Report of “Reporters Without Borders”, four years of slow and difficult progress after Gruevski’s fall. Who is nurturing the pressures, impunity, clientelism?


And this year as well, for the fourth year in a row, we have maintained the progress in the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index, an international journalistic organization that has been for years registering the pressure over media freedom globally. Still, that rise is slow, we are in the 90th place, which is not something to be thrilled about and boast, while the report of the RWB further points to the “traditional” anomalies we have been dragging for years.

Therefore, although the continuous progress is encouraging, this analysis will focus on what is preventing our country from advancing in media freedoms with bigger steps. The general diagnosis this time again is precisely given in the three paragraphs, as much as RWB have provided in the world report on North Macedonia. The key obstacles and challenges to progress are clearly pointed out and recognized as follows: threats and pressure against journalists, culture of impunity and increasing hate speech against journalists and public figures on the social networks, and certainly the financing of the media that will prevent clientelism[1].

So let’s try to scratch beneath the surface and go into the details of two of these three key challenges – the most painful ones, culture of impunity, as well as the ever-present hatred and threats it encourages. Because, as they say, the devil is in the details.


When we talk about direct pressures, insults or inappropriate attitude towards journalists, the Macedonian public is almost an everyday witness to such cases of organized threats, defamation and intimidation of people on the social networks and portals. We rarely hear of any legal epilogue regarding them, hence the justified perception that there is a culture of impunity, of hate speech coming from everywhere, and mostly from party sympathisers and propaganda on the social networks, for which CIVIL in the past year produced and published a comprehensive analysis[2].

The Report of Reporters with Borders, apart from the key remark about the persistence of the culture of impunity, also notes inappropriate attitude by senior government representatives. In order to come to specific numbers, cases and comparisons, we tried to make an analysis of the cases, to which journalists and media organizations, the Association of Journalists of Macedonia, as their representative, have specifically and publically reacted to. Certainly, these cases include only part of what is happening in reality, but are enough and valid in order to detect the trends and responsibilities for such pressures, having as a filter the determining of the grounds they go through in the media associations.

According to the reactions of the AJM in 2020, which are officially and publically available on the Association’s website and part of an international project that strengthened the monitoring and advocacy role of the AJM, it concerns about 30 cases of public reactions to some kind of pressure directed against journalists and the media.

Rankings of North Macedonia in the Index of Reporters Without Borders 2009-2021

The biggest decline of Macedonia is noted in the period 2009-2014, from the 34th to the 123th place, a fall of 89 places in 5 years. The biggest advancement for Macedonia is in the period 2017-2020, from the 111th to the 90th place, in four years – a rise by 19 positions.

Most reactions for pressure, threats, hate speech, labelling – to political parties, their propaganda and sympathisers  

What is interesting is that the majority of cases refer to political parties. Most of them, which include even explicit threats to lives and with firearms, are for representatives or sympathisers of VMRO-DPMNE[3] and Levica[4]. Here we have various cases, from threats from senior officials, to threats of ordinary sympathisers against journalists who had come to report about the protest.

Furthermore, among the reactions of the AJM to the political parties in 2020, two can be noted towards the Alliance for Albanians [5]. One official reaction each for pressure and threats by the leader of GROM[6],  as well as for inappropriate attitude and public labelling of journalists by DUI [7].

There have been no official reactions from the AJM to the parliamentary parties of SDSM, Besa, Alternativa and other non-parliamentary parties.

The other reactions of the AJM are in terms of hate speech or threats by people through the social networks[8] and various types of hate speech to which a multiple victim is a journalist [9], can all be pointed out as a visible example of this.

The AJM reacted also in one case of threat and pressure on journalists-investigators by a well-known businessman[10].

A reaction of AJM is also registered for threats and physical confrontation with persons who were indicated by the attacked media worker as close to the former chief of the secret service and former senior VMRO party official[11].

The AJM reacted publically also for threats from persons in regards to an article about a wedding during a pandemic [12], as well as for the obstruction of a journalist by residents of a local settlement [13].

A case of verbal threats and pressures by parents in a school and by a clergyman was also indicated[14].

For several of these cases, a procedure from the MOI was requested.

Pressure and inappropriate attitude by officials and bodies of the executive government

The AJM also sent several reactions in 2020 to officials, bodies under the competence of the executive government.

Two of the reactions are in relation to the attitude of two ministers from among the lines of VMRO-DPMNE and their teams during the provisional government, one reaction in regards to the attitude of then Minister of Labour and Social Policy towards an editorial office[15], and one reaction regarding the attitude of the people of the team of the Technical Minister of Interior[16]. These are the only “senior government officials” that the report of Reporters Without Borders refers to, for whom we could find official reactions from the AJM during 2020.

As to managerial persons from lower government echelons, in 2020 the AJM reacted for pressure or inappropriate attitude by three directors or government agencies and institutes [17].

Some of these officials, as the government also stated in its response to questions related to the report of the RWB, are no longer in those managerial positions[18].

With the police, there was an express response to the reaction and request of the AJM for the case regarding the person employed in the Central Registry, who threatened two journalists [19], which also received a court resolution and the person was sentenced to 20 months of prison and compulsory psychiatric treatment[20]. Two reactions of the AJM point to inappropriate police action against journalist[21], during which for one of these cases it was concluded that the MOI had taken measures and the official person had been punished for incorrect procedures[22].

Regarding the restrictions that were imposed due to the pandemic, the AJM also has a reaction to the health authorities for obstructing the reporting during a pandemic [23], as well as a reaction in relation to the criteria for issuing permits for the movement of media workers during curfew [24].

On one case, an employee of the Customs Administration is indicated as a source of threats [25].

Reactions for pressure by other institutions and authorities

In addition to the executive government, in 2020 the AJM also had reactions for cases of incorrect action by institutions and bodies that are part of other authorities. Two cases of reactions are noted to the Public Prosecutor’s Office[26]. The AJM also reacted for labelling by the Director of the Media Agency[27].

How to free the media and public communication from violence and hatred?

Although this year’s advancement and the continuity of four years of advancing in the Reporters Without Borders’ Index encourages, still, the cases of serious threats, pressures, regardless of whom they come from, all need to be taken seriously and as a top priority, for the whole society. As the indicators are clear, everything can be seen well. Both who is encouraging the culture of impunity and hatred with well-organized structures in the media and on the social networks, and who is doing something and is pretending not to see or sees only when that suits someone, and who is not doing anything is all seen.

The findings of “Reporters Without Borders” should be analysed carefully, and each of the indicated public actors should take responsibility for the shortcomings and for further improvement of the situation, each in their own area and within their competencies and possibilities. It would be good for there to be mutual coordination and good will among the actors, but also cleaning up your own backyard would not be bad to start with.

The government in its first appearance following the publication of this year’s report of RWB outlined that it would continue improving the situation where it is competent, and encourages all other institutions, political parties and the prosecutor’s office to do the same. Maintaining a positive four-year trend gives hope that this path can continue, but this will be possible only if such cases are constantly reported to the institutions, so that their efficiency can be measured. The public needs to attentively watch their steps, criticize, but also encourage where positive changes have been made.

The media professionals and their associations certainly are expected to respond to this challenge. Primarily, by drawing a clear line between the real media professionals and those who are part of the party kitchens for production of propaganda and hate speech on the internet and social networks. The impression is that the journalistic guild is constantly running away from the fight for cleansing its ranks. That fight is inevitable, while self-regulation and its intensive use is the only efficient weapon for maintaining journalistic freedom, but also establishing responsibility for the profession.

At the end, perhaps even the most important:

The culture of impunity first and foremost exists because there are no procedures and punishments by the judicial bodies. This is clear even to small children.

As long as people don’t get the impression that for threats, hate speech, lies, insults that destroy the dignity of every person and violate a bunch of laws and human rights – there is no responsibility; or that the state is selectively “making a move” only when officials or important figures are under threat, or that you can lie all kinds of stuff about someone and even cause an avalanche of unpunished hatred, and go by unpunished for this… As long as it is this way, we are not moving anywhere. Neither in the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index, nor in general, in any single aspect important for us to have a better future.

As long as hatred is free, freedom of expression will be under pressure.


[1]   Impunity culture persists, Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index 2020, Report on North Macedonia

[2] ANALYSIS: “Instead of with a focus on the offer for citizens – the media with a reflection of the campaigns dominated by black propaganda, disinformation, slander, insults and hatred”, published by CIVIL, author Petrit Saracini and a team of researchers, September 2020 (all parts of the analyses available here:

[3] Reactions of the AJM to VMRO-DPMNE and sympathisers:

[4] Reaction of the AJM to Levica and sympathisers:

[5] Condemnation for the public labelling by the Alliance for Albanians against TV21 09.06.2020 //

AJM: Strong condemnation for the threats against TV21 journalist (…against TV21 journalist Almedina Ismajli, threats made by Neshat Ademi, who is a former member of the AA…) 29.01.2020

[6] Condemnation for the insults and threats by S. Jakimovski against G. Chomovski 27.03.2020

[7] AJM: DUI to stop with the labelling of journalists (Ali Ahmeti called journalist Albrim Hodza of the online media outlet “vegetosan”)19.05.2020

[8] AJM, SSNM and CMEM: MOI and the PPO to sanction the hate speech against journalists (hate speech on the social networks against several journalists and NGOs)  15.11.2020

[9] AJM, SSNM and CMEM strongly condemn the threats against correspondent Milevska 13.07.2020

[10] The threats against the IRL team, a serious attempt to silence investigative journalism (by the owner of the construction company “Nastel” – Zoran Azmanov) 30.12.2019

[11] AJM: Attack against journalist Ljupco Zlatev to be urgently investigated (case with Miojalkov’s son) 24.07.2020

[12] Strong condemnation for the threats against journalist Miroslava Byrns (following a text published about a wedding in Tetovo, banned with the pandemic measures) 24.07.2020

[13] The AJM most strongly condemns the treats against the journalist team of TV Klan (Furkan Saliu from TV Klan on the ground in Vaksince, obstructed by the residents…) 28.05.2020

[14] AJM and CMEM: Verbal and all other attacks against journalists need to stop immediately 24.10.2020

[15] AJM and CMEM condemn the attitude of Minister Mizrahi towards А1on 28.01.2020

[16] Inacceptable attitude by the police towards Saliu (the attitude of police officers from the security and those responsible for the protocol of Minister of Interior Nakje Chulev towards Journalist Furkan Saliu from TV Klan) 07.05.2020

[17] AJM, SSNM and CMEM: Condemnation for the threats and discrediting of journalists  (“А1on” by the Director of the National Agency for European Educational Programs and Mobility..) 12.10.2020 // Condemnation for repeated threats and humiliation of Tozija from the Film Agency  30.09.2020 /// REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS CONDEMS THREATS OF THE FILM AGENCY FOR CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST SAKAMDAKAZAM.MK, RADIOMOF.MK AND MKD.MK 30.07.2020   + AJM / AJM: Condemnation for the gross disqualifications referred to journalist Marina Kostova by the Film Agency 10.07.2020 Condemnation for the inappropriate attitude of IDKNA towards the newspaper “Koha” (Institute of Cultural Heritage of the Albanians…) 02.09.2020


[19] AJM: The institutions to urgently act upon the threats against Jordanovska and Koroveshovska (threatened by Emil Jakomovski) 13.01.2020 //


[21] Inacceptable attitude by the police towards Saliu (the attitude of police officers from the security and those responsible for the protocol of Minister of Interior Nakje Chulev towards Journalist Furkan Saliu from TV Klan) 07.05.2020

[22] MOI punishes police officers obstructing the work of fellow colleague Sekulovska 22.07.2020

[23] Health authorities not to obstruct the work of journalists 30.12.2020

[24] The Registry of the CMEM and the AJM exists for recognition of professional media, and not for handing out permits for movement 22.03.2020

[25] AJM: Condemnation for the threats and insults against journalist Miroslava Byrns (…by Laste Ivanovski, employed in the Customs Administration) 01.03.2020

[26] REACTIONS TO THE BPPO: The investigation of the BPPO for the election advertising should be transparent and non-selective 17.09.2020 // AJM and SSNM: BPPO to reconsider the case with Zlatev 31.07.2020

[27] AJM: The Director of the AAVMS unprofessionally labels media 28.07.2020

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