Ministers in the role of spokespersons

How was the communication between the rulers and the public transformed? How did it happen that social networks replaced the media in the process of publishing “government” news? Was Prime Minister Zaev’s ultimate transparency the best method for communicating with the media and through them with the public? Why do ministers appear as spokespersons, while many ministries and institutions do not have spokespersons?

Writes: ARTA TAHIRI

In the era of social networks and online journalism, if an event happens and does not appear on the portals, on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, it is as if it did not happen at all. This used to be said of traditional media, such as the press, radio and television.

Politicians have already realized that if their activities are not shown in the media, new or traditional, they do not positively affect their political and public image. We, among other things, really live in the era of images, that is, of the form, and not of the content and essence. Of course, this is not only the result of the propaganda PR (public relations) of politics, but it is the product of many factors, which influence to have a reality of images, which differs from the objective reality.

Realizing that politics without media is a big nothing, politicians attach great importance to their public “branding”, while often their success does not depend on work and achieved results, but on the number of posts on social networks or the amount of news in online media .

Of course, it would not be correct if in this context we do not mention the fact that the media, without following, interpreting and analyzing politics, cannot survive professionally and would not be so interesting to the public, especially since over the decades, due to many historical and social circumstances, a politicized audience was cultivated.

Starting from the great importance of the media, some politicians exceeded the limits of public communication, and especially with the media. Such was Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, who, enthusiastic about the fact that he managed to become Prime Minister, decided to communicate directly with journalists from various media, to whom he answered whenever he had free time, even late at night. He did all this in the name of transparency and good will to inform the public about the Government’s decisions and his views as Prime Minister.

Zaev used this practice not only with journalists, but also with citizens, and as a result, the famous sentence “Zboreno e so so Zaev” spread! So, the journalists bypassed the spokesmen, heads of cabinets, advisers, ministers, deputy prime ministers and communicated directly with the prime minister, and he was supposed to have answers for many areas and for all the citizens’ problems. Surreal!

Of course, the prime minister, whoever he is, is not “superman” and does not have a solution or answer for every problem. Despite personal desire and good political will, such great “transparency” of the first man in power was exaggerated. This communication, beyond the appropriate prime ministerial transparency, even in a country like North Macedonia, was interrupted after the “pranking” (communication trap), which was done to the prime minister of North Macedonia by two people from Ukraine, known for this role of theirs, because Zaev was not the first to be a “victim” of the two “prankers”.

On the other hand, we have the model of ministers who do aggressive PR, because they accompany every activity and statement, interview or debate with a text, that is, a statement, and above all with many photos on social networks. Even when they meet each other, even though they are from the same political party! However, it must be said that there are some decisions that can be covered in the media only with press releases, but there are also some others that require a meeting with journalists to explain the dilemmas that may exist in the public.

They announce the events, projects or decisions themselves on social networks, even in front of the mass media and, in this way, assume the role of spokespersons of the ministries, of course, if they have them.

With the exception of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, I cannot recall the name of any spokesperson for any ministry, despite the fact that we know that certain ministries employ a large number of “publicists” who publish government announcements.

Other state and public institutions are not better either. For example, we don’t know who is the spokesperson of the Assembly of North Macedonia, the most representative political institution, which they call the “home of the citizens”?

Therefore, a government, which strives to be transparent, must design a new strategy for institutional transparency, which will foresee that the prime minister and the ministers announce the big news, but there should also be announcements from the spokespersons.

Finally, we journalists know that healthy communication with the public is not only a democratic standard, but also a legal and constitutional obligation. I believe that politicians will learn the golden rule of democracy. If not, they will prove it