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April 22 2013

“Manipulative” Coverage of Macedonia's Media Law

“Practice indicates that responsible and ethical journalism is never the result of state legislation and regulations, but of the voluntary compliance with the code created by the media community itself.”

This statement from the Guide on Ethics in Journalism [mk] opens Žarko Trajanoski's analysis [en] of the “manipulations” by Macedonia's “pro-government journalists” who “fanatically support and promote [the proposed Media Law].” The English-language version of Trajanovski's text was published by Metamorphosis: Foundation for Internet and Society (@fmeta), and it is also available in Macedonian and in Albanian. One of Trajanoski's conclusions is that “the most vigorous advocates for the adoption of a new Media Law since 2011 are exactly the journalists and editors flagrantly violating the ethical norms of the journalist code.”

February 18 2013

Tax Holiday for Albanian Youth?


In a significant boost to youth employment, the government will decide during the coming weeks about the lifting of taxes (social security, health and personal income tax) and expenses of new trainings of those employed in the private sector. We keep our promises!

The Albanian PM Sali Berisha made this statement [sq] on his public Facebook page on February 10, 2013 [sq].

Sponsored post

December 25 2012

Journalists, Opposition Thrown Out of Macedonian Parliament Amid Street Protests

On Monday, Dec. 24, the Macedonian capital Skopje was shaken by a violent protest - and a counter-protest - related to the Parliament's approval of the 2013 state budget (en, en).

Youth Radio MOF provided this short summary [mk]

1. The direct motive for the outburst of (institutional and physical) violence was the opposition's blocking of the adoption of the budget in the Parliament, which was conducted through the submission of numerous proposed amendments, a method previously perfected by a junior government partner […]. The opposition proposed a plan of saving EUR 240 million planned for unnecessary expenses and luxury. [The total budget is EUR 2.7 billion.] They also announced the withdrawal of the amendments if the government accepted their saving proposal. The ruling party, however, claimed that by blocking the budget, the opposition was ruining the state and denying funds for the pensioners, social welfare cases, farmers, students, artists… Both sides did not budge, and several protests against the opposition took place in the past few days, demanding its leader to leave politics…

Policeman in Skopje, Macedonia, wipping splashed egg from helmet.

A police officer who received an egg aimed at the opposition protesters. From an extensive hi-res photo gallery by Vanco Dzambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

The proposed cutting of expenses mainly referred to the new construction within Skopje 2014 project, which earned the city the title of the “Kitsch capital of the Balkans” in the international media, thanks to a widely circulated AP story (en, ro, also it). One of the counter-protests included “the artists,” organized by the government-appointed directors of Skopje's Macedonian-language theaters, ballet, and national folk ensemble. When asked if it was normal for a theater that was supposed to require EUR 4.5 million to actually receive EUR 27 million, with additional EUR 10 million budgeted for 2013, Jelena Zhugic, director of Theater “Comedy” replied [mk]: “Milk and honey also did not flow in the streets of France when they were building their castles.” Social network users quickly drew comparisons with the the infamous pre-French Revolution quote: “Let them eat cake.”

Radio MOF explanation continued:

2. Last weekend, the Assembly President Trajko Veljanovski returned the budget to the PM's Cabinet, which urgently adopted it with slight modifications, and returned it to the Assembly. It bypassed the Finances and Budget Committee, and was placed directly to a plenary session instead. This set a precedent which the opposition deemed “contrary to Constitution, Rules of Procedure and the laws.”

Bloggers TheRealPsmst and Goran Arsov concurred, quoting [mk] the Rules of Procedure and other relevant legislature [mk]. Radio MOF concluded:

3. Supporters of the government and the opposition announced protests in front of the Parliament at the same time. The tense atmosphere with the police buffer in between, both groups exchanged insults and projectiles (stones, eggs, apples, [potatoes]). Around 20 protesters and 11 policemen were injured.

An opposition protester who received a head injury by an object hurled by the pro-government counter-protesters. Photo by Vancho Dzhambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

One of the government MPs was videotaped [mk] defiantly marching behind the police cordon, making obscene gestures at the protesters and yelling, “Die! Die!”

Amdi Bajram, MP from the government coalition, “addressing” the protesters. Photo by Vancho Dzambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

At one point, in response to missile attacks, opposition protesters broke the first line of the police cordon and were stopped by force. Photo by V. Dzambaski, CC BY-NC-SA

Meanwhile, inside the Parliament [sq], the security detail threw out the resident journalists, and most of the opposition MPs who tried to physically block the upcoming session. Three of them ended up in hospital [mk]. Then, the new budget was passed with 65 “yes” votes and 4 “against,” out of 123 MPs. The protest dispersed after the news of the adoption of the budget, except for a lone young man who undressed in front of the police and was arrested, unlike a police-approved government supporter.

The unrest in the Parliament included a serious denial of freedom of expression, which some international media covering the events of the day (en, en) have failed to mention.

NGO Civil–Center for Freedom has strongly condemend the violence against citizens, their parliamentarian representatives and journalists [en, mk, sq]:

Chaos and violence took place in Macedonia today. Officers of the security in the Macedonian Parliament acted in an unspeakable manner and physically attacked people’s representatives of the opposition, beating and dragging them through the corridors.

Before the eyes of the Macedonian public and the world, all rules and principles of democracy, the Constitution and the laws have been suspended.


Government officials and the parliamentary majority, security and police authorities, as well as officers of these structures who acted violently must immediately apologize to the Macedonian citizens and take responsibility for their actions.

The Journalists' Trade Union protested [mk], and the Association of Journalists of Macedonia issued the following statement [en, mk, sq]:

The Association of Journalists of Macedonia strongly condemns today's incident in the Parliament, where journalists were forcefully expelled from the “gallery room” from which they were following the plenary session. With this act, the Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of expression and media freedom, was grossly violated.

The authorities who gave the orders for this shameful act have formalized censorship and decided what must and what must not to be reported by the journalists. The forcibly evicted journalists did nothing to cause the reaction of the security, nor was there a legal basis for their removal.

We were removed in order not to witness the removal of the opposition MPs from the sessions. This is a case that should not go unpunished.

For these reasons, the Board of AJM stops all the negotiations with the government until the return of the constitutional order in Macedonia, and until the perpetrators and the authorities of this shameful behavior are not identified and punished according to the law.

AJM will use all the legal mechanisms to protect the freedom of expression and media freedom. Also, we will alert the domestic and foreign public about these events in the Parliament.

Police with dogs. Monuments in background. Skopje, Macedonia. Photo by Vachno Dzambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

The police in front of the Macedonian Parliament after the protests on Dec. 24, 2012. Photo by Vachno Dzambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

The mood on the social networks was grim during the day and in the evening, with people expressing disappointment and disgust. A representative pessimistic blog post is listing reasons “Why I would immediately leave this country” [mk].

December 24 2012

Macedonia: Nude Art Twitter Calendar for Charity

Twelve Macedonian women - regular Twitter users - took part in a humanitarian project organized by @IlinaBookbox, two photographers and one designer via the hashtag #ТвитерКалендар (Macedonian for ‘Twitter Calendar'). The resulting nude art calendar was donated to anti-cancer association Borka [wallpapers available via mk, mk, sq]. The original photos are on sale through the exhibition in Lee Cafe in Skopje [mk], and all proceedings will be donated to charity.

December 15 2012

“Kosovo 2.0 Talks Sex” Launch Party Cancelled Due to Attack

Kosovo 2.0, a website with interactive blogs, articles and multimedia, published in Albanian, English and Serbian, was planning to launch its new print issue, Kosovo 2.0 Talks Sex, on December 14. The topics covered in it included LGBT life in Kosovo and the Balkans, dating, sex education, gender reassignment surgeries in Belgrade, and much, much more.

Unfortunately, shortly before the launch party started, a group of approximately 20 men entered the Pristina venue, destroyed the stage and beat up one of the employees. The event was cancelled. You can watch the footage of the attack here.

Kosovo 2.0 published a statement on their Facebook page after the incident:

Dear readers and friends of Kosovo 2.0:

We want to give you all an update on what happened yesterday at our launch event, and explain why the launch party was cancelled. A day before the event, we began receiving hateful and threatening messages and comments on our Facebook page. On the morning of our event, we presented the comments and messages to the Kosovo Police and officially requested the presence of the police at the Youth Center (Boro Ramizi) throughout the day. We had police officers assigned to us. At around 6pm, a group of approximately 20 men rushed in to the Youth Center’s Red Hall. The police did not react on a timely manner. As a result, the same group destroyed our stage and beat one of our employees. You can watch the footage here. We held our reading session at 7pm regardless.

After the 6pm incident, special police forces were called to the venue. At around 10:30, around half an hour before the launch party, a group of over 100 protesters approached the building, yelling epithets such as “Out pederasts!” and “Allah u akber!” Despite the police presence, we decided to be safe rather than risk the safety of our staff and guests in the building. We had to be evacuated out by the police in small groups so as not to provoke the crowd.

Our launch event agenda included a screening of two films and various interviews, a discussion with magazine contributors, and a party with music, drinking, and dancing.

Last night’s events reveal more strongly than ever the need for free and critical thought. They demonstrated how easily endangered basic human rights are in the face of religious extremism, hooliganism and narrow-mindedness. Kosovo 2.0 achieved its mission in investigating sexuality in Kosovo and across the Balkans in our Sex issue, and we believe it is a milestone of journalism in the region. We give our heartfelt thanks to our supporters and those who stayed with us until the end of the night. Rest assured that we will continue to speak out against inequality, hate, and prejudice, wherever and whenever we can.

November 04 2012

Despite Threats, Macedonian Activists Fight for Fair Energy Law

Members of the grassroots civil initiative AMAN, who are demanding fair energy legislation and an end to state-controlled price hikes in Macedonia, are facing various forms of pressure, including increasing threats.

In the local languages, the word “aman” means ‘a cry' or ‘a plea' and is equivalent to “please, stop.” This grassroots movement against price hikes of state-controlled monopoly commodities (electricity, fuel, central heating) started weekly protests in August. As the price hikes resulted in the increase of food prices, affecting the most vulnerable people first, protests spread from Skopje and Bitola to several other cities - Tetovo, Shtip, Prilep, and Kumanovo.

AMAN protest against price hikes in Bitola, Macedonia

AMAN protests in Bitola. Photo by Energetska efikasnost (Energy Efficiency) blog, used with permission.

At first, the authorities, represented by the Regulatory Commission for Energy, the mainstream media and the unions, ignored the movement. To partly address this issue, AMAN increased social media promotion (hashtag: #АМАН) and held a protest in front of the state Public Broadcasting Service, MTV [mk, sq].

As the authorities' deliberate disregard approach failed, AMAN participants were subjected to various forms of pressure: infiltration by partisan agent provocateurs, hacking and mysterious closing down of their recurrent Facebook event, general threats by passersby [mk], labeling by the PM (which affected the participation of people whose incomes depend on the government), counter-protests by GONGOs, smearing campaigns.

One World SEE reported:

Since the start of the protests, the Government has constantly accused them of being led and working on instructions of the leading opposition party, the Social-Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM).

Also, the Government continued with its practice to respond to all civic initiatives and protests against its policies with counter-protests held by its own, loyal, organizations and initiatives. This time, we have the “Burnt by Privatization” („Изгор приватизација“) initiative, which holds parallel protests against the privatization of the power utility company by Austrian corporation EVN during the last SDSM’s term in power.

Earlier this week, on September 25, 2012, the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Macedonia accused the Regulatory Commission for Energy that its decisions for termination of the cheap daily electricity tariff and the decision to allow increase of prices of electricity and distance heating were adopted on basis of provisions that do not, in fact, exist in the Law on Energy.

At the Oct. 30 press conference, AMAN representatives informed the public [mk: 1, 2, 3; sq: 1, 2] that one of the movement's members had received threats against him and his family by “unknown persons”: they intercepted him in the center of Skopje, tried to interrogate him about other activists, showing him their photos. Obviously, the message was to stop the protests and the current petition to change the Energy Law. The activists asked for the police and other state institutions to quickly find and sanction the perpetrators, and for the PM not to hinder the legislative process.

The protests, however, continue. The activists are using institutional channels and have submitted an initiative to change the Energy Law. Pending the government's approval, they would then need to gather 10,000 signatures required to propose amendments within the Parliament.

Pressure on the activists continues, too. While the perpetrators of the reported intimidation attempt are still at large, a new incident occurred during the 12th protest on Nov. 3. Radio MOF reported [mk] that a group of counter-protesters threatened and tried to chase the AMAN protesters away, but the police prevented further escalation.

Sonja Ismail, one of the protesters, wrote [mk]:

Today at noon we traditionally gathered in front of the Energy Regulatory Commission. But we were not alone. They came spontaneously. They parked a jeep on the sidewalk [nearby]. They came out of the jeep with the spontaneously-made counter-protest props. [About 50 meters further] they were joined by around 60 more. Camera crews from Kanal 5, Sitel and MTV spontaneously appeared, too. They filmed these people who spontaneously put masks representing the face of Radmila Shekerinska [“a parody” targeting an opposition MP]. There were no more than 30 of us. A young man approached us, and when asked who he was, he said he was from the Union of Young Forces of [VMRO-DPMNE]. He told us to disappear in 20 minutes. He also shouted obscenities while returning to his group. P.S. There were many police officers present and they assumed the proper position [between the two groups]. Their commander assured us that they came to stop any violent incidents. [OSCE] representatives were also present.

November 02 2012

Macedonia: Documenting Online Protest Against Censorship

On October 9, nearly 200 Macedonian websites participated in a day-long blackout, protesting the censorship-inducing provisions [mk, en, sq] that the Government “sneaked in” within the Draft Law on Civic Liability for Defamation, presented as approved by the EU and COE. Activists from Free Software Macedonia, who provided the JavaScript code for the initiative, also documented the Blackout initiative [mk] on their wiki.

October 02 2012

Macedonia: Skopje Zoo Improvements Continue

A bear in Skopje Zoo. Photo by Vasil Buraliev, used with permission.

“Attention! Electric fence” sign and a bear at Skopje Zoo. Photo by Vasil Buraliev, used with permission.

Vasil Buraliev blogged [mk] about further improvements of the Skopje Zoo, noted in 2010 by Global Voices [en, mk, sq, nl, zh, zh, es]. (more…)

September 11 2012

Kosovo: Prizren Comic Book & Cartoon Festival

Poster announcing Vesna Nichevska-Saravinova's participation at 8th Comic Book & Cartoon Fest in Prizren

A poster for the 8th Comic Book & Cartoon Fest in Prizren

Macedonian artist Vesna Nichevska-Saravinova blogged about her participation in the Prizren Comics Festival, organized by the Kosovo Comic Book Artist Association, Xhennet Comics [sq]. Four out of 15 featured artists at the festival were from Macedonia, Eddie Rebel reports [mk], alongside colleagues from Italy, Turkey, Cyprus, France, Kosovo, Bulgaria, and Bosnia.

August 25 2012

Macedonia: Crowdsourcing Against Gender-Based Violence

Ushahidi blog's current “Deployment of the Week” selection [en, mk] is React! Be Safe! (”Реагираj!”), an online platform against gender-based violence in public spaces [en, mk, sq], launched by the think-tank Reactor, initially covering the Skopje municipalities of Centar and Čair.

August 02 2012

Macedonia: Introducing Struga Poetry Evenings

Portuguese filmmaker André Soares published a short video documentary about the Struga Poetry Evenings, an international poetry festival that has been held annually for half a century, since 1962, in the town of Struga, Macedonia (the official site).

The film features statements by poets Vladimir Martinovski from Macedonia, a Chinese exile Bei Ling, Rati Saxena from India, Corey Marks from the United States, Siim Kera from Estonia, Mimoza Sali from Albania…who also talked about the global situation with poetry and read their works in various languages.

While explaining the circumstances of being forced to choose between jail and exile due to disagreement with the regime, Bei Ling says that his homeland is no longer China, but the Chinese language. Curiously enough, one of the most famous quotes by the renowned Macedonian poet and linguist Blaže Koneski (1921-1993), inscribed on his recently erected monument [mk], is “our language is our homeland.”

The festival is one of the crucial elements of the official, state-supported culture, and its opening is usually attended by top political personages, like the Minister of Culture, Prime Minister and/or the President. As such, it has not proven conducive to promotion of domestic dissent, as attested by the critical post [mk] on the 2009 edition by activist blogger and poet Vnukot. In 2011, he specifically returned [mk] to publicly read his poem about the murder of Martin Neshkovski, the event that incited the grassroots protests against police brutality a year ago.

Over the years, Macedonian bloggers have been mentioning the festival by quoting Wikipedia data and starting discussions about domestic poets such as Koneski, Mateja Matevski or Jovan Koteski (1932-2001), who attended in 1964 and 1981, or publishing Macedonian translations of works by foreign participants, such as the Japanese Shuntaro Tanikawa, the French Pierre Béarn, and Russian Vadim Fedorovič Terehin (Ru.wikipedia).

Journalist Vasko Markovski used his blog to publish a reportage [mk] on the park of poetry in Struga, where the trees planted by many world renowned poets grow side by side.

March 05 2012

Macedonia: ‘Be a News Blogger’ Awards Announced

Diversity Media Production, a non-profit organization whose goal is to advance journalism, freedom of speech and democracy in Macedonia, has announced [en, mk, sq] the winners of the competition for young news bloggers: Novica Nakov, Fatlume Dervishi, and the authors of MK Demokratija blog - Monika Petrovska and Maja Peroska.

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