This year, in the section on media and freedom of expression, the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM), is referenced six times as an organization that remains a credible partner that monitors violations of the rights of journalists and media workers in Macedonia. This report confirms the AJM findings related to freedom of expression and the rights of journalists and should be taken seriously into account by decision-makers in the country as well as by the judiciary to provide systematic protection for media workers.
The 2021 Report says the country has made progress in respecting media freedom and freedom of expression in the country. However, the State Department notes that there are still problems that have persisted in recent years, such as violence and intimidation of journalists, and that the response of the country’s authorities to the protection of journalists and media workers is slow and ineffective.
The Report notes almost all more serious attacks on journalists in the last two years and highlights the problem of impunity for violence against journalists, something that AJM has often alerted the public in the past period. In addition, the report notes that in the past year, the response of law enforcement agencies and judicial authorities to cases of violence and intimidation of journalists has been slow and ineffective.
The Report further states that in December 2020, the Skopje Civil Court dismissed several civil damages lawsuits filed by a group of journalists and media workers in April 2020, in which they sought financial compensation from the state for violating their right to freedom of speech in relation with the case of April 27, 2017, with the events in parliament. The Report notes that the Court rejected the lawsuits of journalists Dushica Mrgja and Natasha Stojanovska due to lack of evidence. On April 15, the European Federation of Journalists joined its AJM member and seek challenge a 2020 court ruling rejecting a lawsuit filed by former journalist Goran Trpenoski. Both organizations claimed that the ruling violated European legal standards on freedom of the press and appealed to the court to review it. As of August 27, the three cases were pending before the Skopje Court of Appeals, and related lawsuits by four other journalists were pending before the Skopje Civil Court.
The Report also states that there were cases of physical violence, alleged threats, and harassment of journalists during the year. As of August 27, AJM registered two cases of attacks on journalists. One was a physical attack on a camera operator of the state news agency MIA by protesters who took part in a February 26, protest against the verdicts in the Monstrum trial. The other case concerns repeated death threats and rape by a person identified as Arben Esati on Facebook in March against several local journalists from Tetovo.
The report clarifies that at the request of AJM, the police filed criminal charges against the person for threatening violence and as of August 27, the case was pending before the Public Prosecutor’s Office. AJM received an additional 20 complaints from journalists related to insults received while on duty, inappropriate behavior of central and local government officials or members of political parties, and lack of institutional transparency. The Report confirms the statistics that as of September 20, the Skopje Public Prosecutor’s Office had reviewed eight criminal charges alleging that the behavior was criminalized as “spreading racist and/or xenophobic material through a computer system” under the Criminal Code. Prosecutors dropped three of the cases and ordered further investigations into the remaining five.