CPJ Blog

Press Freedom News and Views

Hopes dashed again for more press freedom in Macedonia

On June 21, Macedonian journalists, intellectuals, artists, and free thinkers breathed a sigh of relief. The U.N. special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, visited Skopje and held one of the most straightforward and honest press conferences on the state of freedom of the media we had seen in years. La Rue's fact-finding mission concluded that even though the Macedonian legal framework for media freedom is satisfactory, its politicized practice raises serious concerns. Here are some points the rapporteur highlighted:

  • The largest critical television channel, A1, was shut down in a nearly year-long process, with a siege by police followed by the arrest of the owners and finally the definitive closure of the channel in 2011 for tax fraud. Authorities refused a payment installment that would have allowed the media conglomerate and its journalists to resume their work.
  • In March, Nikola Mladenov, owner of the newspaper Fokus, one of the last critical printed media, died in an unexplained car accident. There remain many mysterious elements surrounding the accident: why hasn't his mobile phone been found, even though the investigation initially said his body had been located thanks to the phone signal? Why haven't investigators collected any evidence from the tolls that Mladenov passed that night; how come cameras at the toll point weren't working? The authorities continue to treat this as a banal car crash, raising more doubts among the public. Meanwhile, his daily paper Fokus disappeared with him, due to lack of funds. The weekly version will be printed again as of this week, thanks to the support of the Open Society Foundation. But for how long?
  • Investigative journalist Tomislav Kezarovski was arrested at the end of May for allegedly unveiling the identity of a protected witness in a criminal case dating from 2008, a witness that later turned out to be a false one, and not under protection at the time of publication. Kezarovski's temporary detention has been extended for 30 more days. The U.N. rapporteur on media freedom was prevented from visiting Kezarovski in prison.

Drawing on his own experience as a Guatemalan, La Rue explained how, in his country too, those who bring attention to violations of human rights are labeled as traitors of the state. For once all of us "traitors" felt understood and hoped that finally the Macedonian government would lend an ear, since it was the government who invited La Rue in the first place.

But that was too much to ask.

Less than a week after La Rue's departure, the pro-government media--and that's basically all of the mainstream media in Macedonia--staged an orchestrated attack on La Rue, on the basis of this article. For days, all we could hear about Frank La Rue was that he is "on George Soros's payroll." As odd as this might seem to a foreign audience, the Macedonian government has managed over the years to force on people the idea that the Hungarian billionaire is somehow related to the Macedonian opposition and that he, more or less secretly, encourages some kind of coup against the democratically elected government of Nikola Gruevski--even though a great number of members of the ruling party have in the past enjoyed Soros's money for various projects.

The obsession with this conspiracy became so big that pro-government media coined a term for journalists and NGOs that are critical of the government, "Sorosoids," regardless of whether that organization or journalist has ever received funds from the Open Society. It became a synonym for "traitor" in everyday language.

Frank La Rue has yet to write the report based on his findings. I am afraid that when he does, those conclusions will not be taken into account by the government or any of the media outlets aligned with it. Discredit has been thrown upon him and nothing he says or writes will make a difference where it should. Just as nothing we, the traitors, write makes any difference any longer.

What makes this even more tragic is that La Rue's openness was a first from an international organization. He focused solely on press freedom issues without any political agenda.

The European Union, in contrast, has been weak in conveying its message to the Macedonian authorities when it comes to press freedom. Everything is stained by Macedonia's dispute with Greece over the country's name. Brussels is so determined to solve that problem that diplomats and commissioners tend to minimize criticism in order to avoid losing leverage over the Macedonian prime minister.

But it wouldn't be fair to spare the Macedonian opposition from criticism. The Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) is in opposition for the seventh consecutive year, and shows no signs of shaking off its political apathy. The former president of the party, Branko Crvenkovski, who left office a few weeks ago, expressed regrets for not standing up more firmly in defense of A1 TV back in 2011. The opposition has watched press freedom and human rights degrade before their eyes. Is it because they are too consensual or too scared to take a stand? An imprisoned journalist and the mysterious death of the Macedonian pioneer of free speech, Nikola Mladenov, are not questions that can be taken lightly. Democracy, including free speech, must be the highest national interest.

All relevant players, at home and abroad, should sober up and stop this authoritarian drift before it's too late.

July 11, 2013 11:14 AM ET | | Comments (11)

Comments

Don't understand what this new emerged country is all about, it is made up of Albanians and bulgarian/serbians claiming a Macedonian name that never belonged to them actual name was (Paeonia, Vardaska Banovina) and all one hears are problems with their neighbours

The author of this piece is biased same as her previous employer A1.These former employees of A1 who claim luck of journalistic freedom in the Republic of Macedonia are the very same people who are paid by Soros to demonstrate against popular elected Prime Minister Gruevski.Lets be open about A1.The owner of A1 was not paying the taxes,he even invented other illegal businesses to avoid paying taxes.
As for Dief's comment,Greeks can't stand Macedonias success.Even though Macedonia got its freedom 22 years ago,has progressed much faster than Yunanista(Gaico).Republic of Macedonia is the rightful successor of its name.Just for the sake of truth,Dief,your country's existence became in 1829.Before this date there was never"Greece"in existence while Macedonia goes back centuries.

Mainly Bulgarians and Albanians reside in the new established country of Rep. of Macedonia. Under Yugoslavia the name of the state was Vardaska Banovina, which Tito renamed Macedonia with future designs to the Greek Region of Macedonia and access to the Aegean Sea.

The Bulgarians who now identify Macedonian and claim ancient ancestry and Greek land, the Greeks who are the rightful owners since antiquity of the Region are not about to oblige.


Macedonia has been part of Greece since antiquity. What is now Rep. of Macedonia was Paeonia in antiquity, Vardaska Banovina under the Yugoslavian rule. Tito changed the name to Macedonia for future occupation in the Greek Macedonian Region and its Agean Sea.

Majority settlers of Rep. of Mac. are Bulgarianslavs and Albanians. Bulgslavs identify Macedonian and claim owners of Greek Region, its history and heroes.


Greece has rejected such designs thus the static between Bulgarslavs and Greeks.

@Tatiana and Bogdan,you must be on another planet,only which one is the question!
At least Tito recognized the gallant fight the Macedonians did against the Nazis.Macedonians fought same occupiers in Greece and Bulgaria,but both these countries fought on the side of the Nazis.
To come back on your idiotic comments;Macedonia never belonged to Greece or Bulgaria in antiquity,in Roman and Ottoman Empires times.Had you had a better understanding of history(not politics)your comments would have been different,except if you are Greeks or Bulgarians.During the reign of Alexander the Great,there was no Bulgaria nor-Greece as a country,but Macedonian kingdom did exist.A City State does not mean a nation as in the case of modern Greece today.Greece became in existence in 1829.Macedonia was partitioned illegally in 1913,and before this date neither Greece nor Bulgaria set foot in Macedonia.Remember,Macedonia was under the Roman Empire for 1,000 years and 500 years under Ottoman Empire up until 1912-13.If you are telling the readers that the victors have been enslaved by the victims,then,this line of comments don't belong to you,you sound as an uneducated individuals.Have a nice day!

Dief,Tatiana and Bogdan,you people must be circling the earth on a comet.For the record from the historical perspective;When Macedonia became in existence neither Greece nor Bulgaria existed in antiquity.As for Greece's existence dates back to 1829.The modern Greek language was formed in 1856-58,and codified in 1936.Before this date the language used was Latin and Albanian.Now then,I question your intelligence by the following simple question;If Macedonia was Greek or Bulgarian,why in haven did both countrie agreed in 1913 to partition Macedonia illegally,and why did you agreed if Macedonia belonged to one or another?Second question is;why the Big Powers France and Prussia(Germany)allowed Macedonia to continue to be under the Ottoman Empire at the Berlin conference if it belonged to Bulgaria and or Greece?.I bet you have no balls to answer simple questions as these ones,as for Tatiana, has no guts! It reminds me what one of the US founding fathers John Adams said in 1783"The Greeks of this day,although they are said to have imagination and ingenuity,are corrupted in their morals to such a degree,as to be faithless,perfidious race,destitute of courage,as well as of those principle of honor and virtue,without which nations can have no confidence in one another,nor be trusted by others".NATO and EU made cardinal mistake by accepting Greece and Bulgaria into these clubs.They should have lessened to John Adams what he said in 1783.230 years later,they are still described in the same way,"corrupted in their morals to such a degree,as to be faithless,perfidious race,destitute of courage".

Peter,

Your history knowledge leaves much to be desired. Your theories are those of a communist era.

Macedonia with uncountable proofs is part of Greece since day One. The new ethnic Macedonian mentality was created by Bulgarians who settled on the Macedonian Region and Tito who renamed your state Macedonia from Vardaska Banovina for future claims on Historical Macedonian which is in Greece, and of course access to Aegean Sea.


Slavs came to the Macedonian REGION 1000 YEARS after Alexander the Great.

The language slavs call Macedonian is SerboBulgarian.

Tatiana,your knowledge of history does not reflect a second grader child.I did not think I will have to give you a history lesson,but here it is;338 BC the so called"Lamian War"alias"Hellenic War"speaks no less eloquent a language".In the Lamian War,the Hellens were fihgting against Macedonia.This war was known by its protagonists as "Hellenic War".One more time,E.Bledow brings the distinction between Macedonians and Hellens.Similar/parallel implications are evident from 337 BC, after the battle of Chaeronea between the Hellens and the Macedonians.The epitaph composed by Demosthenes for the common grave of the fallen Hellens at Chaeronea reads as follows;"Time whoes o'ercing eye records all human action,bear woed to mankind what fate was suffered,how striving to safeguard the holy soil of Hellas.Upon Boeotias plain we died."They were striving to safeguard the holy soil of Hellas from the attack of the Macedonians.Arrian tells us that as far as Greece is concerned"it had been enslaved by the Macedonians".
We also need to refresh our memories about Isocrates letter to Philip where Isocrates,makes clear that;"Philips ancestors understood that Greeks cannot submit to the rule of a monarch,which non-Greeks actually cannot live without such a regime"."People of non-kindred race"-was the term used by Isocrates to describe the Macedonians."Obviously,and with added emphasis,he is highlighting the distinction between the Macedonians and the Greeks".
Ancient Macedonians were not Greeks(in Badians words,paraphrasing)they did not consider themselves to be Greeks,nor were they so considered by the ancient Greeks.
Consider this as your first lesson,and if you still want to learn more about the true history,I will communicate to you history of the 18th,19th and 20th centuries.Read Bernal's book"Black Athena".

Peter


Please follow and learn what archaeological sites, museums, and universal history teachings tell us.

You Bringing in examples of who and what was said by past and present figures not legit proof.

Learn you are of slavic background with no connection to antiquity, your tribes came to the Balkans 1000 after Alexander the Great. You still maintain to date the slavic language, culture, folklore.

I agree with you Tatiana, Bulgarianslavs of Rep. of Macedonia aka Vardaska Banovina need to look into their true roots and abandon the Macedonian antique heritage. They have nothing to base their claims on, whereas the Greeks have every proof under the sun.

I Iagree also with Tatiana, true facts explained.


Text Size
A   A   A
Article Tools

   

Print Print

Share Share

Blog Authors
Full author list »

Recent Categories