MRTV was led by the incumbent personnel officers, and then it will be offered to the opposition prior the elections? What’s the purpose of all this? To secure neutrality (knowing that it’s impossible) or to compensate the opposition for being neglected in the public broadcasting service for four years”.