Hate speech has replaced journalistic vocabulary
In the Macedonian media literally every day there are accusations, calling upon lynching, or publicly pointing out the alleged crime among journalists
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In a deeply polarized atmosphere, the media greeted this year’s disappointing evaluations by the U.S. organization “Freedom House” which ranked Macedonia on the bottom of the list for press freedom, compared with the countries in the region. Bad evaluations only relate to the previous reports on press freedom in Macedonia, which is defined as a partly free country in the latest report. But unlike last year, the situation has deteriorated. However, this is not a surprise to the Macedonian media, where literally every day there are accusations that one is opposition, and other pro-government media, calling upon lynching, or publicly indicating the alleged crime between journalists. Instead of reporters being defenders of public speech and promoting democratic values, hate speech has literally become a substitute for professional journalistic values that should be the motto of the journalistic profession where the only guide should be-truth.
As it is known, this year Macedonia was ranked 122nd according to the Freedom of the Press Report of “Freedom House“, which measures the level of independence of the media in 197 countries and territories. On the scale, Macedonia, which dropped two places from last year, shares the rank with Congo and Kenya. From the neighborhood, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo, Croatia, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Serbia are all before us. According to the rankings, for the last 20 years Macedonia has not had worse evaluations. Macedonia is last of the countries in the region and on the list of “Reporters Without Borders” where it is ranked 123rd, seven places down compared to last year.
“Inbox 7” conducted a mini-survey to check the pulse of the editors, what their opinion are about the current situation of Macedonian journalism and how long in the country it will be informed that “journalism is in free fall” or that “Macedonian journalism has touched the bottom”. Is there any hope for return of professional values? And does Macedonia have a reason to celebrate 3rd May – World Press Freedom Day?
And while some with disbelief refused to comment with various excuses, others spoke louder that the time has come for “remembrance” of Macedonian journalism due to the various forms of pressure on journalists and threats with trials, even for someone else’s spoken word. However, the assessment that freedom can be restored by journalists themselves is unanimous.
“We have nothing to celebrate. This year we will again repeat the sad and terrible facts – in Macedonia we are facing continuous press freedom suffocation. Journalists are silenced, propagandists speak on their behalf. Macedonia has no elementary conditions for journalistic profession. Institutions are closed to all who are targeted as “hostile”, critical media are under constant attack with defamation lawsuits, investigative journalists scared after the case of Tomislav Kezharovski. The media which are trying to keep the elementary standards of the profession – to inform about any abuse of a position of power in the interest of the public, fight on an unequal market where it is impossible to survive if you are not subsidized by “government ads” as we call this kind of clienteles and media corruption”, stated Tamara Chausidis from the Independent Union of Journalists and Media Workers.
According to the research by IUJMW, 62% of the journalists have been victims or witnesses of direct censorship, while 57 % say they practice self-censorship. Chausidis says that every day they have complaints about pressures on journalists. The Union currently runs 20 cases of illegal dismissals. Although, she emphasizes that litigations last long, and many journalists choose to remain silent to have existence. “It results in fearful, silenced journalists who sell out the last ideals of the profession. It is really hard to see that picture”, highlight Chausidis with disappointment.
And the editor in “Telma” TV Emilija Lazarevska concludes that there is no reason for celebration. “Specifically, it can be celebrated in two ways. One, to talk as louder as we could on this day. I do not understand the minute of silence. No, no. On the contrary, we should talk a lot, and on that day to use our media to tell what condition are the Macedonian media in. The second way is with a funeral procession-that journalism is dead”, says Lazarevska.
She points out that when reporters go to an event they must not ask anything. “Fear not, why fear? Let them ask. How will they fight for their journalistic freedom and their profession? You ask, the editor does not have to release it, but you will be clean before yourself and your colleagues and you know that you have done something. That is the fight against editorial apartheid”, she said, commenting that the journalistic profession is becoming more dangerous. Although she still considers that while there are media that are not afraid to work, there is hope for journalism. “Apart from us, no one else is going to give freedom because no one has an interest to do it. Everyone wants obedient journalists who will do what they tell them to do. They will spit on every fellow for whom they tell them is a traitor and that works counter to the interests of the state”, said Lazarevska, who added that there was no bottom to the Macedonian journalism that was unconscious.
Aleksandar Dimkovski, chief editor of the daily newspaper “Nova Makedonija” said that the best way to celebrate the World Press Freedom Day was on the front pages of all newspapers to publish the universal principles of journalistic standards, being the breaking news on TVs. He declined to comment on the latest reports of “Freedom House” and “Reporters Without Borders”, explaining that he was unfamiliar with the methodology.
“The most important thing is to respect standards. When we as a profession respected the standards and when sponsors saw that we do not retreat, the forms of the pressure would be reduced or would disappear. Then there would probably not be a situation of a soft belly. Then it does not matter whether a newspaper is left, right, because that would reduce the area of influence”, said Dimkovski.
Isen Saliu, chief editor of the newspaper in Albanian language “Lajm” said: “In my opinion, the biggest concern for journalists should not be the low level of freedom of expression this year, but that next year it will be even lower. Just as this year it is lower compared to the previous year. The only reason for celebration may have pro-government media, which can feel free to hope for another successful “harvest” season and even more millions from the government and state institutions. Instead of a celebration date, free and independent media should set a date for commemoration of the free press in our country which has almost disappeared. And my idea for that date would be the date when A1 TV was closed, for example. We, as Lajm, directly on our skin feel pressure on independent word because apart from the other forms of pressure, trials are also used, texts published in the form of editorials and comments from people who are not employed in Lajm”, said Saliu.
Journalists do not celebrate the World Press Freedom Day
Journalists, media workers and representatives of non-governmental organizations today held a symbolic rally at 12:05, sending a message that on the World Press Freedom Day Macedonia would celebrate nothing. Vlado Apostolov of IUJMW said that hate speech in Macedonia was not only unpunished but stimulated, and that political and economic powerhouses dictated editorial policies and there was no transparency in media ownership.
Yesterday the Macedonian Association of Journalists released a statement which says that journalists have no reason to celebrate because freedom of expression and media independence are seriously endangered.