This Code has been prepared at the initiative of the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, in cooperation with the Association of Journalists of Macedonia, the Macedonian Institute for Media, the Council of Media Ethics of Macedonia, the Institute of Communication Studies and the “Metamorphosis” Foundation.

 September, 2023

Reaffirming the commitment of modern democracies to protect and respect the fundamental right to freedom of expression and information, guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;

Recalling the importance of having a broad variety of independent and autonomous media in the democratic societies, which can reflect the diversity of ideas and opinions, and the fact that the new information and communication techniques and services must be used effectively so as to expand the scope of freedom of expression;

Condemning all forms of expression that incite racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and a climate of intolerance, hatred, violence and discrimination, as well as any action or speech that may intensify fear and tensions among the groups of different racial, ethnic, national, religious or social background, as these undermine democracy, cultural cohesion and pluralism;

Emphasizing that such forms of expression can have a graver and more damaging impact when communicated through the media, given their role in modern societies, during elections in particular;

Taking into account the rapid development of technology and the emergence of new media, the increasing use and impact of social networks on the electoral cycles, and the implications that incomplete, inaccurate or malicious information have on democracy when being circulated, online in particular;

Taking into account the incidents involving collection of personal data and violation of citizens’ privacy, as well as the danger of misusing these data for the purpose of spreading hate speech, speculations and disinformation;

Concerned that non-transparency or insufficient transparency of any of the aspects of the electoral process may undermine electoral integrity,

In line with the legal and policy framework concerning media and elections, including but not limited to the Electoral Code, the Law on Media, the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, the Law on Free Access to Public Information, the Code of Ethics of the Journalists of Macedonia and the Guidelines for Ethical Reporting for Online Media,

We have adopted the following




Scope of the Code

Article 1

This Code refers to the conduct of the political parties, their candidates, and the independent candidates online (including on the social networks), during electoral processes and referenda. The Code also covers broadcasters’ online editions, the online media, the fact checkers, the influencers and other entities that may influence the public in favour of a campaign during elections and referenda.

The Code shall serve as a good conduct guide during elections and referenda, aimed at ensuring integrity of information during elections and referenda, and transparency of the political advertising and its funding, privacy and safety of citizens’ personal data processing, as well as preventing the spread of disinformation (false, incomplete, fake or malicious information), hate speech and discrimination on any grounds.

Compliance with this Code shall be on a voluntary basis. The latter shall not serve as a substitute for the existing or any future legal rules and regulations, but shall be a tool that calls to individual responsibility the entities it refers to.


Objective of the Code

Article 2 

The objective of this Code is to increase the transparency of elections, as well as to reinforce citizens’ trust by ensuring a favourable environment and conditions for respect for the legally guaranteed rights, the freedom of expression and information, and the privacy and safety of citizens’ personal data in the online sphere.


 Article 3

For the purposes of this Code, certain terms shall have the meanings specified below:

“Electoral process” shall mean the time span from the date of adoption of the act announcing elections to the date of publication of the final results of the held elections.

“Election campaign” shall mean public presentation of the candidates verified by the competent electoral authorities and of their programmes in the pre-election period for a certain type of elections;

“Electoral silence” shall begin and shall last for a period of 24 hours before the election day and on the election day;

“Participant in an election campaign” shall mean a person authorized by a political party, a coalition or a group of voters organizing the election campaign;

“Direct access to voters” shall refer to the forms of free political representation and paid political advertising, whereby the participants in an election campaign freely promote their programmes, standpoints and candidates;

 “Paid political advertising” shall mean direct access of the participants in an election campaign to the voters, whereby election programmes, viewpoints and candidates are promoted for monetary compensation. The types of paid political advertising are: ads, press releases, political election spots, music spots that serve as anthems of the participants in an election campaign, broadcasts or footages of rallies, meetings and other appearances of the participants in an election campaign;

 “Social media” shall mean Internet-based platforms that enable interaction among their users, on which the latter can create, share and exchange information within virtual communities and networks. Social networks may include, but shall not be limited to, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, blogs, forums, and the like.

 “Unsponsored content on social media” shall mean content created by the users in real time, for the publishing, i.e. promoting, of which one does not have to pay. This type of content includes posts, photos, videos, memes, “stories”, etc., which the users utilize to interact with the other users of social media by using the free social media tools.

 “Online media” shall mean Internet-based media originating from a single source or a static website where content can be read/followed or downloaded via web browsers, and which serve to place editorially shaped content that reaches a large audience and is intended to inform, entertain or educate.

 “Disinformation” shall mean information that are false and created deliberately to harm a person, a group, an organization or a state.

“Malicious information” shall mean true, yet malicious information shared to cause harm, often by conveying information that should remain private.

“Fake news” shall mean inaccurate, at times sensationalist, texts created with the aim to attract attention, to mislead, deceive and/or do harm. They do not have to be completely false to be manipulative, they can be true but incomplete, missing key details or be presented in the wrong context so as to manipulate the consumer.

“Troll farm” shall mean a group of users conducting disinformation and propaganda activities on the Internet. These activities are often disguised as spontaneous, or as the work of some public relations agency or another group. The troll farms mainly achieve their goals through disinformation and hate speech.

“Fact checkers” shall refer to organizations that, based on pre-set criteria, check the factual accuracy of questionable contents, reports and statements. Fact-checking can be performed in the newsrooms before the latter publish the information at issue, or publicly, by specialized media, organizations or fact-checking departments, after the text or the content at issue has been published or distributed otherwise.


 Principles and standards for the media

 Article 4

All media, both traditional and online, should adhere to the journalistic standards and rules established by the Code of Journalists of Macedonia and in the Guidelines for Ethical Reporting by Online Media prepared by the Council of Media Ethics, while respecting the principles of human dignity and non-discrimination.

This applies in particular to their reporting during electoral processes and referenda, as the voters should be able to trust them and have confidence in the contents they broadcast or publish during election and referenda campaigns.

Online media, broadcasters and their internet editions, as well as the influencers and other entities that may influence the public in favour of an electoral or referendum campaign, bear both social and ethical responsibility, which is why they should:

  • – publish true and accurate information the reliability of which has been checked, especially if they have been obtained from the social networks, blogs and other sources on the Internet. If the truthfulness of a certain information cannot be verified, this fact shall be highlighted accordingly;
  • – publish a correction, in accordance with the Law on Media, if an already published information has appeared to be false;
  • – convey information in a clear and unambiguous manner, so that the audience can make a clear distinction between a news item and a commentary;
  • – include various stances and viewpoints and shall not intentionally hide or conceal important facts, the disclosure of which may affect the way in which the content at issue is interpreted;
  • – respect the citizens’ right to receive timely, verified, true and unbiased information;
  • – respect the right to personal data protection in the process of reporting in line with the Law on Personal Data Protection;
  • – report in a manner that is free from sensationalism, stereotypes, prejudices, incitement to violence, discrimination, hate speech or inflammatory speech;
  • – cite the source whenever the information, photos, videos or similar content they publish have not been produced by themselves and provide a link to the original content;
  • – refuse to publish any advertisement for propaganda or promotional purposes unless the client is clearly identified;
  • – in case of paid political advertising, clearly mark the advertising as such;
  • – respect the rules of electoral silence and refrain from publishing content that would violate it.

Principles and standards concerning the political parties and (independent) candidates

Article 5

The Internet allows the politicians to have direct interaction with the citizens, to reach out to a more diverse audience and to encourage the users/“followers” to share content in their support.

Spreading false, incomplete, fake or malicious information, combined with hate speech, may intimidate voters and incite violent confrontations, which may lead to questioning the credibility and legitimacy of the election results.

Taking this into account, the political parties, their candidates and the independent candidates during electoral processes, as well as the proponents and opponents of the issue at stake during referenda, respectively, shall:

  • – use social media in a way that shall make it clear who owns, i.e., who is responsible for a particular profile/website;
  • – make sure that the public office holders shall use the official profiles/websites on the social networks solely to promote the activities carried out in their official capacity, and not to promote any election programmes;
  • – refrain from abusing the power of social networks and from intentionally creating, modifying, publishing and disseminating information with the aim to promote false, incomplete or malicious information and spins;
  • – refrain from and condemn any use of automatic bots and/or non-automatically organized structures on the social networks (troll farms) for the purpose of maliciously disseminating disinformation in an orchestrated fashion, aimed at manipulating public opinion and the citizens’ standpoints, gaining political advantage or cyber-bullying, especially against journalists and other media workers;
  • – respect the rules for and standards of personal data protection in accordance with the provisions concerning personal data protection;
  • – refrain from any unethical conduct on the Internet aimed at persuading the voters not to exercise their right to vote;
  • – strive to use arguments and facts in their public debates and discussions and an exemplary and polite language in their public communication, and show respect for the diverse attitudes and opinions;
  • – refrain from running a negative campaign against their opponents;
  • – refrain from and strongly condemn the use of speech that incites violence, religious or inter-ethnic intolerance or discrimination on any grounds;
  • – be transparent, i.e. publish information, about the ownership, and/or any other type of connection (theirs or of the members of their families) with the online media;
  • – be transparent about their online advertising in the way that they shall always clearly indicate that they are the entities that have ordered the political advertising, and, when the orderers are third parties, explain their connection with the latter;
  • – be transparent, i.e. publish information, about the funds spent on paid political advertising via the social media and other online tools, and
  • – refrain from publishing content on their personal Internet profiles/accounts that may possibly violate electoral silence (pursuant to the relevant definition in the Electoral Code).

Principles and standards concerning the fact-checkers

Article 6

Fact-checkers shall abide by the Code of Principles of the International Fact-Checking Network and the European Code of Standards for Independent Fact-Checking Organizations, and shall, in particular:

  • – respect the established standards of operating, ethics and transparency in order to best serve the public interest;
  • – follow, during every fact-checking procedure, the principle that evidence dictates the conclusions;
  • – cite all sources by stating enough details for the readers to be able to replicate the process themselves and come to a conclusion. There shall be an exception only when a detailed disclosure of the source could harm the safety of his/her personal data;
  • – be transparent about the methodology they use, as to why and how they have chosen and examined certain questions;
  • – clarify precisely what can be checked legitimately, and at the same time encourage the citizens, as well as other interested parties, to send requests for checking facts;
  • – publish a corrections and clarifications policy and strictly adhere to it. The corrections shall be published at a prominent place so as to ensure visibility of the corrected version.


 Article 7

 To monitor adherence to the principles and standards of this Code, a coordinating body shall be established within six months from the date of the Code’s signing. The Body shall be active from the day of announcing elections/a referendum until their completion.

The Coordinating Body shall comprise of representatives of the institutions/organizations that have initiated the drafting of this Code: the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, the Association of Journalists of Macedonia, the Macedonian Institute for Media, the Council of Media Ethics of Macedonia, the Institute of Communication Studies and the “Metamorphosis” Foundation. The mode of this Body’s operation and the procedure for submitting complaints to this Body shall be regulated by means of a Memorandum of Cooperation.

If necessary, the Code may be expanded by including other relevant stakeholders, by means of adding Annexes to the Memorandum of Cooperation.

The Coordinating Body may turn to other institutions for an opinion or expertise when the issue under its consideration is fully or partially within the competence of another institution or body.

All complaints and responses shall be published on a special website, created for this particular purpose, respecting the Law on Personal Data Protection and the provisions adopted thereof and in accordance with Article 10 of the Law on Free Access to Public Information.


 Article 8

All interested parties can access the Code by signing an Accession Form, whereby they shall voluntarily commit to comply with its the rules and principles.

The duly signed Accession Forms are to be submitted to the Coordinating Body referred to in Article 7 of this Code.

Once they voluntarily commit to comply with the Code, all those that have acceded to it shall, actively and internally, raise awareness about the Code’s existence and the standards established therein.