This 3-day workshop on Police-Media Relations was organized by the Police Development Department (PDD) of the OSCE Mission to Skopje in co-operation with the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MoIA) in order to assist the MoIA in advancing its performance capacities and improve relations with the media
The event was organized under the PDD’s community policing programme and was opened by the Head of the Police Development Department, Paulo Costa, and the MoIA Spokesperson, Ivo Kotevski. The spokesperson of the MoIA stated that police-media relations have greatly improved since 2004 as was reflected in the recent Extended Community Policing Survey. The spokesperson added that they are still interested in further improving relations with the media as well as citizens in general. After the opening speech, the participants introduced themselves.
The event was attended by representatives from the MoIA’s Public Relations Sector and from the media, as well as other experts. Trainers from the School of Journalism and Public Relations guided participants through the discussions and provided advice and practical exercises during the workshop. The workshop’s main objective was to help strengthen police cooperation with the media and to develop a professional, transparent and democratic public information system.
The topics and discussions the training exercises focused on were the following:
Specially engaged trainers guided participants through the discussions and provided advice and practical exercises throughout the workshop. The workshop was fully interactive with a number of different exercises and discussions about the role of MoIA spokespersons, communication in crisis situations, investigative journalism, understanding the needs of journalists and introducing the human angle into information.
Some of the exercises such as “mock” interviews were recorded on a camera and later analyzed by both the trainers and the participants. A psychiatrist was also engaged to brief participants on the basics of understanding and reducing stress at work.
The last part of the workshop focused on discussions about balancing freedom of expression and respect for human rights as well as on countering hate speech on social networks and the promotion of tolerance.
Stefan Dimoski, a regional spokesperson of the Sector for Internal Affairs from Ohrid, who participated in the workshop, shared his impressions:
“The workshop organized by the OSCE Mission to Skopje has provided an extraordinary opportunity for having an open and sincere discussion among the police spokespersons and journalists. We had the chance to talk about our professional standards, the performance of the spokespersons, mutual respect and following of the code of conduct. The workshop aimed at bringing closer the police spokespersons and the journalists, to the end of overcoming misunderstandings we face in our work and thereby increasing mutual trust,” Dimoski said.
“The opportunity to hear the impressions of the journalist on the work of the police related to public information was a very positive experience. It is obvious that regular meetings are necessary in order to further increase the capacities of both the media and the police”, said Hrizantema Rendevska, the spokesperson of the Sector for Internal Affairs from Strumica.
As a follow-up to the OSCE’s previous engagement in developing Police-Media cooperation, this workshop has contributed towards enriching the communication skills of police spokespersons when dealing with difficult and sensitive situations, advancing their knowledge in building constructive relations with the media, and building a positive image of the police in social media. On a broader level it should contribute towards increasing trust between the country’s citizens and the police.
In 2007, the OSCE Mission to Skopje trained 16 selected police officers as regional MoIA spokespersons. Although the MoIA’s Sector for Public Relations, along with the eight regional spokespersons, has already built solid communication and professional relationships with the local and national media throughout the country, the importance of further advancing their cooperation was emphasized by all participants.