For the past two days, the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM) organized a training on “Improving cooperation and safety of journalists and media workers.” This workshop was organized on the initiative of the Regional Center of Tetovo. It was attended by journalists and videographers working in the field from the media from the Polog region, cameramen from the Management Board of AJM as representatives of the Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The workshop’s purpose was to cover the daily challenges journalists and media workers face in their work. Still, they also discussed ways to improve communication and cooperation with the relevant institutions in the country, especially with the prosecutor’s office and the police.
At the beginning of the event, the president of AJM, Mladen Chadikovski, emphasized the safety of journalists through improved cooperation with the institutions:
“Activities of this nature are always welcome because, in this way, we work toward improving cooperation, with a single goal – the public interest.” I am pleased by the fact that so far, we have already established a reasonable basis for the advancement of this process. Still, much more can always be done through this kind of meeting, through open discussions, because only in this way can we identify the problems and, more importantly, find a solution”.
The vice-president of AJM, Senat Zulbeari, also addressed the topic: “The goal of our efforts is to raise the level of awareness among institutions and fellow journalists about how to cooperate through joint workshops.” We in the Polog region had the biggest problem with the court previously and had one with the police. Still, after the meeting with the Ministry of Interior, we have a positive movement of things in that direction; that is, it is felt that the cooperation has improved. I hope that after this meeting, there will be an improvement.”
Dragan Sekulovski focused on the activities related to the safety of journalists, on some of the activities carried out by AJM so far: protocols for the security of media workers with competent institutions, contribution to the amendments to the criminal law that creates systemic protection for media workers in the professional performance of their tasks, more training and published manuals on the topic related to security, as well as free legal aid and monitoring of court cases in which journalists are prosecuted. “Even though Macedonia is in 38th place out of 190 in the world on the media freedom index, there is still an increasing trend of attacks on journalists as well as twice as many lawsuits compared to last year, and this must not be ignored as a problem,”.
Besir Aliu, the prosecutor from Tetovo, spoke about the possible ways to protect freedom of expression, as well as the challenges faced by journalists: “It is of great importance today to exchange opinions and experiences because we all work for the same goal, which is the well-being of the citizens, i.e., the public to whom we all answer. It’s important to protect freedom of expression, and that’s why we, as law enforcers, have a responsibility to protect you journalists. However, I would like to emphasize that when there is a case of an attack on a journalist, it is important to distinguish between a threat and a threat to security so that it can be processed properly. As a prosecution, we work with evidence of great importance to create a case. In Tetovo, we have had several cases of endangering journalists’ safety, and they have been processed. I believe today’s discussion will contribute to greater understanding of both sides in the future.”
Amir Dalipi, the head of SVR Tetovo, addressed the audience and spoke about improving communication between police, journalists, and media workers in the direction of improving security:
“With my appointment, I established communication with the media from this region, which continues today because I consider it important. Regarding journalists’ safety, last year we had a case where your colleague was attacked with an axe. The reaction was immediate; the attacker was arrested and sanctioned. We have two more cases of physical attacks that have already been processed. Unfortunately, we also have examples of unprofessional behavior by journalists who have shown disrespect. We are not saying that you should not do your job; we are saying that our work should also be respected, that is, to wait for the official inspection to be completed and then to take recordings and statements.”
During the two-day workshop, the coordinators of the Cameramen’s Section, Zoran Dogov and Vedut Osmani, gave their presentation, talking about the primary responsibilities of journalists and cameramen and how to improve cooperation to obtain the expected final media product. Urim Hasipi, the coordinator of AJM for the Polog region, focused on journalists’ daily challenges and suggestions for overcoming them. “Maybe it’s strange to you, but we also face party discrimination; we have examples where heads of public institutions favor certain journalists and media and give them information, while other journalists they don’t consider close to them are not informed about issues of general interest, “noted colleague Hasipi.
During the workshop, there was a discussion between the representatives of all parties present, from which valuable conclusions were drawn that will contribute to improving cooperation between journalists, media workers, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Public Prosecutor’s Office. It was concluded that on the next occasion, it would be helpful to have representatives of the judicial authority as judges have an important role in overcoming the policy of impunity in cases in which the rights of media workers are violated.
The event is within the framework of the regional project “Trade Unions for a Fair Recovery” (Trade Unions for a Fair Recovery, 01.01.2022-30.04.2023), financed by the European Union through the European Confederation of Trade Unions and the European Federation of Journalists, with Agreement number VS /2021/0214