FYROM: Political-motivated violence a threat to journalists

Journalists have been under attack in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

by Ana Ribeiro and Jane Whyatt

And the Western Balkans Regional Platform for Advocating Press Freedom and Journalists’ Safety is calling on Europe’s media freedom community to protest. The platform unites the journalists’ associations of Bosnia Herzegovina (BH), Kosovo, Croatia, Montenegro and FYROM.

The group recently held a press conference urging the Macedonian authorities to investigate 19 attacks against journalists since the start of 2016.

“Alarming is the fact that none of these cases were addressed and resolved by the relevant authority; impunity for attacks against journalists encourages more violence with far greater consequences,”

says platform spokesperson Borka Rudić, the general secretary of the BH Journalists Association, in an open letter to supporters.

Last month, a camera operator and reporter from the A10n outlet were beaten, and their equipment destroyed, while covering a protest by nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party supporters in central Skopje, the nation’s capital. Naser Selmani, president of the FYROM journalists’ trade union AJM, blamed the party for creating “an atmosphere in which such incidents occurred with impunity.”

Physical and verbal attacks against journalists

Selmani had recently won a case at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) against the FYROM state after being forcibly ejected from the parliament whilst covering a budget meeting in 2012. He regards the ECtHR ruling as a great victory for press freedom.

He is involved, with other stakeholders and European Union envoy Peter van Houte, in negotiating with the four main political parties for reform of media regulation. And he tells the ECPMF that he has been particularly busy lately “because the number of attacks against journalists has increased.”

He adds:

Some of the journalists were attacked in protests organised by nationalists and some others were the object of public threats and intimidation.”

Selmani says that the situation is aggravated

“because Russia is supporting the Macedonian nationalists instead to increase its influence in the Balkans. I am very much concerned because the Ukraine scenario can be replicated.”

FYROM remains without a ruling government coalition since parties, divided along both ideological and ethnic lines, failed to reach an agreement after the December 2016 elections. This is fuelling some of the political unrest in the country.

The article was republished from ECPMF with permission.