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February 23 2014

February 19 2014

February 14 2014

A Visitor Describes How it Feels to be Mugged by Bulgarian Police

Central Bus Station Sofia. Photo by Nikola Gruev, published on Wikipedia under CC-BY license.

Central Bus Station in Sofia. Photo by Nikola Gruev, used under Creative Commons-BY license.

Political scientist and blogger Anastas Vangeli described his experience of extortion by Bulgarian policemen on his way from Macedonia to Poland, in a Facebook post. On February 9, 2014, two armed officers “detained” him at a secluded area of the main bus station in Sofia, until he gave them some money. In conclusion, he wrote:

This was probably one of the most disappointing experiences in my lifetime. What added to the disappointment, however, were the comments and the double victimization by people when I told them this happened:

  • I was asking for it since I look “like a foreigner” and rich
  • I was asking for it since I was bragging with my China books and looked rich
  • I was supposed to know and expect this kind of things
  • I was supposed to hold my grounds better, e.g. not let them take me to a room, not let them get my money
  • I am supposed not to complain, as this stuff happens every day and I am not special

These are all statements that not speak only of the reality of omnipresent corruption and abuse of office and power, but about the complete lack of empathy, or even consciousness that one day it might be you. Moreover, it is an indicator that people have given up the hope that things will change; but also the responsibility that they should contribute to such change. At the end of the day, the state holds the monopoly of the use of force; I was mugged by those who are supposed to protect me (even though I don’t have a Bulgarian passport – no pun intended). So all kinds of relativizing comments are completely out of place on this.

These reactions are consistent with one of the key characteristics of “backsliding from democracy,” exposed at the Seventh Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy, held in Lima, in October 2012:

“…corruption becomes so widespread that citizens accept is as a norm.”

People commenting (in various languages) on Vangeli's Facebook post about the incident reminisced that such a “toll for foreigners” was common Bulgarian police practice during the dismal 1990s – but that they had not expected its resurgence in this day and age. Some of the commenters related similar experiences from other countries, from Russia to Kenya. Activist Besim Nebiu wrote:

Notice how they immediately asked you if you have a flight to catch at the airport. That gave them the ‘upper hand’ in dealing with you. A friend of mine who lives in Kenya, once wrote a blog post, in which he describes how corrupt police have “opportunity cost” (8 hours shifts in which they try to maximize revenue). They usually avoid “difficult customers,” so any strategy of acting dumb and not too upset should work, after 15 minutes, they give up on you, and move to someone easier to deal with.

Special Winter uniform of Bulgarian Border Police. Source: Ministry of Interior.

Special Winter uniform of Bulgarian Border Police presented [bg] on the website of Ministry of Interior Affairs. According to the victim, the officers in question wore green and carried badges of common police (“Ohranitelna Politsiya”), which according to the Ministry wears dark blue uniforms.

Bulgarian blogger Komitata translated Vangeli's post within his post [bg] titled “They Protect Us and It's No Theater,” which includes opinions about the local context of wasted state resources on questionable police actions praised by the relevant minister:

Системата на МВР не е реформирана. Предното неслужебно правителство положи големи усилия, но поради липса на решителност и политическа воля, реформите останаха скромни и далеч не необратими.

The system of the Ministry of Internal Affairs is not reformed. The previous government invested great efforts, but due to lack of decisiveness and political will, the reforms remain modest and far from irreversible.

In his post, Komitata also referred to Twitter discussion [bg] in which Bulgarians ask whether the police have the right to search them at the bus station, and pointed to information on citizen rights during police searches [bg].

February 11 2014

Prisoners Lists Stir Informbiro Memories in Former Yugoslav Republics

The recent publishing of lists of prisoners of Goli Otok, victims of communist purges in Yugoslavia from 1949 to 1956, has reignited dormant debates and opened some old wounds, across all the former Yugoslav republics.

Goli Otok is a Croatian island that was used as a prison camp during the so-called “Informbiro era” – the post-World War II breakdown between the communist leaderships of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. For many Yugoslavs, “Tito's historical ‘No!’ to Stalin” was a source of pride, especially because it solidified their country's role as an intermediary between the Western and Eastern Bloc. The purges that were part of the clash officially included persecution of alleged “pro-Soviet communists”. According to the victims and dissidents of the time, this was often just an excuse by the country's power-mongers to get rid of anyone they disliked for any reason and, thus, people of many other political affiliations were sent to the notorious camp.

Prison area of Goli Otok. Photo by Wikipedia (CC BY-SA).

Abandoned prison area of Goli Otok. Photo by Wikipedia (CC BY-SA).

During the last two months of 2013, Croatian portal Novi Plamen (New Flame) published two lists compiled by UDBA (Yugoslav State Security Service) from the State Archive of Croatia – the list of the 413 people [hr] who died in the camps, and the list of all 16,101 prisoners [hr] who had served sentences there. The second link spread widely through social networks and then through news portals in all six former Yugoslav republics.

Scan of the second page of Goli Otok prisoner list, displaying names, birthdates and codes for municipality, ethnicity, type of crime, dates of start and end of emprisonment... Published by Novi Plamen.

Scan of the second page of Goli Otok prisoner list, displaying names, birthdates and codes for municipality, ethnicity, type of crime, dates of start and end of emprisonment… Published by Novi Plamen.

Slovenian right-wing blogger Pavel noted [si] that the publishing of the lists coincided with the recent December 9, 2013, death of Jovo Kapičić [sr], who had allegedly been the man in charge of Goli Otok. In an August 2013 interview, Kapičić, a Serb, claimed [sr] that the Serbs had made up the majority of prisoners at the camp.

Twitter user ‏@flusteredcooler from Montenegro commented on this issue as well and, while people from all of the former Yugoslav republics often claim that their nationals made up the majority of those sentenced to serve time at Goli Otok, he noticed:

Legend says that most of the population of Goli Otok consisted of Montenegrins? The lists show that it was Yugoslavia in a nutshell [representing everybody]

A senior Macedonian blogger, among the oldest members of the local blogosphere, and a World War II anti-fascist resistance veteran, Buv (“Owl”), posted an announcement [mk] by the Association of former Goli Otok prisoners, advising caution in relation to the lists and offering first-hand consultations to all interested parties:

Темата за “голооточаните“.“информбировците“затвореници што ја издржувале казната во логорот Голи Оток е дел од пошироката историска тема за конфликтот меѓу СССР и СФРЈ.Не може да се зборува за казнениците на Голи Оток,без да се разгледуваат во комлесот на историските збиднувања.

Независно од тоа колку биле свесни/идејно свесни/за својот однос кон конкретните настани,учесниците во збиднувањата,што подоцна се нашле на Голи Оток,се учесници во еден политички судир кој има исклучително историско значење,за нив,за нивната земја,за пошироките светски движења.

Ова отклонување го направивме за да обрниме внимание на оние лесно искажани карактеристики што се даваат по повод на објавените списоци за голооточаните/информбировците/ и во други прилики.Без да се има во вид поширокиот контекст на случувањата,може паушално да се кажува се и сешто.Важноста на историската проблематика бара сериозен пристап.

Здружението Голи Оток,меѓу другото,ја има и таа задача да ја објасни,документира,да ја покаже историската вистина за настаните во кои независно од нивната волја се нашле и овие страдалници,што така строго ги казнила историјата.

The topic of the “inhabitants of Goli Otok,” the “Informbiro prisoners” is part of a larger historical topic about the conflict between the [USSR] and the [SFRY]. One cannot talk about the Goli Otok prisoners without taking into account the complexity of historical events.

Regardless of how much they were aware or ideologically involved in these concrete events, the participants who were detained on Goli Otok were engulfed in a political clash with exceptional historical importance, for them personally, for their country and the wider world movement.

We publish this notice to draw attention to the reactions that have been published with great ease after the lists of prisoners were exposed, as well at other occasions. Without taking into consideration the wider context of events, anyone can say anything without arguments. The importance of the historical issues requires a very serious approach.

The Goli Otok Association has the mission to explain, document and disclose the historical truth about the events which unwittingly encompassed these sufferers, who were so severely punished by history.

Informbiro activities left deep trauma in the collective former Yugoslav memory, parts of which were artistically expressed through popular cult movies like When Father Was Away on Business (1985) by then young Bosnian/Serbian director Emir Kusturica, and Happy New Year '49 (1986) by Macedonian director Stole Popov.

December 30 2013

Nude Twitter Calendar Promotes Sex Education and Gender Equality in Macedonia

Avid Twitter user and freelance photojournalist Ivana Batev has joined forces with other Macedonian Twitter users for the second year in a row to create and publish a calendar that promotes sexual education and gender equality through nude subjects and interior design concepts.

After the successful first run in 2013, the 2014 charity calendar with artistic nude photos of Macedonian Twitter users, who volunteered their time and bodies, was launched on Sunday, December 29, 2013 in Skopje. While last year's edition promoted breast cancer awareness, the topic for this year's Twitter calendar is sex education with a secondary focus on interior design. The current edition also introduced a much wider diversity of models, including males, while last year's calendar featured a brave all female cast.

Macedonian Twitter Calendar 2014. Message for November: Gender equality is not a threat to the family.

Macedonian Twitter Calendar 2014, message for November: “Gender equality is not a threat to family.”

The driving force behind the 2014 calendar, Ivana Batev, known as @REF on Twitter, tweeted:

…Whoever thinks that to undress in Macedonia is not revolutionary doesn't live in the same society as me, and I envy them.

The tweet was also quoted by Kristofer Blomdahl from Sweden in his English-language post about the calendar. He wrote:

I agree with this and I think that this is the strongest statement we can send with the photographs today. Kudos for all the people who were audacious enough to undress before her.

Also, big thanks to HERA who provided sex education tips in 140 characters twitter format and to everyone who bought photographs. The money will be used to help marginalized communities in Macedonia.

Macedonian Twitter Calendar 2014, message for January: No always means No! Nakedness is not a substitute for consent.

Macedonian Twitter Calendar 2014, message for January: “No always means No! Nakedness is not a substitute for consent.”

Aside from the social change and awareness that the authors and participants of the calendar intend to raise, there is also a charitable aspect to this unique project. Namely, funds gathered from the sale of the hard copy calendars will be donated to people from marginalized communities in Macedonia.

The Twitter discussion around the hashtag #твитеркалендар (#Twittercalendar) included many positive reactions, from applauding the courage of its participants to praises of the characteristics of some of the models, who went by their Twitter handles or anonymously in some of the more revealing photos. The few nagging trolls that spoke up on Twitter were soon directly contradicted with tweets like this one by Macedonian Twitter user @ordanoskiv:

Instead of (unjustified) criticism of the Twitter calendar, you should aim your weapons at the kitsch on the Vardar Quay.

[Referring to the construction Skopje 2014 project which resulted in world media such AP and Spiegel deeming Skopje "capital of kitsch."]

According to local news aggregator Time.mk, some 40 online media in Macedonia reported on the calendar. However, only a few of them included links to the entire calendar and, even though it isn't labeled as pornographic, some of them labeled the articles and its images as “18+” material.

December 23 2013

DIY Galaksija Computer, Bedrock of Serbia's IT Industry, Turns 30

Voja Antonić and his colleague Jova Regasek putting together the Galaksija prototype in 1983. Public domain.

Voja Antonić and his colleague Jova Regasek putting together the Galaksija prototype in 1983. Public domain.

The Galaksija (Galaxy) computer, created by inventor and author Voja Antonić in 1983 with detailed instructions for anyone to put together a personal computer with standard parts, is nothing less than legendary in the former Yugoslavia. The DIY home computer may not have matched the quality or high-tech readiness of most brand name computing machines of the time, but it inspired a country and a generation to plunge deeper and farther into the IT industry that was just beginning to develop worldwide.

As legend would have it, in the summer of 1983, a young journalist with a flare for all things tech and scientific, Voja Antonić, was vacationing in Montenegro. At the time, importing computers and such machinery into Yugoslavia was close to impossible for the average citizen due to complicated customs laws and licenses. Such technology didn't come cheap in the 1980s either. A standard PC in 1983 cost about an average Yugoslav worker's monthly salary, which was among the highest in Europe at the time.

Cover of the January 1984 edition of

Cover of the January 1984 edition of “Računari u vašoj kući” magazine. Public domain.

Antonić plunged into some summer reading on the Montenegrin coast that year about a new brand-name computer that had just been released on the global market. As he looked at the schematic, he realized that most of the parts of standard PCs had become readily available at most hardware stores throughout the country. Within months, the young Antonić had put together a schematic for anyone who wanted to build a do-it-yourself computer. He then contacted a few manufacturers of such parts and partnered with them to create DIY packages with all the necessary parts that any ordinary consumer could order for and put together at home.

Initially, the team involved believed they could sell as much as several hundred of the Galaksija kits, a number they thought to be highly optimistic but possible. Antonić knew he would also have to publish the schematic in a place where wider audiences could see it, for those who didn't want to order the ready to build Galaksija kit, but would rather purchase the parts on their own. He teamed up with Dejan Ristanović, who was barely 20 years old at the time and putting together a magazine about the latest in PC technology, “Računari u vašoj kući” (“Computers in Your Home”). Together, Ristanović and Antonić released the full diagram and instructions for the Galaksija personal computer in the first January 1984 edition of the magazine, published in December of 1983. Within a year or so, over 8,000 Galaksija kits were sold in Yugoslavia, while the number of those who purchased parts on their own and used the schematic to build their custom Galaksija were never recorded. That same year, Galaksija computers were introduced into elementary schools throughout the country. The year was 1984.

A tech revolution was incited. Ristanović, Antonić and their team also used radio and television to promote the Galaksija and everything computer-related, teaching average users how to customize both their hardware and tweak code here and there. The video below is one of  Antonić's countless popular television appearances in which he sat down to explain some gaming basics to Galaksija and other PC users:

Thirty years later, Antonić is a world-renowned inventor, speaker and writer, while Ristanović is the editor-in-chief of one of the country's most popular geek magazines, PC Press, and co-founder of one of the first Internet providers in Serbia. Today, Serbia is known among those in the IT industry as a place of great potential and well-rounded developers and innovators, despite the recent decades of political, social and economic troubles. In a recent post, Eurogamer.net elaborated on how the Galaksija revolutionized the use of personal computers on several levels. Radio DJ Zoran Modli came upon the idea at the time to distribute software for the Galaksija and other similar machines – through the radio ether. As the Eurogamer.net article explains:

Like the ZX Spectrum and other computers of the time, programs were loaded onto the Galaksija from an audiocassette recorder. This gave Jova Regasek, the editor of Računari, an idea for a bold experiment. He got in touch with Zoran Modli, who hosted the show Ventilator 202 on Radio Belgrade. Modli's show was a mix of local bands and contemporary chart music, but he also had an interest in computers, and Regasek's idea was to broadcast the sound of a computer program that listeners could tape and then load up on their home machines. In effect, this was wireless downloading long before the days of wi-fi.

In the year of Galaksija's 30th anniversary, every school in Serbia is equipped with computers for students, the Internet penetration rate was close to 65 percent in 2012, and visitors are often surprised to find that wifi is readily available almost anywhere in every city and town in the country. Over one-third of the country's adult population uses the Internet daily, and the statistics are just as or more impressive for Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia, with Bosnia-Herzegovina lagging somewhat. With much to make up for after the turmoil of the last two decades and the global IT industry developing rapidly, the region has yet to catch up with some other high-tech markets. With the Galaxy to mark its past, many are confident that the region has a bright future ahead.

December 06 2013

#GVMeetup: Recreating the Virtual Global Voices World for Real Audiences

You've been reading their stories and have been following them on Twitter for years, but have you ever met the Global Voices authors and translators covering your countries?

This winter we launched our first official global in-person ‘meetups’ led and facilitated by Global Voices members, who live and know those local communities in six countries. 

And we are already half-way through!

They will be sharing their experiences of bringing the virtual Global Voices mission, energy and love to very real offline audiences in their countries.

In Karachi, Kampala, Cairo and Skopje dozens of participants have already met GV members who facilitated peer learning and knowledge sharing in the field of citizen media. And #GVMeetup facilitators are getting ready to woe audiences in Porto and Phnom Penh next!

More information on our Google + event page.

 

 

November 25 2013

Global Voices Meetup in Skopje, Macedonia

gv-meetup-logo-gvmeetup-400Global Voices in Macedonian is thrilled to invite you to a meeting of the members and supporters of the community, happening on Saturday, November 30, 2013 from 12:00 to 15:00 at the GEM Club in Skopje, Macedonia.

During the event, we'll introduce the possibilities for becoming part of the Global Voices community, but also the opportunities for micro-grants by Rising Voices. The event will be used to strengthen the Global Voices community in Macedonia, by mixing old and new members to define the future of the team together.

Some of the topics of the event are:

  • Why are we here and what we want to achieve?
  • Overview of the work that we do at Global Voices, including Rising Voices, Advox, and Lingua
  • How to improve the process of Rising Voices micro-grants
  • What can we do to strengthen Global Voices in our community

If you want to attend, and we know you do, please fill out the following form, so we have a better picture of the number of participants: http://0.mk/GVMeetup

Gvmk-meetup

See you on Saturday!

November 11 2013

Journalist Dubbed ‘Macedonian Assange’ Arrested in Serbia

Still image of Zoran Bozinovski from an interview with Croatian Nova TV.

Still image of Zoran Bozinovski from an interview with Croatian Nova TV.

Zoran Bozinovski, a journalist known as “the Macedonian Assange,” was arrested in Serbia on an Interpol arrest warrant on November 7. Bozinovski runs the Macedonian site Burevesnik.org, often referred to as the Macedonian WikiLeaks due to the fact that he and others have released documents there in the past that reveal foul play and corruption in Macedonian politics and business.

Another Macedonian journalist recently sentenced to prison for “revealing the identity of a protected witness,” Tomislav Kezarovski, was released earlier that same day to serve the remainder of his four-and-a-half-year sentence under house arrest.

Macedonian citizens and journalists on social media were surprised to hear of the arrest of another journalist on the very day that Kezarovski had been released into house arrest, with some ironically calling it “a trade off”, and others saying there was now an open witch hunt on Macedonian journalists. Comments on Twitter regarding Kezarovski's release and Bozinovski's arrest are mostly ironic, with many suspecting authorities knew this was coming.

Aco Lazarov from Macedonia asked:

There wasn't room in prison for Bozinovski so they let Kezarovski out?

— Ацо Лазаров (@AcoLazarov) November 8, 2013

Another Macedonian Twitter user, Jana, commented upon learning the news of Bozinovski's arrest:

I don't know why or how but this is a bad day for investigative journalism in Macedonia. Journalist Zoran Bozinovski arrested http://t.co/cKcPxUVXiz

— Јана (@PaliKukja) November 7, 2013

Bozinovski was arrested by Serbian authorities on charges of espionage, extortion and criminal conspiracy. He was easily located in one of the two apartments he had been renting in Novi Sad, Serbia, where he had living for the past several months. Police confiscated two computers and several yet unspecified documents from the apartment at the time of the arrest, and stated that Bozinovski will be held in a local jail until extradition to Macedonia, after the Macedonian government officially files for the extradition.

Some Serbian and Macedonian media are reporting [sr] that Bozinovski, also known as a conspiracy theorist who has dubbed himself “Crazy Milojko” on his own site and elsewhere online, is deeply involved in espionage, although no evidence has yet been put forth:

Osumnjičeni je deo kriminalne grupe koja je pre nekoliko meseci raskrinkana kada su pohapšeni visoki zvaničnici makedonske Vlade i zaposleni u bezbednosnim službama te zemlje pod optužbom da su špijunirali u korist Grčke. Prema informacijama iz istrage, oni su špijunirali za strane tajne službe, ali ucenjivali su i pojedince iz javnog života Makedonije. Takođe, pod kontrolom su imali i nekoliko medija, kao i određene internet stranice preko kojih su pretili da će objaviti poverljive sadržaje, što su i činili.

The suspect is a member of a criminal group that was cracked several months ago when high officials of the Macedonian government and employees of [national] security services were arrested and charged with spying for Greece. According to information obtained during the investigation, they spied for foreign secret services, but also blackmailed individuals from Macedonian public life. They also had several media under their control as well as certain Internet pages through which they threatened to publish confidential content, which they did.

These accusations seem to stem from Bozinovski publishing certain files and confidential information that he obtained regarding corruption and foul play within the Macedonian government and Macedonian organized crime, with which some sources claim Bozinovski and his associates are closely tied.

He has also been researching these ties and alleged manipulations in Macedonian politics, as well as the tragic death of Macedonian singer Tose Proeski, who was killed in a car accident at the age of 26 in 2007. Bozinovski began writing a book on this subject and, after being rejected by 32 publishers in the region, finally announced that he had found a publisher in Zagreb, Croatia willing to make his research public.

In the video below, Bozinovski gave an interview to Nova TV in May 2013, during which he listed several things that he found suspicious about the young singer's death, claiming he had evidence of how the then ruling politicians and media exploited Tose Proeski and continue to profit from the singer's legacy. Bozinovski also stated in this interview that he does not necessarily believe that the late musical prodigy is dead, citing that no real evidence of his death was ever provided. The book is planned to come out sometime in 2014.

Twitter user Parg0 from Skopje noted:

#божиновски [Bozinovski] may be crazy, but I don't think he's stupid. I expect http://t.co/gwxwK000J7 to begin putting out a lot of interesting documents.

— Parg0 (@parg0) November 8, 2013

Whatever the case regarding his upcoming book and work on Burevesnik.org, several media associations have condemned the arrest of Bozinovski, including the Journalists’ Association of Serbia (UNS). In an official statement on their website, they remind Serbian authorities that this arrest has also been publicly condemned by the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), as well as Central and Eastern Europe Media Organization (CEEMO), and they add:

УНС подсећа да је суд у Македонији недавно, без ваљаних правних разлога, осудио новинара дневника “Нова Македонија” Томислава Кежаровског на четири и по године затвора „због откривања идентитета једног сведока у случају нерасветљеног убиства“. [...]

УНС због тога тражи од Министарства правде Србије да приликом одлучивања о изручивању Зорана Божиновског држави која спорним пресудама осуђује новинаре и тражи њихово хапшење, буде посебно обазриво и испита све околности од значаја за заштиту професионалних права интереса новинара.

The UNS [Journalists' Association of Serbia] reminds that a court in Macedonia recently, without valid legal reason, convicted journalist from the daily “Nova Makedonija” Tomislav Kezarovski to four and a half years in prison “for revealing the identity of a protected witness in an uncleared murder”. [...]

Due to this, UNS requests of the Ministry of Justice of Serbia that, during their deliberation concerning the extradition of Zoran Bozinovski to a country that convicts journalists under debatable rulings and requests their arrest, they be particularly wary and look into all circumstances relevant to the protection of professional rights and interests of journalists.

While there are reports that the extradition process has been started [mk], it is now unclear whether Bozinovski has obtained Serbian citizenship during his stay in Serbia and, if so, whether the extradition process to Macedonia will be able to be carried out. When asked by Macedonian media, the Macedonian Ministry of Interior could neither deny nor confirm whether Bozinovski was also a Serbian national at this time.

Curiously, Bozinovski posted this photograph of himself in handcuffs on his Facebook profile on October 11, 2013, adding the note:

fotografijata e od edno minato vreme. taka beše, dali pak ke bide – ke vidime!?

The photograph is from a past time. So it was, whether it will be so [again]- we shall see!?

November 10 2013

Journalist Dubbed ‘Macedonian Assange’ Arrested in Serbia

Zoran Bozinovski, a journalist known as “the Macedonian Assange”, was arrested in Serbia on an Interpol arrest warrant on November 7, 2013. Bozinovski runs the Macedonian site Burevesnik.org, often referred to as the Macedonian WikiLeaks due to the fact that he and others have released documents there in the past that reveal foul play and corruption in Macedonian politics and business.

Still image of Zoran Bozinovski from an interview with Croatian Nova TV.

Still image of Zoran Bozinovski from an interview with Croatian Nova TV.

Another Macedonian journalist recently sentenced to prison for “revealing the identity of a protected witness”, Tomislav Kezarovski, was released earlier that same day to serve the remainder of his four-and-a-half-year sentence under house arrest.

Macedonian citizens and journalists on social media were surprised to hear of the arrest of another journalist on the very day that Kezarovski had been released into house arrest, with some ironically calling it “a trade off”, and others saying there was now an open witch hunt on Macedonian journalists. Comments on Twitter regarding Kezarovski's release and Bozinovski's arrest are mostly ironic, with many suspecting authorities knew this was coming.

Aco Lazarov from Macedonia asked:

There wasn't room in prison for Bozinovski so they let Kezarovski out?

— Ацо Лазаров (@AcoLazarov) November 8, 2013

Another Macedonian Twitter user, Jana, commented upon learning the news of Bozinovski's arrest:

I don't know why or how but this is a bad day for investigative journalism in Macedonia. Journalist Zoran Bozinovski arrested http://t.co/cKcPxUVXiz

— Јана (@PaliKukja) November 7, 2013

Bozinovski was arrested by Serbian authorities on charges of espionage, extortion and criminal conspiracy. He was easily located in one of the two apartments he had been renting in Novi Sad, Serbia, where he had living for the past several months. Police confiscated two computers and several yet unspecified documents from the apartment at the time of the arrest, and stated that Bozinovski will be held in a local jail until extradition to Macedonia, after the Macedonian government officially files for the extradition.

Some Serbian and Macedonian media are reporting [sr] that Bozinovski, also known as a conspiracy theorist who has dubbed himself “Crazy Milojko” on his own site and elsewhere online, is deeply involved in espionage, although no evidence has yet been put forth:

Osumnjičeni je deo kriminalne grupe koja je pre nekoliko meseci raskrinkana kada su pohapšeni visoki zvaničnici makedonske Vlade i zaposleni u bezbednosnim službama te zemlje pod optužbom da su špijunirali u korist Grčke. Prema informacijama iz istrage, oni su špijunirali za strane tajne službe, ali ucenjivali su i pojedince iz javnog života Makedonije. Takođe, pod kontrolom su imali i nekoliko medija, kao i određene internet stranice preko kojih su pretili da će objaviti poverljive sadržaje, što su i činili.

The suspect is a member of a criminal group that was cracked several months ago when high officials of the Macedonian government and employees of [national] security services were arrested and charged with spying for Greece. According to information obtained during the investigation, they spied for foreign secret services, but also blackmailed individuals from Macedonian public life. They also had several media under their control as well as certain Internet pages through which they threatened to publish confidential content, which they did.

These accusations seem to stem from Bozinovski publishing certain files and confidential information that he obtained regarding corruption and foul play within the Macedonian government and Macedonian organized crime, which Bozinovsski and some of his associates claim are closely tied.

He has also been researching these ties and alleged manipulations in Macedonian politics, as well as the tragic death of Macedonian singer Tose Proeski, who died in a car accident at the age of 26 in 2007. Bozinovski began writing a book on this subject and, after being rejected by 32 publishers in the region, finally announced that he had found a publisher in Zagreb, Croatia willing to make his research public.

In the video below, Bozinovski gave an interview to Nova TV in May 2013, during which he listed several things that he found suspicious about the young singer's death, claiming he had evidence of how the then ruling politicians and media exploited Tose Proeski and continue to profit from the singer's legacy. Bozinovski also stated in this interview that he does not necessarily believe that the late musical prodigy is dead, citing that no real evidence of his death was ever provided. The book is planned to come out sometime in 2014.

Twitter user Parg0 from Skopje noted:

#божиновски [Bozinovski] may be crazy, but I don't think he's stupid. I expect http://t.co/gwxwK000J7 to begin putting out a lot of interesting documents.

— Parg0 (@parg0) November 8, 2013

Whatever the case regarding his upcoming book and work on Burevesnik.org, several media associations have condemned the arrest of Bozinovski, including the Journalists’ Association of Serbia (UNS). In an official statement on their website, they remind Serbian authorities that this arrest has also been publicly condemned by the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), as well as Central and Eastern Europe Media Organization (CEEMO), and they add:

УНС подсећа да је суд у Македонији недавно, без ваљаних правних разлога, осудио новинара дневника “Нова Македонија” Томислава Кежаровског на четири и по године затвора „због откривања идентитета једног сведока у случају нерасветљеног убиства“. [...]

УНС због тога тражи од Министарства правде Србије да приликом одлучивања о изручивању Зорана Божиновског држави која спорним пресудама осуђује новинаре и тражи њихово хапшење, буде посебно обазриво и испита све околности од значаја за заштиту професионалних права интереса новинара.

The UNS [Journalists' Association of Serbia] reminds that a court in Macedonia recently, without valid legal reason, convicted journalist from the daily “Nova Makedonija” Tomislav Kezarovski to four and a half years in prison “for revealing the identity of a protected witness in an uncleared murder”. [...]

Due to this, UNS requests of the Ministry of Justice of Serbia that, during their deliberation concerning the extradition of Zoran Bozinovski to a country that convicts journalists under debatable rulings and requests their arrest, they be particularly wary and look into all circumstances relevant to the protection of professional rights and interests of journalists.

While there are reports that the extradition process has been started [mk], it is now unclear whether Bozinovski has obtained Serbian citizenship during his stay in Serbia and, if so, whether the extradition process to Macedonia will be able to be carried out. When asked by Macedonian media, the Macedonian Ministry of Interior could neither deny nor confirm whether Bozinovski was also a Serbian national at this time.

Curiously, Bozinovski posted this photograph of himself in handcuffs on his Facebook profile on October 11, 2013, adding the note:

fotografijata e od edno minato vreme. taka beše, dali pak ke bide – ke vidime!?

The photograph is from a past time. So it was, whether it will be so [again]- we shall see!?

October 31 2013

Meetup with Global Voices!

gv-logo-below-square-144You may feel as if Global Voices community members are already longtime friends after being a regular reader of their posts and translations highlighting the online conversation in their countries. Perhaps you may also follow them on Twitter or are familiar with their digital projects and activities. Certainly these virtual connections can help make the world feel like a smaller place, but there is still something elemental about offline interactions that can only help strengthen these online bonds.

Throughout the months of November and December, we are organizing six global in-person ‘meetups’ led and facilitated by Global Voices members, who live and know those local communities.

However, these gatherings are much more than networking social events. They are opportunities for knowledge sharing, skills building, and future collaboration among peers who share similar missions.

Perhaps you have an idea for a citizen media outreach project and you want to find potential partners. Or you may want to learn new strategies for digital storytelling for a global audience. You can also learn more about Global Voices’ work and how to become a volunteer. These and much more may be a part of the half-day program.

The six cities for this first round of meet ups are:

Karachi, Pakistan – November 1, 2013
Cairo, Egypt – November 16, 2013
Kampala, Uganda – November 16, 2013
Skopje, Macedonia – November 30, 2013
Porto, Portugal – December 14, 2013
Phonm Penh, Cambodia – To be announced

These meetups are free to attend, but RSVPs are required. With each meetup, we will publish a post, as well as a Facebook Event invite with more details on how to sign up and the proposed agenda. This post will also be updated with these details. Special invitations will also be sent to previous applicants from our Rising Voices microgrant competitions, many of which come from these cities.

We're also launching a hashtag – #GVMeetup to follow along even if you one of these meetups are not scheduled for your city.

These six meetups are part of a pilot project to explore ways that our vast Global Voices community in all corners of the world can help facilitate peer learning and exchange among readers and other individuals and organizations in the field of citizen media. We hope to build upon this experience for more meetups in 2014!

In the meantime, for more information please write to rising [at] globalvoicesonline [dot] org

October 28 2013

Serbia: Jovanka Broz, Widow of Tito, Dies Isolated and Forgotten

She was a revolutionary, a commended war veteran, a style icon and first lady to the leader of the only socialist country in the world that refused to be a Soviet satellite. Jovanka Broz (nee Budisavljević), widow of Marshall Josip Broz Tito, passed away in Belgrade [en] on October 20, 2013. On Saturday, October 23, Jovanka Broz was honored with a state funeral in Serbia's capital and buried in the mausoleum known as “The House of Flowers” [en] next to her husband, a full 33 years after his death.

President Josip Broz Tito and Mrs. Broz, President Richard Nixon and Mrs. Nixon overlooking arrival ceremony on the South Lawn from the South Balcony of the White House; photo form the  White House Photo Office Collection, public domain.

President Josip Broz Tito and Mrs. Broz, President Richard Nixon and Mrs. Nixon overlooking arrival ceremony on the South Lawn from the South Balcony of the White House; photo form the White House Photo Office Collection, public domain.

Jovanka Broz spent a lifetime being loved, hated, praised and criticized by many. Few and far apart are those who had no opinion of her at all. Born into a family of humble means in Lika (Croatia), she joined the revolutionary partisan forces at the age of 17 and soon became one of Tito's secretaries. Their whirlwind romance began sometime during the Second World War and they were married in 1952, when she was 28 and Tito 60.

Although 30 years her powerful husband's junior, Jovanka was decisive, opinionated and had tremendous influence over her husband at times. Those who met her through diplomatic and political circles claim that she was a highly intelligent woman of elegant poise. There were also those in Yugoslavia and, more recently Serbia, who criticized her spending habits, along with her husband's, who was a well-known hedonist of expensive taste. The video below shows Tito and Jovanka Broz at the height of his power in 1971, during a state visit to US President Richard Nixon.

Jovanka enjoyed a jet-set lifestyle while she was first lady of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia, but lived the last 30 years of her life as a recluse in Belgrade in poverty, never inheriting any part of her late husband's estate or receiving much from the state. Reports began emerging in 2005 on blogs and later in media about the conditions in which the former first lady was living in – with no heat, a leaking roof, doors that wouldn't lock, in an old house in the once high-end Belgrade neighborhood of Dedinje that was, essentially, falling apart. Since her death, the blog Bašta Balkana quoted [sr] one of these reports from 2005, when they visited Jovanka, describing the poor state of the house she was living in and a conversation with Jovanka's sister, Nada. The reporter asked:

- Živi li vaša sestra ovde potpuno sama i bez grejanja?! Kako je moguće da se nadležni godinama oglušuju da joj stvore elementarne uslove za život?!

- U ovoj ledari, moja sestra živi sama i to godinama traje – odgovara Nada. – Ponekad ostane i bez struje, nekad se prekinu telefonske veze, plafon prokišnjava. Ali nije samo ona ugrožena. Njenu sudbinu dele i njene komšije. I oni su danima bez grejanja.

- Does your sister really live here all alone and without heating?! How is it possible that the [institutions] responsible for this are ignoring to provide basic living conditions for her?!

- In this icebox, my sister lives alone and it has been like this for years – Nada responds. – Sometimes she is left without electricity too, sometimes the telephone lines go out, the ceiling leaks. But she is not the only one at risk. Her neighbors share this fate with her. They are also left without heating for days.

The government then reacted fairly quickly after these reports and some assistance and reparations were provided for Jovanka and her neighbors occasionally over the next few years. Jovanka remained as far from the the public eye as she could, although media interest had been raised. In the months prior to her death, knowing that her health was rapidly declining, the former first lady of Yugoslavia decided to publish her memoirs, as recorder by author Žarko Jokanović. The book, titled “My Life, My Truth”, was released just three weeks before she died [sr] and is being sold at newsstands at the price of 449 dinars (4 euro or 5.50 US dollars).

Blogger David Bailey, a British expat living in the Balkans, quoted what Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dačić said at Jovanka Broz's state funeral on Saturday, wondering whether the PM's words were hollow or heartfelt:

The absence of a religious funeral service was the wish of Jovanka and her family.

Serbia’s Prime Minister Ivica Dacic led the tributes at the funeral ceremony, saying: “Today marks the departure of the last icon of the former Yugoslavia.” He said it was time to admit that the treatment she received after the death of her husband was a “sin”.

On social networks these days, there is no majority opinion on who or what Jovanka Broz was. Some say she was “an icon” [photos], “a heroine”, others call her “a leech” and “a fake”, while a few simply lament the country's disregard for its own history and its neglect of Jovanka Broz in recent decades. There are very few in-betweens and no particular hashtags to follow, but people are visibly talking about her passing which, in many ways, gives closure to an era that ended 30 years ago. Whatever their opinion or political affiliation, many social media users posted “Bella Ciao”, an Italian song often sung by the partisans of Italy and Yugoslavia before and during WWII, made popular by Giovanna Dafinni in the early 60′s and often tied to Jovanka Broz. Tetka, a popular Serbian portal, wrote in a post titled “Bella Ciao – The Song That Saw Jovanka Broz Off”:

A možda nam je ovim taktovima na svom poslednjem ispraćaju poslala poruku o ujedinjenju, ideji koja je sve nas na prostorima bivše zemlje razjedinila do krvavih ratova jer ova pesma u Italiji i jeste postala popularna kao pesma u kojoj je ujedinjena jedna ideja.[...]

Koliko je ova pesma popularna i danas kao himna pobune, dočaraće vam podatak da su ove godine u Turskoj, buneći se zbog planova da se na mestu poslednjih “zelenih pluća grada” u Istanbulu grad tržni centar, mladi koji su protestovali protov ove odluke premijera Erdogana pevali ovu pesmu.[...]

Jovanke Broz srpska javnost se setila tek kada je dospela u bolnicu i to onda kada više nije sama mogla da donosi odluke. Dok je mogla, odbijala je lečenje kao da je jedva čekala da ode sa ovog sveta, iz društva koje ju je stavilo u izlolaciju i zaboravilo je.

Or perhaps in her last farewell she sent us a message about uniting through these beats, an idea that divided all of us on the territory of this former country through bloody wars, because this song became popular in Italy as the song that unites one idea.[...]

A fact from this year from Turkey will demonstrate the popularity of this song as a revolutionary anthem, where young protesters, rising up against the building of a shopping center in the place of the last “green lungs of the city”, sang this song as they protested this decision by Prime Minister Erdogan.[...]

The Serbian public only remembered Jovanka Broz when she ended up in hospital and even this was when she could no longer make her own decisions. While she could, she refused treatment, as if she could hardly wait to leave this world, this society that put her in isolation and forgot her.

October 23 2013

Macedonia Sends Investigative Journalist to Prison for Reporting on Local Murder

A criminal court in Macedonia's capital city of Skopje found journalist Tomislav Kezarovski guilty for allegedly revealing the name of a protected witness in a high profile murder case from 2005, and sentenced him to four and a half years in prison. Journalists and media workers in Macedonia and other countries are condemning the sentence, handed down on October 21, 2013.

“Freedom for Kezarovski”, a frequent image that has been circulating the Macedonian Web and social networks recently.

Kezarovski, a well-known investigative reporter, was arrested in May 2013 for a story he wrote five years ago – about the murder of 57-year-old Lazar Milosevski in the village of Orese near Veles – for a publication that no longer exists. Coincidentally, in February 2013 and before Kezarovski's arrest, a “protected” witness in that case came forward to claim that he had falsely testified against the defendants in the Orese case because he had been threatened by the police.

In the months prior to his arrest, Kezarovski had also been investigating an unrelated case – the death of Nikola Mladenov, who was the publisher and editor of an independent media outlet – and had brought to light certain discrepancies in what officials had labeled as a “classic traffic accident” in which Mladenov was killed.

The official reason for Kezarovski's arrest in May and sentence in October, however, is endangering a protected witness and, thus, helping in overturning the convictions of the men sentenced for the Orese murder. As Balkan Insight reveals:

Two brothers, Ordan and Ljupco Gjorgievski, were charged as perpetrators while Gjorge Petrovski, who was extradited from the United States, was charged with ordering the murder.

But in a spectacular twist in February this year, a former protected witness, Zlatko Arsovski, admitted falsely testifying against the defendants, saying he did so after threats from the police.

The sensational admission resulted in the release of the defendants who had claimed all along that a police inspector had framed them out of revenge.

The prosecution in Kezarovski’s trial claimed that the publication of Kezarovski’s article allowed the murder trial defendants to find out who the protected witness was and influence him to change his testimony.

OSCE Media Freedom representative Dunja Mijatović has made several statements since Kezarovski's arrest in May expressing concern that the case will lead to more stifling of media in Macedonia and the region. Upon hearing the sentence Kezarovski received, Mijatović reiterated her concern in an official OSCE statement:

Today’s verdict has serious consequences for free expression and media freedom. Criminal prosecution of reporters for their journalistic activities violates the fundamental human right to free expression and the country’s OSCE commitments to develop and protect free media.

Social networks have been overwhelmed since the reading of Kezarovski's sentence with outrage and concern, coming mostly from Macedonian journalists and their colleagues from other countries. Twitter user @MoPkoB4E, a Macedonian living abroad, said:

Elena Stavrevska also commented on Twitter:

No, no need to choose political affiliation for the sentencing of #Кежаровски to have a direct impact on you. There is no yours and ours on this one!

— Елена (@EStavrevska) October 21, 2013

Twitter user @sheretoto added:

The sentence for #кежаровски [#kezarovski] is shameful for the justice system, for the state and above all for all of us. I feel defeated and so empty today. I'm going to throw up

— x→∞ t=0 (@sheretoto) October 21, 2013

Aleksandar Sazdovski was among the many media workers who could not hide his disgust, reminding everyone of the 2012 tragedy in which Miodrag Jovanovic, mayor of small town Staro Nagoricane near the Serbian border, hit and killed a man [mk] with his car, then fled the scene. Jovanovic was never detained for this incident or charged with anything and later was named CEO of a government-owned company.

Justice in Macedonia: mayor kills a man with his car and becomes a CEO. A journalist writes and gets four and a half years in prison. #Кежаровски

— Aleksandar Sazdovski (@sazspasm) October 21, 2013

Journalists and watchdog organizations around the world were also deeply concerned with the entire case from beginning to end and are protesting the disproportionate sentence online. On the day of sentencing, EU Commissioner for Enlargement Štefan Füle also tweeted from his official account:

Tomislav Kezarovski has not officially begun to serve his sentence, but he has been refused release by the Skopje court and will remain in detention until his sentence begins. This case, however, seems to be far from over, and online Macedonian journalists are calling for protests in Skopje to demand his release.

October 16 2013

Bosnia-Herzegovina's World Cup Qualifying Win Unites Region in Celebration

Fans celebrated the historic win on the streets of Sarajevo throughout the night; image courtesy of Bosnia-Herzegovina national team's

Fans celebrated the historic win on the streets of Sarajevo throughout the night. Image courtesy of Bosnia-Herzegovina national team's “Zmajevi” Facebook fan page, used with permission.

Some 12 hours after Bosnia-Herzegovina secured its direct qualification to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Bosnians are still celebrating this historic moment. Social networks are flooded with comments of joy from Bosnians and support from other nations.

Last night and today, October 16, 2013, no one can tell by looking at social networks and regional news sites that Bosnia still has a very troubled political life, or that the EU is threatening the small Balkan country with sanctions. The only topic on people's minds and timelines is that of Bosnia-Herzegovina's 1-0 win over Lithuania in the World Cup qualifiers. Even the official Twitter account of the OSCE Mission to Bosnia-Herzegovina dropped all other matters last night to announce the team's win:

All across Bosnia-Herzegovina, fans are emotional about their countries historical placement in the largest sporting event in the world. Twitter user @samrich_ from Sarajevo says:

My dad is crying, [I swear] on my life. #BosnaiHercegovina #Brazil #BiH #Bosnia #Football

— Morning star (@samrich_) October 15, 2013

This win came, almost “miraculously” as some on social networks put it, on the Kurban Bayrami religious holiday widely celebrated in Bosnia-Herzegovina, also known throughout the Muslim world as the feast of sacrifice. Some social media users gave the traditional Bayrami holiday greeting used to commemorate the end of Bayram and Hajj “Bayram Sherif Mubarek Olsun” (“May the holy Bayram be blessed”) a World Cup twist, and no one seemed to take offense. On the contrary, tweets like this one from Nikola Bajčetić from Montenegro were greeted with humor and good spirits:

BRAZIL SHERIF MUBAREK OLSUN ! :))) Many congratulations #BiH ! #fudbal

— Nikola Bajcetic (@Nikola_MNE) October 15, 2013

The match seems to have brought the entire troubled region together, as Serbian, Croatian and Montenegrin fans congratulated Bosnia-Herzegovina and celebrated the win with them online. After last night's 2-0 loss to Scotland, Croatia still has a slim chance of qualifying in the playoffs. Serbia, however, lost any chance of making it through to the World Cup several months ago after possibly one of the worst qualifying campaigns in its sporting history. But Serbia beat Macedonia 5-1 on October 15, 2013, thus sinking any dreams Macedonians may have had of reaching Brazil next summer. Fans from all three countries, amid their own losses, joined in celebrating Bosnia-Herzegovina's unique win. Nikola Radović from Montenegro joined in by saying:

While I'm losing my voice at Podgorica stadium for #CrnaGora [#Montenegro], I'm getting word that #BiH is off to Brazil. I'll root for them. Bravo Bosnia!

— Nikola Radovic (@NowitzkiCt) October 15, 2013

Bosnia-Herzegovina's national football team now faces the likes of England, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and other top teams in Brazil next year and has an unlikely chance of getting very far in the competition. However, many say that further results for Bosnia at the World Cup are now irrelevant, as this is the country's first time to qualify as an independent nation, a historic moment worth more than any title. The video below shows what Sarajevo looked like throughout the night as people took to the streets to celebrate:

August 29 2013

A Historian's Pessimistic Farewell to Macedonia

Historian, analyst and blogger Harald Schenker, who has lived in Macedonia since 1999 and is now moving to Switzerland, created social network buzz with his farewell post, addressed to a “failing Macedonia”, in which he provides a diagnosis for the country's demise and a plea for rebuilding Macedonian society. The article now has over 900 likes on Facebook and has been shared on Twitter over 80 times.

(more…)

August 06 2013

Macedonians Protest Clearing of Trees in Skopje

As workers began cutting down trees over the first weekend in August in downtown Skopje Bristol Park to clear a portion of the land for the construction of the Macedonian National Broadcast Council's new baroque-style building, citizens of Macedonia's capital gathered to protest. Like in nearby Turkey and Serbia, the protest that seemed to revolve around a few trees brought up other legislative and political questions in the country.

Skopje authorities secured a perimeter of some 300 meters around the site that cars were not allowed to pass as workmen armed with saws began to do their work on Saturday, August 3, 2013, due to previous alerts and smaller protests by activists. While some protesters managed to gather in the park, citizens living nearby were reportedly not allowed to leave their buildings, which authorities explained was a sort of safety precaution.

An article in Libertas, titled “About the Massacre at Bristol” describes the details and includes pictures of the morning in question, as well as specifically points out some of the alleged illegalities of the act. Author Nicholas Naumoski lists:

Пристапот со кола беше забранет во радиус од 300 метри.

Луѓе што сакале да се приклучат на протестот одејќи низ Градски Sид биле запрени од полицијата и задржувани со потреба од претрес. На крајот не ги пуштиле да поминат.

Ниту полицајците ниту дрвосечачите немаа никаков документ (наредба, овластување или решение) за сечење на дрвјата. Наспроти тоа, Советот на Општина Центар на првата своја седница ја прифати иницијативата на Плоштад Слобода за зачувување на парковите околу Бристол со што се искажа политичка волја за нивно опстојување и обновување. Прикажаниот документ со печатот на општината и потписот на Градоначалникот и Претседателот на Советот не му значеше ништо на командирот затоа што тој примил „усна“ наредба.

Access to cars was not allowed in a radius of 300 meters.

People who wanted to join the protest by way of the City Wall were stopped by police and detained for searches. In the end they were released.

Neither the police nor the loggers had any documents (work orders, permission or resolution) for the cutting of the trees. In contrast, the Council for the Center Municipality, during its first session, accepted Freedom Square's initiative to preserve the parks around Bristol, expressing political will for their survival and recovery. The provided document which included the seal of the municipality and signature of the Mayor and President of the Council did not mean anything to the [police] commander because he received “verbal” orders.

The next day on Sunday, netizens took to social networks to organize further protests at Bristol and report [mk] on the gathering of protesters at the site.

Trees being cut down at the park in Skopje; photo by @blagdusha on Twitter, used with permission.

Trees being cut down at the park in Skopje; photo by @blagdusha on Twitter, used with permission.

Although the protests were much smaller than expected, many Macedonians on social media sites have compared them to Taksim Square and Gezi Park. Twitter user Gotze wrote:

#Bristol is far from Taksim, and we from Turkish protesters… on the day when there should have been the largest response barely 250-300 people showed up…

— Gotze (@Gordiev_jazol) August 4, 2013

The protest brought together some 300 people, while police barricades were set up around the location again. Macedonian Plus Info site provides a photo gallery [mk] of the barricades and protests from Sunday, while Libertas provides photos and video [mk] of the initial cutting at four a.m., strangely, on the night between Saturday and Sunday, calling the midnight act “cowardly”. Some social media users noted that the protests were indeed peaceful, that there was little police presence at the protest site itself and that police forces present mostly remained on the sidelines [mk].

The park at Bristol is seen by Skopje citizens as one of the favorite landmarks of the city's center. Although some were disappointed by the low turnout on a Sunday protest, many are saying that this is the beginning of something bigger as Macedonians seem fed up of such arbitrary decisions by government institutions. The trees in the park, however, have been cleared and construction of the new National Broadcasting Council building is now underway.

Construction site where the trees at Bristol Park used to stand; photo by @blagdusha on Twitter, used with permission.

Construction site where the trees at Bristol Park used to stand; photo by @blagdusha on Twitter, used with permission.

July 30 2013

Macedonia: Ohrid's Hidden Medieval Masks

A traveling blogger and communications specialist in the tourism industry, Tricia A. Mitchell, tells of her curious find in Macedonia's UNESCO registered Ohrid old town.

(more…)

July 01 2013

Roberto Beličanec, Macedonian Media Expert and Vocal Activist, Dies

Macedonian media expert, activist and blogger Roberto Beličanec died of heart attack [mk] on June 29, 2013 at the age of 41.

Beličanec was one of the few remaining publicly vocal proponents of liberty and human rights in the country, daring to speak the truth to power [mk]. He had a large social media following as a result of his courage to openly speak against the misuse of power, against corruption, censorship, and hate speech (which he deemed “verbal violence”), combining his wast expertise with wit and kindness.

After a distinguished career in journalism, including working for Fokus weekly in the 1990s, Beličanec served as a media expert and was instrumental in implementing the inclusive process for enacting the 2005 Broadcasting Law. As an activist, he was a founding member of Citizens for European Macedonia.

"Silence is not a solution" - Roberto Beličanec, 1972-2013. Photo shared as meme.

“Silence is not a solution” – Roberto Beličanec, 1972-2013. Photo shared as meme.

In the last several months, as director of the Media Development Center, Beličanec was engaged in a strenuous [mk] struggle against the new all-encompassing Media Law, intended to provide a legal means for total control over freedom of expression in Macedonia. His latest expert contribution was within an analysis of this draft law (pdf).

As a reaction to this draft law, Beličanec recently moved his blog “This is not America” from a domestic to foreign platform. His final blog post [mk] condemned a recent instance of endemic homophobic violence, a night stoning attack on the home of the family of actor & human rights activist Petar Stojkovikj who publicly announced his homosexuality, drawing parallels to 1930s Nazi pogroms. In his last Facebook post [mk], referring to propaganda intended to soften the perceptions of stalled international integrations of Macedonia, he asked:

И сега? Како? Уште 7 години ќе се занимаваме со вуду економија и вуду политика?

And now what? How? Shall we spend seven more years on voodoo economics and voodoo politics?

Fellow bloggers [mk, mk], journalists and other social media users posted mementos to Beličanec, also publishing his links or quotes as Facebook statuses, and expressed outrage at several (quickly removed) gloating comments [mk]. One often shared quote included an excerpt [mk] from an interview with а local portal from his native town of Prilep:

… Односот кон институциите секогаш ми бил конфликтен – да се почитуваат, но да се менуваат за да им служат на луѓето, а не луѓето да им служат на институциите. Тоа е слободно живеење и тоа не се сменило. Не трпам паши и друг тип на феудалци. Немам респект кон моќта, а уште помалку кон силата. Не верувам дека наведната глава сабја не ја сече – напротив – најлесно ја сече, само треба да се спушти раката. Не верувам дека човекот е способен да создаде совршена творба. Мора вечно да се менуваме за да опстанеме и да просперираме. Не знам дали сум бил бунтовен како средношколец – веројанто сум бил… Но не сум бил бунтовен без причина. Моите бунтови секогаш имаат и цел и причина. Не е тоа дифузен бунт на човек кој не знае зошто е гневен… О, не! И тоа како добро знам што и кој ми смета и зошто. И никогаш тоа не заради мене и заради мои лични цели, секогаш тоа е поширока приказна околу која се врти приказната за слободата. Не само мојата лична, туку и на другите. Слободата е основен предуслов за самоостварување на човекот . Не мислам дека трпењето спасува…

Трпењето создава робови. Ваквите ставови ми овозможиле да изборам некоја лична слобода никој да не ме управува, никој да не ме насочува и никој да не ме злоупотребува. Можам денес да мислам, да зборувам, да работам и мирно да си се гледам во огледало знаеќи дека никој нема да ми се појави на врата и да побара да вратам некој долг со нешто што не сакам да направам. Не е малку!

…My relationship with the institutions was always conflicting – they should be respected, but also changed to serve the people, and not the people to serve the institutions. That is what I consider a free life and that has not changed. I cannot stand [pashas] or any other type of feudal lords. I have no respect for power, and even less for brute force. I do not believe [a defeatist folk proverb] that “a bowed head is not cut by the sabre” – on the contrary, such heads are cut most easily, the executioner needs just to let his hand fall down. I do not believe that a human being is capable of creating perfection. We eternally need to change to survive and prosper. I do not remember being a rebel in high school – I probably was… But I was never a rebel without a cause. My rebellions always have a goal and a purpose. It is not a diffused rebellion of a man who does not know why he is angry… Oh, no! I very well know who and why is bothering me. And I never speak out only because of me and my personal goals, it is always a wider story related to the story of liberty. Not only my personal freedom, but also others'. Freedom is a precondition for self-realization in human beings. I do not think that putting up [with oppression] can save you…

Tolerating [oppression] creates slaves. These positions enabled me to win some degree of personal freedom – so nobody can rule over me, no one to direct me and nobody to abuse me. Today I can think, talk, work and peacefully look at the mirror, knowing that nobody can come to my door and ask me to return a debt with something that I would not like to do. And that is not a small thing!

Roberto Beličanec is survived by his loving wife and three small children.

June 05 2013

Police Brutality in Macedonia: Two Years On

Stop Police Brutality June 6 2013

On Thursday, June 6, in the center of Skopje, the Movement Against Police Brutality will mark two years since the murder of Martin Neshkovski, which sparked the biggest grassroots protests in Macedonian history. The Facebook event [mk] about the memorial service states:

On Thursday, June 6, at 11 AM, we shall visit the crime scene and light a symbolic candle to remind us that we allowed ourselves to lose a young life. May he be remembered!

During the gathering the “Stop Police Brutality” Movement will hold a press conference to present activities marking its second anniversary. Additionally, we shall express support for the Turkish people who mount bloody resistance to police brutality these days. [...]

(more…)

May 31 2013

Macedonian Journalist's Arrest Stirs Protest

"Who's next for Liquidation?" - a poster at today's journalist protest in Skopje, referring to the official code name of the operation ("Liquidation"), in which journalist Tomislav Kezarovski was captured on May 28. Photo by Biserka Velkovska/@bvelkovska, used with permission.

“Who's next for Liquidation?” – a poster at today's journalist protest in Skopje, referring to the official code name of the operation (“Liquidation”), in which journalist Tomislav Kezarovski was captured along with others on May 28. Photo by Biserka Velkovska/@bvelkovska, used with permission.

Macedonian journalists gathered [mk; video and text: sq, mk] in front of the Criminal Court in the capital Skopje today to protest against the arrest of their colleague, Tomislav Kezarovski, according to this note [en] posted in the Macedonian Facebook group titled “Journalists and citizens in defense of the right to freedom of information.” It appears that the official reason for Kezarovski's 30-day detention is a story he wrote five years ago for a publication that no longer exists. On the other hand, he has been investigating the death of Nikola Mladenov, publisher and editor of an independent media outlet, for the past two months. (more…)

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