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Oppressor or sponsor? Governments strengthen their influence on the media in Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia

Due to the continuously shrinking private advertising market, the state governments in Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Macedonia have turned into the most influential advertiser in the media. Not surprisingly, this trend has highly destructive influence on the freedom of speech in the three Balkan countries, as the public money are mostly spent for securing media comfort for the ones in power. To various extents in the respective countries, this comfort is being achieved through different channels for applying pressure on the journalists – political, public, economic, legal.

This is one of the main conclusions of a journalists’ meeting organized by AEJ-Bulgaria with the support of the Council of Europe, dedicated to the problems of hate speech and self-regulation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Macedonia. The conference took place on June 29th in Sofia, Bulgaria with the aim of identifying the most significant problems of the media and journalism in the three countries and establishing a basis for further common actions on regional level.

It can easily be concluded that all three countries share common problems in regards to the freedom of speech, media ethics and respect for human rights, even though their intensity and specific characteristics vary from one state to the other. Therefore, it was broadly agreed that in order to improve the fragile media environment, the interest groups from the three Balkan countries should act together in order to raise awareness for the challenges they experience in the international community and to support each other.