Media watchdogs raise the alarm after female journalists threatened
North Macedonian authorities should conduct a swift and transparent investigation into the threats made against journalists Meri Jordanovska and Iskra Korovesovska and ensure their safety.https://t.co/GpwKFG05ws— Committee to Protect Journalists (@pressfreedom) February 4, 2020
As previously documented by the CIVICUS Monitor, journalists in North Macedonia have faced smears and public vilification for their work. Yet, media rights groups have highlighted a spike in threats against female media workers. On 15th January 2020, the Association of Journalists in North Macedonia reacted to two journalists being sent threatening messages. Meri Jordanovska (editor of A1on.mk) and Iskra Koroveshovska (Alfa TV editor), were targeted by a former government employee for their work as investigative journalists. Both women were sent messages containing threats claiming he would “create a funeral for them” and calling them "Sorospija" - which can be translated as "Soros whore" alongside other derogatory language based on gender. The messages were sent by Emil Jakimovski, a former employee at the Central Registry, who was fired by the government after his comments online came to light. In a statement, the Association of Journalists in North Macedonia commented on the incident by saying:
"What is worrying in both cases is that these threats contain elements of gender discrimination and such pressure on women journalists is a serious obstacle to freedom of expression, media freedom and the right of citizens to be informed."
A case was later filed with police in North Macedonia and on 17th January 2020 Jakimovski was arrested. The prosecutor for North Macedonia later confirmed that they would be pursuing a case against him.
A few weeks later there was another separate yet similar incident, where threats were made against TV21 journalist Almedina Ismaili by a member of a political party. Ismaili was targeted after her work researching a story that Neshat Ademi, a longtime member of the Alliance for Albanians was reportedly leaving the party. Ademi reacted by phoning Ismaili and leaving a barrage of insults and threats on her voicemail. The Association of Journalists of North Macedonia again strongly called on the authorities to take the measures needed to protect journalists and freedom of expression in the country. Ademi was later served with a warning for his conduct towards Ismaili.
Several protests and initiatives have taken place at the start of 2020 in North Macedonia and some have been subject to restrictions. For example, high school students in Strumica were not allowed to take part in a a joint protest with activists from the Association “Healthy Valley” to demand that authorities address concerns over air pollution in North Macedonia. Students stated that prior to the protest the school’s principal locked the doors to prevent them from joining the mobilisation. Members of the Association “Healthy Valley” appealed to all school principals not to deny the students their constitutional right to peaceful protest.
In another example, "FridaysForFuture" activists have been detained by the police after organising “guerrilla” action in front of the Ministry of Environment, where they used their fingers and red paint to mark the windows of the Ministry. The red paint was chosen to represent the blood of the future generations that will be affected by climate change. After misdemeanour charges were filed against five activists from the movement, the police released the activists. Footage of the protest can be seen below.
No restrictions were noted in the following peaceful protests:
- Activists and citizens occupied the space in front of the Parliament to demand a meeting with the Parliament President Talat Xhaferi after Parliament delayed the enactment of the law banning the import of hazardous waste that contributes to environmental pollution.
- The “Prilep on Bike” initiative organised its 69th Critical Cycling Mass to highlight the number of unresolved problems with bicycle infrastructure and public spaces.
- People who sell their products on the “Green Market” in Skopje, blocked a nearby street to protest against increased parking fees in the city, which reduces business and increases their costs.
- Several young activists from the NGO Equalis performed the song "Another Brick in the Wall" by Pink Floyd in front of the Ministry of Education and Science to urge the authorities to improve the quality of education for young people in the country.