Today is World Press Freedom Day. CIVIL started the day with a short message of congratulations on FB and Twitter, as well as with Xhabir Deralla’s text on Heinrich Boll Foundation’s website in English.
World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 upon a recommendation adopted at the 26th session of UNSECO’s General Conference in 1991. That was preceded by the Windhoek Declaration, which was drafted by a group of African journalists calling for pluralism and independence of the media. The celebration of this day serves as a reminder to governments of the need to respect and commit to freedom of the media, but to also encourage journalists to reflect about issues of freedom of the press and professional ethics.
World Press Freedom Day is a day of support for media that are exposed to attempts for their termination or restricting their freedom of expression, but also a day of remembering journalists who have lost their lives during their work. This year, the theme of World Press Freedom Day is “Information is a public good”.
According to the latest report of Reporters Without Borders, North Macedonia advanced two places in the World Press Freedom Index in 2020 and with 31,67 points it found itself in the 90th place.
The part on our country states: “2020 was an extraordinary year for North Macedonia. Parliament was dissolved, a provisional government took over and then snap parliamentary elections had to be postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting state of emergency. The situation of the media worsened, senior government officials continued to threaten and insult media outlets, while cyber-harassment and verbal attacks against journalists increased on social media”.
In the past 12 years, CIVIL has worked on creating a media platform that is free, independent and open. The organization decided on such an endeavour in conditions of media darkness, when the regime turned journalists into microphone holders and the media into its propaganda and nationalist bulletin board. Media workers and human rights activists, as well as their families and loved ones, were under threat, blackmail and pressures, were beaten, persecuted and imprisoned. Many attacks have still not been cleared, as well as deaths during the 2006-2016 authoritarian regime.
“The achievements after the fall of the regime in the area of strengthening media freedom are evident, but accompanied with a series of weaknesses and challenges. The weaknesses and challenges are also a consequence of trends with a broader regional and global character, but not such a small part of them are also of a subjective nature” – is CIVIL’s position from last year, which is emphasized this year as well.
“At the global level, the coronavirus pandemic has caused tectonic shifts in the area of freedom of expression and information. The measures for dealing with the pandemic throughout the world have endangered human rights and freedoms, especially in parts of the world where they already were a serious challenge”, says CIVIL.
In parallel to the pandemic, infodemic spread with even greater speed. In recent period, based on the long-term monitoring, CIVIL has concluded multiple times and alerted the public that the infodemic has not bypassed North Macedonia. At the same time, fake news, disinformation and hate speech are a weapon in the propaganda of certain political parties and centers of the political and criminal underground, the purpose of which is to undermine the citizen’s trust in the health care system and in the institutions overall. The media play a major role in the distribution of these hybrid threats against democracy.
“The inciting speech on the social networks very often stems precisely from the media production of certain political, business and criminal structures in the country” – is stated in CIVIL’s reports and analyses – “The absence of an appropriate response by the relevant institutions encourages these centers to only reinforce their destructive actions. This endangers the public interest, and in particular endangers the professional media workers”.
In North Macedonia it has become a norm for pro-Russian politicians to attack activists, human rights defenders and journalists with inappropriate behaviour on the Internet, harassment and threats against lives. My case, as President of the human rights organization CIVIL, is no exception, but is certainly one of the most illustrative, is said in the announcement of Xhabir Deralla’s text for Heinrich Boll.
“CIVIL, as an organization and its staff, is often a target of such threats. Recently, we received a telephone call with a death threat to CIVIL’s office, with a visible phone number of the caller. My colleagues are called traitors, mercenaries, spies, xhabirs (whatever that may mean). People call for execution, public incineration, prison, public judgement and severe punishment for the members of our organization” – writes Deralla in the mentioned text.
CIVIL publishes daily reports and articles about various aspects of human rights, with a special emphasis on freedom of speech and media freedoms, as well as the fight against disinformation and hate speech.
CIVIL remains open for cooperation with all relevant media organizations and the media, with the aim to strengthen freedom of expression and information, which are a fundamental human rights, guaranteed by the Constitution, laws and international law.
translation: N. Cvetkovska