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Violence against Macedonia's journalists must stop

Macedonian police stand guard near the parliament building in Skopje, Macedonia, 28 April 2017
Macedonian police stand guard near the parliament building in Skopje, Macedonia, 28 April 2017

REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski

This statement was originally published on europeanjournalists.org on 28 April 2017.

Following an ECPMF-EFJ-SEEMO-OBCT fact-finding mission to Macedonia, on 25th-28th April 2017, the four organisations issued this statement today, regarding rising violence against journalists in Macedonia:

We hereby express our deep concerns about the yesterday's violent attacks against journalists in the parliament of the Republic of Macedonia.

From the beginning of 2016 until yesterday at least 21 attacks against journalists in Macedonia have been registered by the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (ZNM), out of a total of several dozens within the last years. All this clearly demonstrates a rising trend in violence against journalists.

The state of media freedom in the country is very worrying. Attacks on journalists are a direct threat to democracy.

On invitation of ZNM and the Western Balkans Regional Platform for Advocating Media Freedom and Journalists Safety, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) conducted a fact-finding mission to Skopje from 25 to 28 April 2017. The delegation, including the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) and Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT) examined the increased violence against journalists in Macedonia and listened to their experiences.

During the mission the international delegation so far conducted a total of 13 interviews with 15 representatives of several media outlets, NGOs, the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services and the Media Ethics Council. Additionally the delegation met the Minister of the Interior, Mr Agim Nuhiu.

According to our findings among the main reasons for the increased violence are the following:

- The political climate, anti-media rhetoric and polarization lead to a highly unsafe environment for journalists.
- There is no political will to ensure conditions for free and independent journalism. State institutions and political stakeholders undertake no responsibility for the protection of journalists.
- The criminal and civil justice systems do not deal effectively with threats and violence against journalists. No implementation of media protection laws and no prosecution of the perpetrators make journalists an easy target.
- The signees of this statement condemn any aggression on journalists in Macedonia.

We want to strongly urge the political parties and all related bodies and authorities to prevent further attacks and ensure a safe environment for journalism and freedom of expression. We call on the judiciary and all responsible authorities to stop the ongoing impunity.

- Macedonian authorities must conduct swift and efficient investigations on any single case of attack on physical safety and integrity of journalists. Politicians should refrain from spreading hateful rhetoric that serves violence.
- International conventions protecting human rights and freedom of expression shall be respected.
- The coming ruling coalition and the opposition must comply with Macedonia's commitment to protect journalism and to guarantee internet freedom. Macedonian authorities must implement without any delay the recommendations of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on safety of journalists (Recommendation 2016-4) and on Internet freedom (Recommendation 2016-5), adopted on 13 April 2016. Following these standards, any kind of additional state regulation on media content is unacceptable.
- Macedonian authorities must consult for any coming reform in the media sector the legitimate national organisations promoting media freedom and independent journalism: the Council of Media Ethics of Macedonia (SEMM), the Association of Journalists (ZNM), the Trade Union of Journalists (SSNM).
- We also call on all journalists to take their role as watchdogs seriously. We encourage them to report and file complains if they are attacked, intimidated or harassed. They should stand in solidarity with their colleagues, cooperate and support each other.

We, as European media freedom and journalists organisations within the freedom of expression community, stand with our colleagues in Macedonia. We will further observe their situation and raise our voices to support them. There will be a full report on the fact-finding mission in May.

European Centre for Press & Media Freedom (ECPMF)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)

Skopje, 28 April 2017

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