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Roberto Beličanec, Macedonian Media Expert and Vocal Activist, Dies

Macedonian media expert, activist and blogger Roberto Beličanec died of heart attack [mk] on June 29, 2013 at the age of 41.

Beličanec was one of the few remaining publicly vocal proponents of liberty and human rights in the country, daring to speak the truth to power [mk]. He had a large social media following as a result of his courage to openly speak against the misuse of power, against corruption, censorship, and hate speech (which he deemed “verbal violence”), combining his wast expertise with wit and kindness.

After a distinguished career in journalism, including working for Fokus weekly in the 1990s, Beličanec served as a media expert and was instrumental in implementing the inclusive process for enacting the 2005 Broadcasting Law. As an activist, he was a founding member of Citizens for European Macedonia.

"Silence is not a solution" - Roberto Beličanec, 1972-2013. Photo shared as meme.

“Silence is not a solution” – Roberto Beličanec, 1972-2013. Photo shared as meme.

In the last several months, as director of the Media Development Center, Beličanec was engaged in a strenuous [mk] struggle against the new all-encompassing Media Law, intended to provide a legal means for total control over freedom of expression in Macedonia. His latest expert contribution was within an analysis of this draft law (pdf).

As a reaction to this draft law, Beličanec recently moved his blog “This is not America” from a domestic to foreign platform. His final blog post [mk] condemned a recent instance of endemic homophobic violence, a night stoning attack on the home of the family of actor & human rights activist Petar Stojkovikj who publicly announced his homosexuality, drawing parallels to 1930s Nazi pogroms. In his last Facebook post [mk], referring to propaganda intended to soften the perceptions of stalled international integrations of Macedonia, he asked:

И сега? Како? Уште 7 години ќе се занимаваме со вуду економија и вуду политика?

And now what? How? Shall we spend seven more years on voodoo economics and voodoo politics?

Fellow bloggers [mk, mk], journalists and other social media users posted mementos to Beličanec, also publishing his links or quotes as Facebook statuses, and expressed outrage at several (quickly removed) gloating comments [mk]. One often shared quote included an excerpt [mk] from an interview with а local portal from his native town of Prilep:

… Односот кон институциите секогаш ми бил конфликтен – да се почитуваат, но да се менуваат за да им служат на луѓето, а не луѓето да им служат на институциите. Тоа е слободно живеење и тоа не се сменило. Не трпам паши и друг тип на феудалци. Немам респект кон моќта, а уште помалку кон силата. Не верувам дека наведната глава сабја не ја сече – напротив – најлесно ја сече, само треба да се спушти раката. Не верувам дека човекот е способен да создаде совршена творба. Мора вечно да се менуваме за да опстанеме и да просперираме. Не знам дали сум бил бунтовен како средношколец – веројанто сум бил… Но не сум бил бунтовен без причина. Моите бунтови секогаш имаат и цел и причина. Не е тоа дифузен бунт на човек кој не знае зошто е гневен… О, не! И тоа како добро знам што и кој ми смета и зошто. И никогаш тоа не заради мене и заради мои лични цели, секогаш тоа е поширока приказна околу која се врти приказната за слободата. Не само мојата лична, туку и на другите. Слободата е основен предуслов за самоостварување на човекот . Не мислам дека трпењето спасува…

Трпењето создава робови. Ваквите ставови ми овозможиле да изборам некоја лична слобода никој да не ме управува, никој да не ме насочува и никој да не ме злоупотребува. Можам денес да мислам, да зборувам, да работам и мирно да си се гледам во огледало знаеќи дека никој нема да ми се појави на врата и да побара да вратам некој долг со нешто што не сакам да направам. Не е малку!

…My relationship with the institutions was always conflicting – they should be respected, but also changed to serve the people, and not the people to serve the institutions. That is what I consider a free life and that has not changed. I cannot stand [pashas] or any other type of feudal lords. I have no respect for power, and even less for brute force. I do not believe [a defeatist folk proverb] that “a bowed head is not cut by the sabre” – on the contrary, such heads are cut most easily, the executioner needs just to let his hand fall down. I do not believe that a human being is capable of creating perfection. We eternally need to change to survive and prosper. I do not remember being a rebel in high school – I probably was… But I was never a rebel without a cause. My rebellions always have a goal and a purpose. It is not a diffused rebellion of a man who does not know why he is angry… Oh, no! I very well know who and why is bothering me. And I never speak out only because of me and my personal goals, it is always a wider story related to the story of liberty. Not only my personal freedom, but also others'. Freedom is a precondition for self-realization in human beings. I do not think that putting up [with oppression] can save you…

Tolerating [oppression] creates slaves. These positions enabled me to win some degree of personal freedom – so nobody can rule over me, no one to direct me and nobody to abuse me. Today I can think, talk, work and peacefully look at the mirror, knowing that nobody can come to my door and ask me to return a debt with something that I would not like to do. And that is not a small thing!

Roberto Beličanec is survived by his loving wife and three small children.

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