Journalists and media workers face threats and insults
After the strong public reactions to the opening of the Bulgarian cultural club called - Tsar Boris the Third, opposition party VMRO-DPMNE submitted an initiative to amend the Law on Association and Foundations to prevent the future establishment of clubs or associations using names of controversial historical figures related to fascism, as well as to take action against already existing ones. The government and the opposition united around the need to limit the registration of controversial associations and foundations in the country which use names or symbols associated with fascism. In a public statement, PM Dimitar Kovachevski said that the legislation on associations and foundations is overly liberal and requested that the Ministry of Justice prepare a new law taking into account the German version of such legislation. The amendments to the Law on Associations and Foundations were adopted by Parliament on 2nd November 2022 in an urgent procedure. Civil society has been given three months to comply with the new legal changes. Noncompliance could lead to a removal of an organisation from the registrar of associations and foundations in the country.
In the latest World Justice Project's Rule of Law Index, North Macedonia is ranked 63rd, marking a one-place jump compared to last year.
Western Balkan countries in the latest Rule of Law Index by @TheWJP:— Jakub Bielamowicz (@KubaBielamowicz) October 27, 2022
▪️ Kosovo 🇽🇰: 57 (↗️)
▪️ North Macedonia 🇲🇰: 63 (↗️)
▪️ Bosnia and Herzegovina 🇧🇦: 70 (↗️)
▪️ Serbia 🇷🇸: 83 (↘️)
▪️ Albania 🇦🇱: 87 (↘️)
▪️ Montenegro 🇲🇪: not listedhttps://t.co/k1JTNL9Wl4
The opening of a new Bulgarian cultural club with a provocative historical name made the public and two opposition political parties, Levica and VMRO-DPMNE, protest for the “preservation of the dignity of the Macedonian nation and the memory of the Macedonian anti-fascist fighters”. The opening of the club Tsar Boris the Third was scheduled four days before the national holiday celebrating the People's Uprising against the Fascist Occupier. The protest was organised just before the official opening of the club, in a tense atmosphere, with protesters throwing eggs and rocks at the club.
Workers’ rights ignited protests in the reporting period, as employees of several public and state enterprises announced strikes when they had not been paid their September salaries. Bus drivers from JSP started protesting in front of the government on 19th October 2022, due to unpaid salaries. After their demands were rejected, they went on strike, which left Skopje without city transport for the first time in history. The management of JSP, however, said that the strike was illegal and announced criminal charges.
On the same day, post office employees from Skopje and Ohrid started with warning protests, demanding better working conditions and the timely payment of salaries. A week later, an agreement was reached on wages and the protest was put on hold. Warning protests continued in the public enterprise on water supply, with PE Vodovod demanding the resignation of acting director Mitovski. On 12th October 2022, employees from the railway vehicle factory Kolska protested again because of the factory’s unpaid value-added tax which led to the blocking of its account and workers had not received salaries as a result.
Agriculture workers also continued protesting, such as the pig farmers from the villages of Kumanovo who protested with a two-hour blockade on the old Kumanovo—Skopje regional road on 21st October. And the rice producers from the region of Kocani who also blocked the main road with their tractors.
Students also raised their voices and took to the streets. On 20th October, students of the Faculty of Business Economics (FBE) organised a peaceful protest in front of the premises of the Labour Inspectorate, where they raised the issue of several professors being fired.
On 14 November, students protested in front of the Parliament following the proposals to cancel the free student meal for some groups of students. In addition, they demanded improved living conditions in the student homes, and improved quality of education. The day after, they made an agreement only on the request for a subsidised meal, so on the 17th, students from all universities marched to demand a larger amount of the state budget be allocated to address their demands.
Other smaller peaceful protests also took place in the reporting period including:
- Students from the municipality of Saraj protested to demand more buses.
- The Association of Ukrainians Lesja Ukrainka protested in front of the Ukrainian Embassy in Skopje on 10th October to call on the government to declare Russia a terrorist state.
- The National Union of Blind People of North Macedonia protested on 26th November, demanding a systemic solution for the provision of aid and increase of allowances for persons with a disability.
- On 5th November, residents of Neproshteno protested over the delay in receiving the proper sanitation installation in the area.
Journalists and media workers face threats and insults in Macedonia. According to a survey conducted by the Platform for Investigative Journalism and Analysis, journalists and media workers do not always feel safe to do their work. Out of 103 female journalists who responded to the survey, 81.6% have faced online harassment linked to their critical reporting.