"Nova Makedonija" takeover bid is illegitimate

The Association of Printed Media in Macedonia (APM) strongly protests against illegitimate attempts by the Macedonian Government and the state-run news agency MIA to take-over the private newspaper Nova Makedonija and restore state ownership of the newspaper through undue pressure.

The re-establishing of state-owned newspapers is not in line with the fundamental constitutional pledges for freedom of entrepreneurship and creation of non-monopolized market. This is in blatant violation of the freedom of press, AMP said in a statement released on Wednesday.

"Nova Makedonija" is a private newspaper within the Association of Printed Media (APM) which includes 20 private printed media and news agencies.

APM Managerial Board underlines that it is unacceptable that the Government and the state-run news agency MIA sought to exert undue pressure in an apparent bid to take-over the newspaper. The explanation the government has come up with is the alleged "historical liability".

Also unacceptable is the explanation for the takeover bid - the alleged risk of closing down of the newspaper. There are two reasons to rule out such explanation:

The newspaper was sold out under low price shortly after the current ruling parties took power. At the same time, the government revoked the subsidies for printed media, which plunged the dailies, including Nova Makedonija, into severe economic downturn.

APM has repeatedly made clear that Macedonia is among a few countries in Europe that has ripped the printed media of subsidies, which would trigger a bitter aftermath. Nonetheless, the calls turned futile.

The eventual state ownership of Nova Makedonija would further impair the situation of private newspapers in Macedonia.

APM points out that the Government will monopolize the market once it takes a hold of Nova Makedonija newspaper, which is in blatant violation of Article 55 of the Constitution. At the same time, this move will abridge the freedom of media and the freedom of creation of public institutions guaranteed under Article 16 of the Constitution.

The government already breaches the constitutional provisions by budget funding of the state-run news agency MIA, which took up the leading role in state's bid to take a hold of Nova Makedonija.

As a reminder, in September 2003, the World Association of Media (WAN), the South East Europe Media Organization (SEEM) and the Association of Printed Media in Macedonia (AMP) had warned the Government and other senior officials that MIA monopoly was unacceptable, APM said in a statement.