There is a thin line between hate speech and violence
Published in Journalistic Lessonson 23 - 08 - 2016 Author: Зоран Бојаровски
The Courts and the Public Prosecution Office established a non-punishment phenomenon, which created a feeling of legal insecurity among the citizens and high level of non-confidence in the bodies which implement the justice in the Republic of Macedonia. We are referring to the hate speech, highly serious appearance that produces violence and hatred inspired actionsа
Author: Zoran Bojarovski
The decision of the High Public Prosecution Office, which states the opinion that the Facebook status of Milenko Nedelkovski full of threats towards several journalists does not instigate hatred and violence, but just states his views on certain people and therefore dismissed the request for prosecuting him, caused stupefying and fierce reactions in the greater part of the public.
Hate speech is a criminal offense in the Republic of Macedonia. Legal provisions that prohibit and punish hate speech and dissemination of materials via internet which promote or instigate hatred, discrimination or violence, against any person or group, on any discriminatory basis, entered into force in February 2014.
The Article 394-g from the Criminal Code, titled “Dissemination of racist and xenophobic materials via computer system”, says:
(1) The person who via computer system publicly disseminates racist and xenophobic written materials, pictures or other representation of ideas or theory that help, promote or instigate hatred, discrimination or violence, against any person or group, based on sex, race, skin color, gender, ethnic affiliation, language, nationality, social origin, religion or religious belief, other types of beliefs, education, political affiliation, personal or social status, mental or physical disability, age, familial or marital condition, property status, health condition, or on any other ground provisioned by any other law or internationally ratified agreement, shall be imprisoned from one to five years.
(2) The sentence from Paragraph (1) of this Article shall be applied to the person who shall perpetrate the offense via other means of public informing.
(3) The person who perpetrates the offense from Paragraphs (1) and (2) of this Article by dereliction of duty or authority, or if the offense has led to rioting and violence against people or has caused high scale property damage, shall be imprisoned from one to ten years.
Few months ago, Milenko Nedelkovski published the following on his Facebook profile (“computer system” or “other means of public informing”):
“When we will go out in the streets, when we will become fed up, and that is soon, my group and I will go like this: At BG’s home so I can align his eyesight. Afterwards, at the family’s from Brajchino with the Shiptar daughter-in-law. That shall be a real circus. Then at the one’s who smokes pot at midnight. Then, at SO’s where I’ll be looking for his brother VO… And, at the end at Berovich Beton’s, to order cement for the headstone. I have rebar #12”.
THE SELECTIVE “JUSTICE” OF THE PUBLIC PROSECUTION OFFICE
Uranija Pirovska, executive director of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia, says that by dismissing the criminal charge against Milenko Nedelkovski for hate speech, the Basic Public Prosecution Office once again confirmed the selective approach of the judicial bodies when it comes the government’s spokesmen.
“Precisely this approach of the court and the prosecution office established the non-punishment phenomenon, which created a feeling of legal insecurity among the citizens and high level of non-confidence in the bodies which implement the justice in the Republic of Macedonia. Also, we are referring to the hate speech, highly serious appearance that produces violence and hatred-inspired actions, and we have the data from our websites, which register the cases of hate speech and hatred-inspired actions, to serve as proof. Almost all open-minded citizens, journalists and activists, including the LGBTI community, are facing Milenko Nedelkovski’s hate speech, who is disseminating it on his Facebook profile on a daily basis, said Pirovska for the Media Fact Checking Service (MFCS).
Zharko Jordanovski, editor at Sloboden Pechat daily, also emphasizes the irresponsible decision of the prosecution office on, as he refers to Nedelkovski’s “speech” – the brutal hate speech and open calls on violence.
“The Basic Public Prosecution Office, besides the dangerous message of non-punishment of such offenses, also instigates the atmosphere of lynch and conflict, which has been created over a long period of time in this country. The prosecutors hold immense liability for such negligent working. Because of them Macedonia is being transformed into a dark vicinity where the lowest passions are raging and danger from various tribalism is lurking. Such prosecutors, more than the hatred spokesmen themselves, are blameworthy for Macedonia’s regress on its road to becoming at least decent country. Those prosecutors should consider what kind of a country their children will live in if this chain of events is not ended?”
Uranija Pirovska, executive director of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia, emphasizes that the following fact proves that PPO’s behavior is trending:
“The Helsinki Committee and the Coalition for sexual and health rights of the marginalized communities have also pressed criminal charge against Milenko Nedelkovski. This charge has been dismissed by the Basic Public Prosecution Office three times, and after our appeals the High Public Prosecution Office has been returning it back, but the acting instructions were not accepted. Because of these reasons, after the last accepted appeal, we requested from the High Public Prosecution Office to act upon this case”.
Zharko Jordanovski has his comment on the incompetence manifested via the decision that demonstrates the entire prosecution system:
“The training sessions for prosecutors and judges regarding the importance of stopping the hate speech are fruitless, the seminars are futile, the signed declarations and the public space “occupied” – without professional and moral integrity, all those efforts are useless”.
THE PROSECUTION OFFICE IN THE GOVERNMENT’S LAP
On the other hand, this decision by the prosecution office reveals another dimension spotlighted by the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM):
“It becomes clear that the death threats towards journalists are ordered by the government’s crown, which uses Nedelkovski as a megaphone for making the journalists afraid and insecure and also to discourage them from writing for its non-democratic governing practices”, stated Naser Selmani, president of AJM.
Uranija Pirovska speaks about this appearance in a wider context:
“Such tendencies are in correspondence with our conclusions for complete control over the institutions of the system by the government, i.e. non-separation of the country from the party”.
Zharko Jordanovski has specific examples about the umbilical cord between the government and the prosecution office:
“On the other hand, it can be said that the prosecutors are under political pressure, direct or indirect. There is a firm ground to make presumption that the decision on non-punishing the filth propagated by the specific perpetrator has direct connection with the highest level of political support he enjoys. What kind of message receives one prosecutor, when he sees that the most powerful man in this country, the ex-Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, is a guest in the show of the particular anchorman, and they literally refer to themselves by their first names? Not to mention that this government, as we witnessed from the opposition’s audio recordings, doesn’t hesitate to call judges and prosecutors and to order decisions according to their taste, to promise services, promotions or to punish. This decision of the PPO is the image of the rotten political-legal order in which we exist”.
Zoran Ivanov, journalist and editor with great experience, in his article “The hate speech in the media is produced and institutionalized by the government” has stated the harness between the government and the hate speech megaphones. He emphasizes the case when Nedelkovski, with the support of his “smaller, but not less infectious brother” Janko Ilkovski, poured hate speech over Netherland’s former ambassador in the Republic of Macedonia:
“The institutional ‘intervention’ for protection, requested by the diplomatic club is ignored, welcomed by silence. By the way, precisely the government is the “owner” of the two media where the “manly” anchormen before the TV viewership insulted and discredited the ambassadors of the important EU member states, the Netherlands and Germany. Precisely the government is the owner of the space in which the officials from the countries that are friends with Macedonia were vulgarized. Countries that are moral and financial supporters of many non-governmental, but also of a plethora of governmental projects, in our walk towards EU integration. In the spirit of ‘good’ hosts, in the spirit of ‘freedom of speech’, in the spirit of, isn’t it so, the ‘democratic benefit’, our political elite remained mute about these events. Remained mute and supported this appearance”.
Due to that, the Helsinki Committee and the Coalition for sexual and health rights of the marginalized communities are ready to continue the procedure against Milenko Nedelkovski in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, if the charge doesn’t result with an appropriate outcome.
The fact that Strasbourg will be the next destination of this case is implied by the newest reaffirmation of Nedelkovski’s hate speech, who did not wait for the prosecution office’s ink to dry off and he repeated the threats on his Facebook profile:
I cannot wait for Nikola Gruevski ‘not to have the situation under control, that the people are seethed, and that they might be fed up in a certain moment, so we can enter a new phase, which won’t be good for the country, the least for those who act as revolutionaries for loads of money and foreign interests’… I am ready. I have agenda of events, persons to visit and itinerary for moving from address to address.
Besides the judicial bodies, two more institutions are supposed to be determining hate speech and to be taking measures upon “official duty”: the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services (AAAMS) and the Commission for Protection from Discrimination.
The AAAMS declared itself as unauthorized for this case, and did the same several times before. The director Zoran Trajchevski, in his interview given for the MFCS says:
“The laws related to hate speech are crystal clear. The Public Prosecution Office is in charge of such offense. When there have been or there are indications of hate speech, the Agency has notified and always will notify the Public Prosecution Office so it can open further investigation. The hate speech is dominating the internet media and the social networks where the Agency has little authority, whereas on the classical media (TV and radio), the hate speech is much less common”.
My colleague Ljubomir Kostovski, in his article “The regulator, if willing, can prevent Nedelkovski’s hate speech”, reminds of another commission that has to react to the hate speech – the Commission for Protection from Discrimination that gives opinions, recommendations and initiates procedures in the appropriate body.
Special doubt about the decision of this Agency’s body is casted by the fact that the Parliament recently held a heated session regarding the Commission’s new members. They are – Toni Naunovski, Aleksandar Dashtevski, Aleksandar Spasenovski, Nena Nenovska – Georgievska, Jovan Ananaiev, Irfan Dehari and Bekim Kardriu.
Some of these names, whose membership in the Commission for Protection from Discrimination was supported by the ruling majority, were accused by the opposition that they are supporters of VMRO-DPMNE’s policies, and some of them, such as Naunovski, are popular thanks to their articles and appearances full of hatred (Naunovski: The phrase “Macedonia is a multiethnic state” should be banned, “Naunovski: Those who protest are the opposition, mercenaries and hooligans, they are not citizens”!
Zharko Trajanoski’s analysis “Hate speech causes violence” states numerous examples when hate speech in media caused violence:
“Prior the past cases of homophobic violence in Skopje, we were witnesses of disinformation and or inflammatory media content accompanied by comments containing calls for violence. For instance, after the disinformation article “Gay parade starts tomorrow in Skopje”, we can still read comments that directly call on violence against “faggots”. And in the TV news “Injured cop after the stoning of the LGBTI center” we can notice a comment full of hate speech, which represents the stoning victims as “queer” and “mentally ill” people who are “harassing” and who are responsible of the cop’s injuries”.
In this last case, the hate speech that calls on violence was most noticeable on Facebook, in the comment section of the pages of separate media and journalists.
My colleague Zharko Jordanovski made an interesting statement for the end of this analysis which presents us the entire absurd of non-action, i.e. the instigation of hate speech. The absurd arising from the decision of the High Public Prosecution Office:
“The Basic Public Prosecution Office once again showed that it isn’t doing the job it is supposed to do and hence the formation of the Special Public Prosecution Office was absolutely justifiable. After this decision it should be considered whether we need Special Public Prosecution Office which will sanction hate speech and other criminal acts in the media sphere. And where is the end of it?”
Really, is there an end of the absurdities?
This journalistic lesson was created within the framework of the USAID Media Strengthening in Macedonia Project - Media Fact-Checking Service Component,, mplemented by Metamorphosis. The journalistic lesson is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of its author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Metamorphosis, USAID or the United States Government. For more information on the work of USAID in Macedonia please visit its website (http://macedonia.usaid.gov) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/USAIDMacedonia).