In recent days, state officials in North Macedonia have verbally abused journalists and media outlets on several occasions. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined its affiliate in North Macedonia, the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM), in condemning the inappropriate behaviour of public figures and reminding them of the moral obligations that go with public office.
Since 16 January, the Prime Minister, several ministers and the president of a political party have used degrading language against several journalists who were doing their job by asking questions, sometimes embarrassing, to prominent public figures in North Macedonia.
Specifically on 16 January, Prime Minister Kovacevski said: “I believe that Mr. Ahmeti made that statement based on facts: “I can say that there are media in the country whose editorial policy resembles a company that trades in energy, and there is also a media whose editorial policy resembles a party’s communication department.” The Prime Minister referred to the statement of the president of the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), Ali Ahmeti, who, publicly qualified TV Telma and TV Alfa as “hostile”.
On 6 February, Health Minister Bekim Sali gave “a lesson on journalism” at a press conference, which journalists present at the Tetovo Clinical Hospital should have been taken as a “positive criticism”.
On 2 February, Minister of Economy Kreshnik Bekteshi commented at a press conference that a journalist had asked a question on behalf of other journalists, instead of answering this specific question related to the increase in natural gas prices.
Earlier, an education policy advisor at the Ministry of Education and Science had humiliated a journalist during a press conference who was asking “tendentious questions to take the minister out of context”.
According to the AJM, these examples are no longer isolated incidents: “In recent days, the AJM has warned about this negative trend of increasing unprofessional attitudes of public officials towards journalists. We recall that state officials are at the service of the public, and that they should not have an inappropriate and offensive attitude towards journalists and, consequently, towards the public at large to whom information should be conveyed. These are no longer isolated incidents,” said Dragan Sekulovski, AJM executive director.
EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez added: “Public name-calling and inappropriate behaviour by public officials towards journalists have become more frequent. We are monitoring the state of this negative trend with our local partners. Journalists and media workers need to work in an environment where they do not feel threatened and where officials will treat them with respect and understanding, as the job requires. Officials must live up to their role and set an example when interacting with journalists, instead of creating doubt or discrediting them.”
This statement by EFJ is part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries.