UNESCO supports awards given for professional coverage of COVID-19 pandemic in North Macedonia

Under UNESCO’s EU-funded project Building Trust in Media in South East Europe and Turkey – Phase 2, the Council of Media Ethics of North Macedonia (CMEM) announced the winners of the ‘Best Journalistic Stories’ competition, awarding the most professional stories covering the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, people increasingly rely on traditional, independent media to be informed with verified and accurate information. This has offered the unique opportunity for press councils to call upon journalists to strengthen trust in traditional media, tackling disinformation and avoiding sensationalist reporting.

UNESCO welcomed the initiative taken by the CMEM to reward the positive efforts of journalists, reporting on the health crisis and related challenges. The call, open to all professional journalists and newsrooms, received a broad response, as a total of 66 stories written by 30 different authors participated in the competition.

During the livestreamed event, the first prize was awarded to the ‘Investigative Reporting Lab’ newsroom for the story ‘Uncertain Diagnoses: how falsely declared Dutch COVID tests from China ended up in Macedonia, the USA and the EU countries’. The three-member-jury, unanimously agreeing on the high investigative quality of the story and use of reliable sources, highlighted the importance of revealing an international network of misuses in times of a health crisis. The second prize rewarded the in-depth approach of the TV 21-story, elaborating on the procedures of COVID-19 testing, the conditions, the manner of operation and the people engaged in the North Macedonian Laboratory. The third award was shared between several journalistic stories, addressing the ‘pandemic’ of food-stockpiling and the vulnerability of certain categories of citizens, being broadcasted on MTV. Furthermore, the third place has also been awarded to two stories broadcasted on the 360 Stepeni (360 Degrees) show on Television Alsat-M channel, highlighting the engagement and dedication of the journalists during the increasing COVID-19 curve.

The EU-funded UNESCO Project Building Trust in Media in South East Europe and Turkey – Phase 2 provides direct support to press and media councils for their crucial efforts, notably to provide pro-active guidance and assistance to media professionals on the ethical coverage of the pandemic.