The Republic of Macedonia suffered from a long-standing devastating political crisis. The political crisis was interrupted with a number of security challenges, interethnic and inter-religious tensions and incidents, political violence, as well as with shrinking social and economic situation in the country.

The country suffered from state capture, particularly enhanced since 2008. Elections in December,
2016 have brought a change of government that has been completed five months later, after a long string of events and violence that could have additionally deteriorated the overall situation in the country.

The very process of formation of the new government was accompanied with a fierce campaign by the opposition, rise of nationalism, and a violent attack on the parliament building on April 27, where an attempt on the life of several MPs was made, including the lives of the political leaders of now ruling social-democrats and of the Alliance for Albanians.

Challenges are not over. During the fisrt half of 2017, one can still see that political and financial power centers are still holding the country captive in many ways, particularly at local level. This could and should be expected. The state and all of its institutions, the entire economy, as well as the society and the media have been
treated as private property of a narrow circle of people.

This behaviour of power centers is extremely difficult to root out. Tremendous efforts and time have to be invested to heal the country from a widespread political corruption and make institutions efficient, citizen oriented, transparent and accountable.

The legacy of the Macedonian young democracy is rather grim. Police, inspections and judiciary used to be the main tools for intimidation and pressure. Those institutions were the first lines of defense for the high political, business and media strongmen. Nowadays, many of them are suspected of serious crimes, abuse of power, wiretapping enormous number of citizens, corruption and electoral fraud, investigated by the Special Public Prosecutor.

The state capture has led to serious and continuous human rights violations and discrimination. Hate speech and public stigma against human rights activists and independent intellectuals was widespread and is still present in the public discourse. Now, just days after the new government was introduced, there is an increasing
trend of hate speech against supporters of the previous government, which is now posing new challenges to the fragile political process in the country.

By shutting down or severely corrupting media, and by imprisoning journalists, the party that has led the previous government has severely hit the freedom of expression. Abuse of power, structural violence and electoral frauds became obvious and evidenced features of the country. Frequent pre-term election processes, filled with
serious irregularities and electoral frauds that are under investigation of the Special Public Prosecutor, have additionally deteriorated the situation. Political corruption, structural violence and discriminatory policies and practices were wide-spread and it is not likely that they will easily disappear after the change of power.
In the past several years, CIVIL has recorded an increased number of cases of pressure and attacks on journalists, human rights activists and those who are not in the same line with the main political centers of power. This all has led to a severe deterioration of human rights situation in the country and affected the everyday life
of citizens.

Shrinking of civic space continued, leaving no possibilities for citizen participation, civic engagement, and freedom of expression that are guaranteed by the country’s Constitution and by the international standards. Civil society and media situation in the country is in disastrous shape, leaving deep divisions between citizens in general,
which is generated by the conduct of the media that are vastly under control of the formerly ruling parties and their business associates.

A smaller number of media outlets were under significant influence of the opposition parties, running the risk to become uncritical apologists of the new government. In such case, the space for free and independent information to be disseminated in public will remain rather narrow. Information has been traded for propaganda from either side of the belligerent political options in the country.

Stigmatization and public discrediting is a daily routine in the media and social networks. This is a clear illustration on how deeply divided the society is, due to the longstanding wrongdoings of the ruling parties, and a very poor capacities of the rest of the political and societal structures to rebuild democracy and rule of law in
the country.

All in all, it is very hard to find both civic activities and media contents in the country that are entirely free from political interference. Civil society and media have a decreasing opportunities to provide objective information and to serve as a civic education resource for constructive exchange and dialogue in the society. The society is in a need for real citizen society oriented, entirely open, objective and free civic and media platforms to contribute to overcoming the long-standing turmoil in the country.

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