SU-PRO-MEDIA | 14.08.2018 17:40 > 14.08 17:58

Shadows from the Past

Instead of Macedonian ruling and opposition politicians, arriving for a recent meeting meant to come up with an agreement on some very important issues, the photo journalists waiting to take their pictures became the subject of media reports. As it happened, the reporters were not allowed to photograph those entering the MP Club where the meeting was to take place, which until then was a regular practice.
Among those prevented from doing their job was photo journalist Borce Popovski.

“We were told that for security reasons we cannot stand in the place where we stood so many times in the past. When we protested, the police told us to discuss the matter with the Protocol Service, and the Protocol Service told us to discuss the matter with the police,” Popovski says.

In protest, the photo journalists put down their cameras and refused to take any pictures.

All media associations in Macedonia reacted to this incident in which their colleagues were not allowed to carry out their duty. They demanded that media professionals be let do their tasks without hindrance.

“We protested, but were in turn insulted by being told that we have been silent for so long, but now dare be loud and protest,” says Tamara Causidis, president of the Independent Trade Union of Journalists of Macedonia.

She referred to the words uttered by Marjan Zabrcanec, public relations adviser of Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.

Namely, when the photo journalists protested and said they had been using that spot for taking pictures for long and that this sudden ban was unacceptable, Zabrcanec told them: “You have kept quiet for 11 years while being trampled on. And now you are brave enough to speak up!” The adviser alluded to the years while the VMRO-DPMNE party was in power and while the media were exposed to strong pressure and control by the government led by Nikola Gruevski.

“My mention of 11 years of their being trampled on was a reaction to their accusations that we are trampling on journalists. I cannot and will never accept such claims because our attitude is quite different and we are truly in favor of professionalism and free reporting by all news media,” Zabrcanec says.

A day after the ban, the journalists were allowed to take photographs of the leaders coming to a new meeting from their habitual spot – the entrance to the MP Club.

Zabrcanec says that the misunderstanding has been overcome.

“In cooperation with security services a solution was found according to which a group of photo journalists wishing to do so can take pictures both at the entrance and inside the Club, in accordance with the security protocol,” he added.
The dispute ended with a joint photograph being taken of photo journalists and members of the Macedonian Government Protocol Service in front of the Club.

Both the photo journalists and media associations want to believe that it was truly only a misunderstanding and not a result of lack of understanding of the media professionals’ tasks. Association of Journalists of Macedonia representatives have warned that such incidents are a direct attack on freedom of the press and an attempt to criminalize the work of journalists, depicting them in public as dangerous people. They say that if there were indeed security reasons for introducing a new practice in covering public events, the police should have informed the photo journalists and cameramen in advance so that they could find an alternative way to do their job properly, instead of creating confusion and disputes.

“These unnecessary incidents are seriously compromising the attempts of the new authorities led by the Social Democratic Alliance of Macedonia to, as they put it, rule transparently, and are reviving the shadows from the past,” the Association said.


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