SKOPJE – European Commissioner for Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn opened the second annual EU-Western Balkans Media Days in Skopje today.
In his speech, Hahn highlighted the enlargement momentum created this year, especially when it comes to Macedonia-Greece Agreement on the name issue.
This momentum, however, was not present in the case of media freedom.
“According to data from the Regional Platform for advocating media freedom and safety of journalists, there were 11 cases of physical attacks on journalists in the Western Balkan countries this year alone”, said Hahn.
“The irresolute attitude of those in charge of finding and convicting perpetrators creates a terrifying atmosphere of impunity impacting heavily on free and independent reporting”, he added.
Commissioner also emphasised that country reports clearly state no accession will be possible without safeguarding media freedom and granting journalists working environments free from intimidation and pressure.
Cooperation with countries’ officials is crucial in this regard. Therefore, Hahn expressed his satisfaction with the fact that political actors participate in this exchange.
What is equally important, he added, is quality reporting. Referring to the specific context of the upcoming referendum in Macedonia, he illustrated the need for citizens to make informed decisions.
“I would like to touch upon another issue, which is of special importance for this region: Our Western Balkans Strategy stresses the need for reconciliation and media can contribute a lot, by resisting simplistic stereotypes and polarisation”, Hahn stressed.
Finally, economic sustainability is the topic that also requires in-depth discussion. This is why this conference is important, Hahn concluded. It gives journalists an opportunity to share experiences and suggest possible solutions with colleagues and officials.