PRESS CIVIL: Elections as soon as possible, hate speech and fake news on the rise, inter-ethnic hatred also rising…
CIVIL President Xhabir Deralla at today’s press conference said that the elections should be held as soon as possible, that is, that the final date for holding the elections should be July 5, so that, as he said, there are functional institutions that can deal with the health and economic situation.
CIVIL’S ELECTION MONITORING
Within the framework of the election observation, CIVIL is implementing monitoring of the political parties, institutions, election administration and the media.
CIVIL will be on the ground with about 300 observers on election day, and around 20 long-term observers are in function for a longer period of time now. There is currently an ongoing call for short-term observers, and the applications are being quickly filled out, given the great interest.
Respect for citizens’ right to vote is a priority of CIVIL. In the focus of CIVIL’s monitoring is also the political financing and political corruption, as well as fake news, hate speech and black propaganda.
Reports that come from citizens from across the country are of great importance for CIVIL’s monitoring overall, hence also for the election monitoring. The abundance of addresses made to the organization is yet another indicator that the Organization enjoys great trust among the people.
Even before the political parties expressed their position, CIVIL’s stance was that the early parliamentary elections should be held as soon as possible. Election date is July 5. The state cannot allow itself further postponements.
CIVIL’s recommendations were that they should have been held back in December last year, when they had already agreed to have early elections, while in the period during the coronavirus health crisis, CIVIL’s recommendations were for the elections to be held on June 21. After that date was also missed, our position was that there is no other date for holding elections other than July 5.
CIVIL has announced this multiple times in the past several days, and an announcement with the newest date before this press conference is on July 12, when we announced this position. Today again we are highlighting this position and we call on all political parties and institutions to responsibly and conscientiously complete the election process, for the good of the entire society.
Voter turnout is important. If the citizens want to have stable institutions in the period ahead of us filled with difficult challenges, they need to use their right to vote and participate in creating their future. The greater the voter turnout is, the greater the responsibility will be of the institutions and political parties in the next mandate.
Safe voting – it is not unsafe to vote, if we comply to the simple guidelines for protection against the coronavirus. It is risky if we do not receive a government and institutions with full capacity. Absence of a Parliament and government with full capacity will lead to even more serious consequences than the spread of the coronavirus.
In regards to the monitoring of the work of the institutions, like always, CIVIL pays special attention to the police, namely, the Ministry of Interior. It is also part of the activities that are indicated in our memorandums of communication and cooperation with the MOI, signed in 2009 and 2018.
In regards to the work of the police, we can say that there are two main subcategories of findings from CIVIL’s monitoring of the police, as follows: Abuses and/or overstepping of authority and police inaction.
Abuses and/or overstepping of authority of police officers are noted in six entirely processed cases, and about ten others have been noticed. Hence, in some of the cases in this subcategory, we see the police using disproportional or excessive force.
Police inaction has been documented with video and photos in more than 30 cases, both from CIVIL’s monitoring and from citizen journalists, but also on the social networks, where users post situations in which the police are either not there or are not taking action to protect the citizens from the spread of the coronavirus. In one part of the cases, it is a matter of selective police action, which, on the other hand, has led to reactions in the public and on the social networks that lead towards inter-ethnic and inter-religious intolerance.
Reports on the police can also be found in the category of abuses of public resources, in several cases, whose processing is ongoing, and completed in three cases.
The cases “Gym” and “Bar” are a separate story and are not part of this review, but will certainly be part of CIVIL’s final analyses that will result from the election monitoring.
THE PRZINO GOVERNMENT IS NOT AN EFFICIENT MODEL
CIVIL has also carried out monitoring of the functioning of the institutions at the national level. One of the preliminary conclusions from the monitoring so far is that the so-called Przino Government is not an efficient model of management, which needs to be urgently overcome.
We expect that the fake news and hate speech will intensify. CIVIL has been for a longer time also conducting monitoring of the hybrid threats against democracy, and in that sense, the spread of fake news and hate speech can often be linked to global and regional trends, but are a frequently used weapon of nationalist and radical political structures in the country for local use for achieving political points.
INTER-RELIGOUS AND INTER-ETHNIC TENSIONS
CIVIL notes an increase in cases in which inter-religious hatred is displayed, with open calls for violence, more specifically, “holy war”. At religiously motivated gatherings, regardless of whether they are of ceremonial character or protest gatherings, gross disobeying of the coronavirus protection measures has been noted, as well as police inaction.
Religious leaders have disappointed in this period. Their behaviour and messages in the public have contributed to worsening of the situation, both in regards to the protection against the spread of the coronavirus and in regards to the inter-religious and inter-ethnic relations. Religious leaders interfere in politics, which is inadmissible, and such interference in the pre-election period can cause enormous damage to the political and democratic processes in the country.
Regarding the inter-ethnic relations, we note an increase in hate speech on ethnic grounds. We have clear indications that some of the political parties and the media that are under their control are carrying out a systematic campaign with inciting speech and by encouraging inter-ethnic intolerance and hatred.
Based on hundreds of registered cases in CIVIL’s monitoring, it has been concluded that the Macedonian society is facing difficult consequences of infodemic, fake news and hate speech resulting from the destructive campaign of certain centers of power in the country and in the world.
CIVIL most strongly condemns the hate speech and expresses solidarity with all victims of hate speech. At the same time, CIVIL demands from the institutions to act accordingly and in accordance to the legal obligations, not to allow such hate speech to remain unsanctioned. Fake news and hate speech must be condemned, discouraged and sanctioned.
As to a journalist question whether elections can be conducted with such a Voters Register, Deralla stressed that there always are (have been) problems with the Voters Register, but that at the moment the institutions are working, and that we will have a cleared Voters Register by election day.
CIVIL’s Monitoring Team