Association

The Parliament of the Republic of North Macedonia elected a new Commission for the Prevention and Protection against Discrimination on 25th January 2021. The election came after the Association ESE and the Network for Protection Against Discrimination demanded a transparent and accountable way for personnel to be appointed to the Commission.

Peaceful Assembly

During this reporting period, several protests were held:

  • On 3rd December 2020, protests held by the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party continued, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Zaev due to comments regarding Bulgaria (see previous update). The demonstrators gathered in Skopje around government buildings, including the Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs.
  • High school students threw eggs at the building of the Ministry of Education and Science to show their discontent with the forthcoming online examination procedure. Students protested across many cities in North Macedonia by taking to the streets and boycotting classes.
  • On 26th January 2021, health workers from the 8th of September hospital protested against the Healthcare Ministry, arguing that hospital management has failed to organise reimbursements which were promised to healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • On 26th January 2021, accountants gathered in front of the North Macedonian government in a bid to be granted an extension of deadlines. The pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for the accountants to prepare financial statements on time.
  • On 27th January 2021, locals of the Probistip village protested against the construction of a mini hydropower plant due to concerns about the negative impacts on vegetation, wildlife and agricultural lands.
  • On 3rd February 2021, hundreds of young girls and women protested over online harassment. This comes a year after a predatory Telegram group called Javna Soba (Public Room) shared explicit private photos of young girls and women by hacking their social media accounts. Names and contact details of the girls and women in the photos were also leaked. The group emerged once again in 2021, prompting protests. The Macedonian government has threatened to block Telegram if no action is taken by the platform to permanently remove the group. Protesters marched to the Interior Ministry and to the Public Prosecutors office under the banner “Public Room is a Crime”, demanding accountability. The protest was organised by 16 women's rights organisations, human rights groups and numerous activists.

Expression

A grouping of North Macedonia NGOs filed a lawsuit over a textbook that “blames women for the rising number of divorces, condemns abortion and classifies same-sex partnerships as debauchery”. The NGOs have accused the textbook of showing discriminatory speech against numerous social groups.

In a separate development, global voices condemned an online hate campaign against the Metamorphosis Foundation, calling for authorities to investigate the hate attacks. The Foundation advocates freedom of expression, freedom of the press and the protection of digital rights in the region.

“The attacks have exploited the volatile political situation that currently prevails in North Macedonia, falsely accusing Metamorphosis of colluding with Facebook to censor “patriotic” content from the social media platform. They also include calls for physical violence towards Metamorphosis staff, threats of sharing of their private information, and online harassment.
We call on North Macedonia’s authorities to investigate these activities and to enforce the appropriate legal remedies against the perpetrators, as well as provide protection to Metamorphosis staff.”

The North Macedonia government granted 488,000 EUR in financial aid to 11 print media outlets.

The Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM), the Independent Trade Union of Journalists and Media Workers (SSNM), the Macedonian Media Institute (MIM) and the Council for Media Ethics (CMEM) expressed concerns regarding the process of amending the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, initiated by a group of ruling majority MPs. They state that according to the proposal, the election of members of the Program Council in Macedonia Radio Television (MRT) and the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services (AAAVMS) by the Assembly proposes the election to be done through the majority votes of the total number of MPs, instead of a two-thirds majority, as per ongoing regulations. The media organisations say that failure to follow the current regulation would risk “party-political influence” by MPs in the election of members of these bodies.

Another concern flagged is that it is proposed that the Law be adopted in a fast-track procedure, without any explanation in the proposal, leaving no opportunity for “public debate or transparency and involvement of stakeholders” in its adoption.