Macedonia has failed to respect human rights and freedom of expression for the past eleven years. The entire state machinery was involved to serve one political party and its establishment so as to enable them to control the politics, the business, the journalism, and the non-governmental sector all together
The end of the eleven-year rule of the rightist VMRO-DPMNE (August 2006 – June 2017), and the change of government in Macedonia, have brought serious challenges upon the country. In addition to the devastated economy, poverty, human rights violations and the decline in European and Euro-Atlantic processes in Macedonia – the new ruling coalition comprised of SDSM, DUI and the Alliance for Albanians, as well as the civil sector, have a serious task before them, i.e. to restore freedom of expression and freedom of speech to its rightful place in every democratic state. This basic democratic category has been completely destroyed in many aspects in the last decade. The close link among business and politics, party interests, abuse of institutions for party goals, influence in the media, intimidation and control over the citizens, has almost eliminated the right to freedom of expression and speech in Macedonia.
The international organizations, Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International in their reports warn that freedom of expression and media freedom in Macedonia have been seriously jeopardized. In several reports, the previous government was criticized for their promotional campaigns, which increased the economic dependence of the media, and brought about the creation and control of pro-government media. In the latest report by Reporters Without Borders, Macedonia is listed as “the Balkan’s bad boy”. 1 The report noted that the erosion of the rule of law was most visible, the political instability affected the work of journalists, while during the 2016 protests, there were many reports of assault, threats, violence, and intimidation of journalists, but of those responsible, few were charged.2
The fundamental values provided for in the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia were interpreted and respected only as required, more often they were ignored and violated. Article 16 of the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia guarantees the freedom of conviction, conscience, thought and public expression of thought, the freedom of speech, public appearance, public information and the free establishment of public information institutions. This article also guarantees free access to information, the freedom to receive and transmit information, the right to reply in the media, the right to protect the source of information in the
1 Reporters without borders, “Balkan’s Bad boy: Macedonia”, RSF, 2016. Available at: https://rsf.org/en/macedonia.
media, while censorship is explicitly prohibited. Although the Constitution guarantees the political rights and freedoms, as well as the freedom of expression, in the last decade, and especially since 2008, practice has shown a serious abuse of power, institutions, and judiciary in order to silence the critical voices, and at the same time prevent the truth regarding key issues from coming to the surface.
The need to hide the truth at the beginning of the rule of the former political structure began with the more extensive financial projects, such as “Skopje 2014” (a construction project that completely changed the face of the capital of Macedonia which raises serious doubts in terms of financial abuses) or the amount of state subsidies for foreign investors, as well as with political scandals – the murder of Martin Neshkoski at the celebration of the election victory of VMRO-DPMNE3 on 7 June 2011, the financing of political parties etc. In the last years, even the travel costs of politicians in the country and abroad have become a matter of “national security”.
In short, although formally Macedonia has legal regulations mainly harmonized with EU standards, it has become a state of silenced and controlled media and frightened citizens, divided along party lines. The state and institutional machinery was instantly instigated against those who “raised their voice”, who researched and published specific information and data, taking measures (including draconian court sentences) in order to silence the critical voices in the public discourse.
This analysis was conducted during period April-May 2017, before the election of the new Government at the end of May.
Access the full report here.