“Protecting the freedom of the press and strengthening the judiciary in the Western Balkans” was the topic of the conference that was held last week in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In addition to journalists, representatives of prosecutor’s offices and courts, as representatives of civil society organizations of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia had representatives – of journalists, as well as prosecutors and judges.
During the conference, it was discussed what is common and what is different about journalism and the judicial system, what are their obligations, duties, and responsibilities in dealing with the problem of impunity, and how to identify and mobilize resources to deal with this phenomenon.
The executive director of AJM, Dragan Sekulovski, spoke at the beginning of the event on the topic “Why the judiciary and journalists should talk”, that is, he spoke about what is specifically relevant and could be shared on this topic from Macedonia.
“What we can notice when it comes to threats, attacks, or pressure on journalists is a certain evolution in terms of tactics and how they are implemented. If until 2013, 2014 it was physical attacks during public protests, or direct threats in newsrooms, burning cars, and destroying equipment, from today’s perspective in 2023 I can say that the way that pressure is carried out is “modern “. It is about legal pressure through the abuse of lawsuits, for playing laws in favor of those who suit them, but also abuse of online platforms primarily through FB, Twitter, and the rest, where like Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, but also other countries from the Western Balkans had a certain handicap and discrimination. It is so because the countries that are members of the EU have certain bilateral agreements at the country level with these internet providers for large services. On the other hand, unfortunately, our countries are prevented. Sometimes this is an excuse for the prosecution, the police in the court not to conduct an investigation and not bring justice even though there are explicit threats to the lives of journalists and members of their close families. In our context, there have been fewer and fewer physical attacks in recent years, but there are more and more threats on social networks and the rate of impunity is high in this area. I believe that in the future this type of threat will be used more and more and this type of regional gatherings can help in this direction. I believe that we as a collective should take that into account and not act on our initiative and nationally, but regionally,” Sekulovski said.
During the session, the topic of which was the pressures that journalists face daily, mutual solidarity, and how it helps in the work of journalists, the president of AJM, Mladen Chadikovski, spoke, who said:
“Solidarity is crucial for journalists because it enhances their ability to fulfill their roles as guardians of democracy. In that regard, I would say that several things are essential: freedom of speech where journalists play a vital role in maintaining it through solidarity helps to create an environment where journalists can work without fear of censorship, intimidation, or persecution. Journalists are the ones who, through their media products, inform the public about important events and socio-political developments, because they are the voice of the people and as such should enjoy freedom of speech, but also freedom of information without fear for their safety. Cooperation helps us, as journalists, to be innovative, to adapt to audience preferences ensuring continued relevance. Diverse Perspectives: A diverse and vibrant media landscape is essential to a healthy democracy. Solidarity among journalists promotes inclusivity and ensures that different perspectives are represented in the media. The voice of journalists is essential to maintaining a free and accountable media that serves the public interest, and solidarity among journalists strengthens their collective strength and resilience in the face of challenges.“
Journalists who primarily follow the judiciary were present at the event, as well as journalists who were exposed to threats and pressures while performing their work, as well as representatives of the primary public prosecutor’s office, the Ministry of the Interior and the Academy for the Training of Judges and Prosecutors. The conclusions were in the direction of continuing the cooperation of journalists and judicial authorities in the direction of strengthening the security of media workers.