“I want to publish so badly that it makes me want to cry.”; “The right to the truth before business interests,”; “We are not a jukebox, we are journalists,” “I do not present myself falsely, I want to publish something important…” these are some of the messages that journalists sent to today’s protest of the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM) and the Independent Union of Journalists and Media Workers (SSNM), which was held in front of the Civil Court in Skopje.
Under the motto, CITIZENS’ RIGHTS BEFORE THE INTERESTS OF THE POWERFUL, journalists and media workers raised their voices against injustices against journalists that culminated in the verdict against the Investigative Reporters Laboratory (IRL), with which the court assigned itself the role of determining who can and who cannot be a journalist.
We believe the court has no right to determine which online media and civil society organizations can engage in journalism.
The journalists Sead Rizvanovic, Irena Mulachka, Mefail Ismaili, and the representative of Blueprint – the group for justice reforms Tona Kareva, gave their speeches before fellow journalists and media workers.
“The scenario from the time of A1 is being repeated, and then as well as now, we knew what it was about. The goal was not to close the television; the goal was to silence us, a procedure that was mirrored after that in other media and other ways. We also remember the persecution of Tomislav Kezharovski and other cases. Now it happens in a different form, but the content is the same. These judges and the court should know something – all of us here do not speak in our own name and in the name of the media for which we work but in the name of the citizens. We are the voice of the people because when we speak, the citizens speak; when they want to ban us, they ban the citizens. That is exactly why I want to tell them – it has not worked for anyone so far, and it will not work in the future. They will only make us stronger and louder!” – said Sead Rizvanovic
“Here we are, all the media that deal specifically with investigative journalism. The same judge who made that scandalous decision and said that journalists are not journalists and should publish their articles at home, in 2014, made another scandalous decision where “Focus” was condemned for the lawsuit by Sasho Mijalkov of 9000 euros for which AJM helped with donations. The same judge made the colleague and journalist from “Sakam Da Kazham” a (un)journalist during “Bloody Thursday” when he was part of the people in the Parliament who were injured and could have been killed. Years ago, judges worked for the benefit of businessmen and politicians, and we journalists are here to tell the truth. No one can silence us and prevent us from raising our voices or announcing the important truth to the citizens. The most important of all is the journalist’s pen, and the public interest is above all else because people must be aware of what is happening in the country” – said Irena Mulachka.
“As a representative of civil society organizations, I convey their voice, and I would like to say that we also support the protest and react strongly to such a verdict, which is scandalous and directly violates the rights of association and the right to privacy as basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of North Macedonia, but also with all international conventions. When confidence in the judiciary is at such a low level, this type of judgment does not contribute to increasing confidence, and judges must be courageous and work according to laws and international standards and principles. Such a verdict sends a message to citizens that they should remain silent and passive concerning corruption and justice, which is against all principles and standards. The law must serve justice, and citizens’ associations must remain committed to working in a democratic society where the fight against corruption and the rule of law and democracy will be the main principles” – emphasized Tona Kareva
“The verdict against IRL and colleague Sashka Cvetkovska proves that not even the initial letter remains from the word democracy in the country. To make such a judgment about an investigative story that tells the truth is wrong. It gives the impression that we are only allowed to post when we have something to say that they want to hear. As long as there is this practice, as long as we journalists are treated in this way, there is a danger that in a short time, there will not even be a democratic state, but only a state in which the citizens will be ordinary workers for politicians and businessmen” – said Mefail Ismaili.
Colleague Goran Temenugov also addressed the protest and said: “Silence is not golden. Journalists are protesting you today, like in the old days of Nikola Gruevski. Dimitar Kovachevski, Talat Xhaferi, Hristijan Mickovski, and the presidents of the Constitutional and Supreme Courts, come and say what you think about freedom of speech and whether you want to tell us by law in the future who is a journalist and who is not.
The problem is that someone wants to define and legitimize us, who can be journalists and who can’t. I want to remind the public, which is very important, that freelance journalists are the core of research and in-depth journalism, where we cover topics that are very important for the public and protect the citizens, contrary to what is done every day. There is much work they do not have the opportunity to investigate thoroughly; this is where we freelancers, who are financed on the side, and not from advertisements, are right on the bumper of the public interest, on the citizens’ side”.
AJM and SSNM submitted specific requests to the presidents of the Basic Civil Court and the Court of Appeal in Skopje, in which it is requested to examine with particular care all aspects of the public reactions by all relevant non-governmental organizations as well as the reactions from the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) related to the scandalous verdict of the judge Jovanka Spirovska Paneva, who ruled in the case “Brako v. IRL,” as well as greater understanding and to act with serious caution in the future regarding the actions and lawsuits against journalists and media workers in the state.
AJM and SSNM asked to consider the decisions of the Council for Ethics in the Media of Macedonia and the decisions of the Council of Honor at AJM in the direction of the credibility and integrity of journalists and media workers in Macedonia.