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Municipal Referendum to Preserve Skopje Shopping Centre Scheduled

The local council of the Municipality of Centar, part of the Skopje downtown area, approved a proposal to hold a referendum to preserve the authentic look of the iconic Skopje Shopping Center. As Meta.mk reports, the referendum will take place on April 26. For the referendum to be successful, it needs a turnout of 50 percent plus one of the registered voters in the Municipality of Centar to vote in favor of preserving the original edifice.

The decision is the result of a two-year-long campaign to save the landmark from a faux-baroque reconstruction plan. The Skopje City Shopping Center is known by the local acronym GTC.

“GTC requires nurturing, renovation, reconstruction, while not losing the concept and function. Project for changing the look of GTC means distorting the essence of the object. The investor who will reconstruct the facility has to know the essence and what does GTC means to the citizens. We have nothing against the reconstruction of the GTC, its authenticity as a heritage must be kept,” said Danica Pavlovska from the Association of Architects.

She added that the referendum is the most democratic way to solve the problems of citizens and is something that allows the citizens to be aware of their power.

The activist campaign continues, with an aim to ensure high voter turnout at the referendum, using the hashtags ‘I love GTC’ (#ГоСакамГТЦ) and ‘GTC’ (#ГТЦ).

Centar decided! On April 26, we go to referendum to save GTC.
The voice of the citizens will be heard. Municipality of Centar voted to allow a referendum on GTC.

Macedonian Journalist Describes How it Feels to be Subject of State Surveillance

Prominent investigative journalist Meri Jordanovska wrote a testimony about her experience on receiving evidence that she was one of allegedly twenty thousand individuals who have been subjected to state surveillance in Macedonia. In an op-ed on Balkan Insight, Jordanovska explains: 

Meri Jordanovska. Photo: Prizma Project. Used with permission.

Meri Jordanovska. Photo: BIRN Prizma Project. Used with permission.

Each report on one of my wiretapped conversations was true: the date, the story I was working on and the sources I was getting briefed by. Everything was correct. I am not sure I will get another “diploma”. This folder was more than enough for me to clearly see what is happening in my country.I can clearly see that someone knew in advance what story I was working on. Enough for me to conclude that my sources of information were endangered. Enough for the centers of power to be able to react preventively before the story was published. Enough to become aware, even though I had always suspected this, that some people know the problems of those closest to me – people who had shared personal matters with me over the phone.

Jordanovska received a file containing surveillance of her communications during a press conference by the opposition party SDSM, at which representatives of the party also revealed that journalists had been wiretapped en masse in Macedonia. Besides publishing several conversation as proof, twenty journalists were given folders with CDs containing their own files, leaked by sources from within the Ministry of Interior. Her text is also available in Macedonian and has been republished by several independent portals in her home country, including Mojot grad.

SDSM leader Zoran Zaev claims that National Security Services illegally targeted over twenty thousand people with the surveillance, which involved illegally recording and storing phone conversations of these individuals over at least four years. His party has not yet published a list of all the alleged victims, nor a list of the wiretapped phone numbers. According to SDSM representatives, these included both citizens of Macedonia and foreigners using local telecom services, including several diplomats.

Hooligans Crash LGBT Community Celebration in Macedonia

Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) was among the very few media to report about an attack on the second anniversary celebration of the center for support of the LGBT community in a cafe in the Old Bazaar are of Skopje. On October 23, 2014, some 20 hooded young men attacked those attending the celebration and vandalized the venue.

“The hooligans entered the cafe and started throwing everything, like bottles, crates… It was a stampedе. One girl was injured and was taken to the accident and emergency center. She is fine, but still recovering,” Uranija Pirovska, director of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Macedonia, a host of the event, said.

Outgoing Dutch Ambassador to Macedonia, Marriët Schuurman, also spoke to BIRN openly about the use of violence to “shut people up” in Macedonia, in particular expressing deep concern about how acceptable such practices had become in the country.

Schuurman says Macedonia faces serious problem when it comes to the rule of law: “Citizens no longer feel protected by the authorities who, under the constitution, should protect their rights, and particularly those minorities.”

Traveling Duo Visits Macedonia for 3 Months

Traveling duo Jürgen Horn from Germany and Mike Powell from the United States wander around the world by picking a country and staying there for three months, or about 91 days. During their three-month stays, the two globe-trotters attempt to experience life in their new location more thoroughly than a regular tourist and relate their experiences in a blog, saying they plan on eventually authoring e-books on the subject.

Horn and Powell have visited lands on different continents, from Japan to Yucatan, from Idaho to Iceland and Istanbul, with Sri Lanka and many others in between. Currently, they are exploring and writing about Macedonia, providing multimedia notes on the small southeast European country's cities and towns, places related to culture, history and nature. The duo's journey can be followed on social networks and their blog

Macedonian Police Harass Journalists Covering Protests

Police harassment of media seems to have become a regular occurrence in Macedonia, which has included the detainment and sentencing of some journalists in the country. On August 25, 2014, Macedonian Nova TV journalists were harassed and “stopped from doing their jobs” by police officers while covering protests held in front of the Customs building in Skopje.

In May 2014, there were no consequences for the Macedonian police officers who strong-armed journalists into erasing footage of arrests during riots in the ethnically-charged protests in Skopje. After a complaint was filed by journalists involved in the incident, the Minister of Interior stated that all 34 policemen engaged in the action were interviewed and not one reported such incident. Nova TV compared the metadata in the Word document sent as statement by deputy minister [mk] at the time and calculated that each interview and the compiling of written statements had taken about 7 minutes per policemen, consecutively. Nevertheless, the official investigation of the incident was closed.

On August 26, 2014, Nova TV editor-in-chief Borjan Jovanovski published a public protest letter [mk] informing that police again obstructed journalists while covering a protest. This time it was a protest of disgruntled former Customs workers [mk] in Skopje, who were fired after complaining about work conditions.

Полицијата пресудува на лице место

По не знам кој пат полицијата дрско спречува новинари на НОВА во извршувањето на работните задачи.

АНАЛИЗА: Полицијата во цензорска акција

Полицијата одзема видео и фото материјали од новинарите во Ѓорче Петров

Денеска нашиот репортер Дехран Муратов имаше задача да го регистрира протестот на граѓаните кои сметаат дека им биле повредени правата при одлуката на Царинската управа да ги избрка од работа. Овие лица заглавени во правните лавиринти на (не)правната држава денеска сакаа да добијат одговор од одговорните во Царинската управа за нивниот нерешен статус. Нивниот обид да го добијат тоа што им следува НОВА имаше намера да го регистрира аудиовизуелно. При извршувањето на оваа задача на новинарот Муратов дрско му пристапи полицијата со барање да им го даде неговиот мобилен телефон. Телефонот му бил привремено одземен по што полицајците без никаква основа си дозволиле да ги прегледуваат содржините во телефонот на новинарот Муратов.

Овој случај на дрско попречување при извршување на професионална задача од страна на полицијата и уште погрубо одземање на нечија сопственост, како и претурање во базата на неговите лични податоци немаме намера да го пријавиме во службата за внатрешна контрола бидејќи немаме дилеми дека станува збор за грубо прекршување на законите од страна на полицијата, но и како последица на нашето последно и горчливо искуство со Секторот за внатрешна контрола при МВР кога наша колешка од НОВА и други новинари од Фокус и Радио Слободна Европа на свој грб ја почуствуваа „независноста“ на Секторот за внатрешна контрола на полицијата. Нашата преставка ја споделуваме јавно со потсетување на членовите од законот за полиција. Во членот 57 од овој закон се вели:

Полицискиот службеник може привремено да одземе предмети со наредба на суд, во случаите утврдени со Законот за кривичната постапка.

Одземањето на предмети може да се изврши и без наредба на суд во следниве случаи:
1) кога постојат основи за сомневање дека се работи за предмет на кривично дело, прекршок или имотна корист прибавена со кривично дело или прекршок кој може да послужи како доказ во постапката, доколку постои опасност од одлагање;
2) кога заради заштита на општата безбедност, одземањето на предметот неопходно е потребно и
3) на лице на кое привремено му е ограничена слободата на движење, а поседува или може да употреби предмет за самоповредување, напад или бегство.

Исто така, јавно се обраќаме до Здружението на новинарите за ова грубо кршење на слободата на медиумите и попречување на новинарите да си ја извршуваат својата работа. По поплаките кои во минатото ги упативмe директно до ЗНМ за слични инциденти сега до нив упатуваме јавен апел да ги превземат сите неопходни мерки за да ги заштитата правата на новинарите на што ги обврзуваат сите основачки акти.

Police Passes Judgement on the Spot

Yet another time police impertinently stopped NOVA journalists in performance of their work tasks.

Analys: Police in censoring action [mk]
Police seized video and photo materials from journalists in Gjorche Petrov [mk]

Today our reporter Dehran Muratov had an assignment to register the protest of citizens [mk] who claim that their rights were violated with the decision of the Customs Authority to fire them. These people are stuck into the legal labyrinths of the (un)legal state gathered to demand answers by the Customs Authority about their unsolved status. NOVA intended to create audiovisual documentation of these efforts. While performing this assignment, police officers approached the journalist Muratov, harshly ordering him to hand over his mobile telephone. Muratov’s telephone was temporarily requisitioned, and without any legal ground the policemen browsed through the stored contents.

We do not intend to file an official complaint to the Police Internal Control Office regarding this case of impudent prohibition by the police in performing a professional task, and moreover the rough seizure of personal property, including rummaging through a database containing personal data. While we have no dilemmas that this is a case of harsh violation of the laws by the police, we base our decision on the previous bitter experience with the Ministry of Interior Internal Control Office. Then, our colleague from NOVA, as well as colleagues from Fokus and Radio Free Europe felt the “independence” [mk] of this sector. Therefore we share our complaint publicly, to remind about the relevant Article 57 of the Law on Police, which states:

Police officer can temporarily seize objects with a court order, in cases proscribed by the Law on Criminal Procedure.

Seizure of objects can be done without court order in the following situations:
1) When there are grounds to suspect that the object has been appropriated during performance of a criminal act, misdemeanor or as material benefit resulting from a criminal act or misdemeanor which can be used as evidence during the court procedure, if there’s an peril of postponement;
2) When in order to ensure protection of public safety, the seizure of the object is necessary, and
3) From a person with a temporarily limited freedom of movement, and owns or may use the object to inflict self-harm, for assault or escape.

NOVA also publicly demands that the Association of Journalists of Macedonia address this harsh violation of freedom of the media and obstructing journalists to perform their duties. After the complaints we addressed to AJM about similar incident we now send a public appeal to conduct all necessary measures to protect the rights of journalists, according to their acts of incorporation [i.e. Statutes].

Documenting the Systematic Decline of Women's Rights in Macedonia

Although southeast European countries are progressive in many other ways, the decline of women's reproductive rights in some Western Balkan countries has been a worrying trend. In Macedonia, several small protests have been held in recent years to demonstrate people's opposition to government involvement in determining public sentiment on issues like abortion and family planning, after the government implemented a national anti-abortion campaign that began in 2011.  

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“My body – my decision” sigh at a protest against new abortion law. Photo by Vanco Dzhambaski, CC BY-NC-SA.

Recently, Macedonian equal rights activist Ana Vasileva, known as @Amateuress on Twitter, provided a lengthy overview of the systematic decline of women's rights in Macedonia on her blog:

In recent years Macedonia has undergone a very subtle, yet dreadfully pervasive deterioration of the situation with women's rights. Mainly unnoticed or overlooked, the government latched on the popular, deeply misogynist sentiment of the suffering mother (a metaphor often used for the country itself) and after the initial surge of promise with the introduction of the gender quotas in 2006 and the adoption of the Law on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, which paired with the history of equal treatment from the previous system led to even higher percentages in female representation in certain areas compared to the EU average[1], things started moving downwards steadily, without sufficient public resistance.

It can arguably be claimed that the ploy began with the anti-abortion posters and newspaper ads which started littering the public space out of nowhere circa 2006-2007 without anyone claiming responsibility for them…

Macedonian NGO Develops First Ever Android and iOS App to Battle Hate Speech

Macedonian Metamorphosis Foundation has developed a first among mobile applications – an app against hate speech, aiming to bring information from this area to the fingertips of mobile phone users and help them battle this odious occurrence on the Internet.

The app, available for free download both Android and iOS users, was developed in order to more effectively combat hate speech online, enabling access to the latest news in this area, access to educational and expert resources, such as a library with e-books on the matter, interactive tutorials about the various opportunities for reporting hate speech, as well as participation in events related to the fight against hate speech through an integrated calendar.

The application, dubbed simply “Don't Hate”, is the first mobile app of this kind in the world and is currently only available in Macedonian and Albanian, while its creators do plan on developing it further for other languages and markets in the near future. 

 

Macedonian Civic Sector Starts Fundraising to Aid Independent Fokus Magazine

The Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM) appealed in October 2014 to all journalists and citizens to show solidarity with the journalists of Fokus magazine, who are subject to what has been deemed by many as harsh punishment due to a lost defamation law suit for some of the investigative pieces they published. A Fokus journalist and its editor-in-chief have to pay over 9,300 euros to the Director of the Macedonian Security and Counter-Intelligence Directorate Sasho Mijalkov, who brought the defamation law suit against them.

AJM believes that the verdict is unfair and directed against critical journalism, which is essential for the functioning of Macedonian democracy.

Our colleagues are not able to pay the fee, therefore AJM appeals for mobilization and solidarity of the membership, the journalistic community and the public in Macedonia.

We believe that our support will be a contribution for the survival of free thought and criticism towards the ways the government is practicing power in the country.

Moreover, we believe that the support of the press and public will be a direct contribution to safeguarding the freedom of expression in Macedonia. Therefore we urge within your capabilities to donate to the following bank account:

AJM Solidarity Fund: 300000003296484
The Commercial Bank
Purpose of payment: Donation for the reporters from Focus

Mijalkov announced that, when Fokus staff paid the fine, he would donate the part of the money he receives to an orphanage. This, nevertheless, means endangering the survival of the magazine and the livelihood of its staff.

Other civic organizations also sounded alarms after hearing of the fine decided by a Skopje court. For instance, the National Network against Homophobia and Transphobia of Macedonia is organizing a fundraising event in Skopje Old Town on October 14, 2014, to aid Fokus in covering the defamation fine and cover court costs.

Documenting Nationalistic Hate Speech in Macedonian Media

Human rights expert, activist, and blogger Žarko Trajanoski published a series of analyses about nationalistic, right-wing hate speech in Macedonian media, often veiled as “patriotic” speech.

„Патриотскиот“ говор на омраза е препознатлив по намерата за разгорување, поттикнување, или оправдување на омраза кон внатрешните и надворешните „непријатели“. Во основата на ваквиот говорот на омраза е поделбата на „Ние“ („патриотите“) и „Тие“ (непатриотите), кои се етикетирани со најразлични стигматизирачки називи. „Патриотскиот“ говор на омраза честопати се користи како инструмент за психолошко насилство врз критичарите на актуелната власт, од страна на провладини политичари, новинари или колумнисти.

Во првиот дел од анализава ќе се фокусираме на повеќе примери на „патриотски“ говор на омраза во кој се таргетираат домашни „предавници“, „странски платеници“, „кодоши“…

“Patriotic” hate speech is recognizable by the intention of inciting, encouraging or justifying hatred towards internal and external “enemies.” At the core of this hate speech is the division to “We” (“patriots”) and “Them” (non-patriots) that are labeled with various stigmatizing names. “Patriotic” hate speech is often used as an instrument of psychological violence against critics of the current government, by pro-government politicians, journalists or columnists.

In the first part of this analysis we will focus on several examples of “patriotic” hate speech targeting domestic “traitors”, “foreign mercenaries“, “informers” of the former regime…

Three parts of Trajanoski's independent analysis are available in Macedonian and English, while the author has promised to continue the series in the near future. The examples are informative both to those interested in the political and media situation in Macedonia, but also to students of hate speech as a wider phenomenon, in particular as an instance of wider anti-democratic trends in southeastern Europe.

The first part of the analysis covers Hate towards internal “enemies”. The second and third parts of Trajanoski's study document and discuss examples of hate speech directed at activists and non-government organizations in Macedonia. Trajanoski's work is also part of a larger on-going civic fact-checking project of Macedonian media.

Artists Explore the ‘Melting Point’ of Art and Propaganda in Skopje

A not-for-profit, self-financed group of artists calling themselves Kooperacija (“Cooperation”, Macedonian slang for a general store in small villages) hosted an exhibition titled “Melting Point: Art as Anti-Hegemonic Propaganda” [en, mk, with photos] in Skopje recently.

'Fear makes the world go round' by Ines Efremova. Photo by Kooperacija, used with permission.

‘Fear makes the world go round’ by Ines Efremova. Photo by Kooperacija, used with permission.

As reported [mk] by several news outlets that cover culture [mk], including Belgrade-based SEE Cult [sr], the event presented works by several individuals and groups of world renowned artists. Among them were pieces by Vitaly Komar, IRWIN, Santiago Sierra, DETEXT, as well as by some of the most vibrant artists from the region, like Nemanja Cvijanović, Ibro Hasanović, Igor Toševski, Kristina Gorovska & Jure Lavrin, Ines Efremova, Filip Jovanovski, O-P-A, and others.

The group of artists who put together the exhibition described it on their pages as:

Kooperacija is an initiative whose purpose is artistic activity outside the inert institutional frameworks, thus suggesting an exceptional approach to the creation and experience of contemporary art […]

[Its] basic strategy is the occupation of temporarily free space dispersed throughout the urban landscape and exhibiting through a chain of blitzkrieg events. The desired effect is a constructive dialogue regarding the re-questioning of the critical positions in art and producing a favorable environment for a free exchange of ideas, experience and freedom of expression.

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