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SU-PRO-MEDIA | 15.08.2018 11:55 > 15.08 12:00

Zero Tolerance for Endangering Freedom of Speech


In October 2016 journalist Pavle Belovski was attacked three minutes before commencing a live report for TV Telma’s news program. Initially, a man provoked him verbally, but then proceeded to kick and punch him.

“He verbally abused me, and then attacked me physically. I had bruises on my head and hematoma in other places. Hitting someone in such a violent manner is a serious offence,” says Belovski.

Only recently, two years after the incident, Belovski was summoned by the Skopje Misdemeanor Court. The police filed a misdemeanor report against the assailant instead of a criminal one. The man who attacked Belovski was charged on two counts: for being drunk and for disturbing public order.

The lawyers Belovski consulted believe that the incident contains elements of crime, while the police was of the opinion that the bully who assaulted the journalist was actually just a bit too drunk and a bit too loud.

“My employer, TV Telma, and I consulted lawyers who said that the criminal elements of the incident warrant a prison sentence. But the police decided that he was to be charged with disturbing public order, meaning that he may end up by only being fined EUR600-800,” Belovski adds.

The attack took place in front of the Macedonian Ministry of the Interior’s building. According to Belovski, police did their job properly and promptly detained the attacker. But they failed to see the attack as an act of violence. To have him prosecuted, Belovski has to personally sue him. He believes, however, that violent acts against journalists should be prosecuted as a crime.

“It is beyond doubt that pressing criminal charges in such cases would serve as a good deterrent for would-be offenders. This is why they need to be prosecuted,” Belovski believes.

The attack against Belovski is one of 47 reports filed for physical assaults against journalists, endangering their security and threats against them registered in the 2013-2017 period.

This is the time Nikola Gruevski’s VMRO-DPMNE was in power in Macedonia. The new government, led by the Social-Democratic Alliance of Macedonia, says it will not tolerate attacking, blackmailing, pressuring and threatening journalists.

“The Government’s position is that of zero tolerance for any attempt to endanger the freedom of speech and expression. Every attack on media representatives will be most strongly condemned and sanctioned,” says Macedonian Minister for Communications and Transparency Robert Popovski.

Macedonian Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski adds that since the forming of the new government in mid-2017, 12 assaults on journalists have been recorded, of which only one remains unsolved.

“You should have in mind that the Ministry of the Interior is determined to abandon the social practice in effect so far, for which we have been criticized for years by numerous relevant domestic and foreign institutions and associations,” Spasovski added.

Does Belovski believe the ministers when they speak about zero tolerance when it comes to assaults on journalists?

“When they mention zero tolerance, I assume that what they have in mind is a prompt verbal condemnation, rather than prosecution of such deeds. For zero tolerance to truly exist, they must demonstrate in practice that they consider such acts as crimes,” Belovski says.

On Sept. 27 Belovski is due to appear before the court and face the man who attacked him almost two years ago. The fact that his attacker can expect no more than a fine is not his prime concern. What he sees as his biggest satisfaction is that the most senior officials in the country are working to prevent attacks against all journalists, regardless of who they work for.



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