erdem.ademAuthor: Erdem Ahmet, journalist, member of the CMEM Appeals Commission

"Do not do unto others what you do not want done unto you". If the media had followed this wise Confucian saying, there would have been no content with hate speech, prejudice, discriminatory speech and stereotypes related to diversity. There would be debates and disagreements as before, but the words would be heeded. Diversity would be respected. As things currently stand, no one is sure that they will not be verbally attacked just because of their ethnicity, gender, age, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, political conviction….

Anyone can make a mistake

Every journalist can make mistakes, but it is important to learn from those mistakes. As a young journalist in the MTV Turkish language program I was a news editor. The then Prime Minister Vlado Buchkovski was in Bulgaria, where there was a Roma summit. I asked one of my colleagues to contact the correspondent from Bulgaria and to give a telephone report from this Summit. I made the announcement about the news, but I did not listen to the report. The next day, a Roma NGO contacted us with a reaction to the report from Bulgaria that an offensive term of reference was used for the Roma. I asked my colleagues and they confirmed that the information was correct. I knew that this term was offensive to the Roma and therefore my announcement to the report did not contain the offensive word, but the report from the correspondent used this term at the beginning. Many of the world media, including the BBC, used the offensive term to designate the Roma people in their reports of the event, but that was not an excuse for me. I apologized because I, as a news editor, had to check the report, even though the reporter was an experienced correspondent who covered several media outlets in Turkey. I felt bad because I was part of the working group that drafted the Code of Journalists of Macedonia and for me it was very important to respect professional standards and ethics. Nevertheless, I still made a mistake. I acknowledged the mistake and I try not to repeat the same mistake.

Violations of the Code related to diversity

The Code of Journalists of Macedonia regulates violations related to reporting on diversity in 2 articles.

Article 10: The journalists shall not consciously create or process information that jeopardize the human rights and freedoms, shall not use hate speech and shall not encourage discrimination of any sort (nationality, religion, sex, social class, language, sexual orientation, political orientation…).

This article is standard for all codes and refers to prejudices and stereotypes, but in our Code this area is elaborated in more detail and contains hate speech, which is considered a crime, and is not contained in some codes.

Article 11: The journalist shall observe the general social standards of decency and shall respect the ethnic, cultural and religious differences in Macedonia.

There is no such article in other journalistic codes, but the working group that drafted the Code of Journalists of Macedonia considered it important to emphasize these differences. When the Code was being drafted in 2002, the memories of the 2001 conflicts, which ended with the signing of the Ohrid Framework Agreement, were fresh.

Ethnic affiliation as a factor of diversity

The events on the Skopje Kale that took place ten years after the Framework Agreement showed that issues related to interethnic relations are a sensitive issue. At that time, certain politicians made inflammatory statements, and the media, without taking into account the sensitivity of the issue, reported these statements and contributed for such messages to gain a larger audience. It is good that the craze quickly subsided and the situation calmed down.

On several occasions, the Turkish community to which I belong was also the target of insulting statements transmitted by the media. During the previous government, the statement of the then Minister of Information Society and Administration Ivo Ivanovski: "We have had enough of the 500 years of Turkish slavery" provoked an avalanche of reactions and condemnation by the Turkish parties and NGOs. Minister Ivanovski, in his statement, announced the new Law on Media which aimed to stimulate the Macedonian production at the expense of the Turkish series, which in itself was not disputable, but he did it in a completely inappropriate manner. The statement of Dragan Pavlovic-Latas: "You are lying like a Turk" during the interview of the then leader of the opposition Zoran Zaev on TV Sitel caused great reactions and condemnation.

It is interesting to note that when our national team achieves success at the international level, the players are celebrated as gods, no one cares about the multiethnic composition of players, and the ethnicity of the one who scores or assists is not emphasized. This should be the case, because as a national team they represent us all. When criminals are caught without any public interest, their ethnic affiliation is mentioned in order to stain the others, even though we are all Macedonian citizens. For some of the media, the group gatherings for Iftar and the ethnic communities living there were to blame for the growth of the number of infected persons with the Covid - 19 in Chair. When Aerodrom became the leader in the number of infected people, those same media remained silent.

Smaller communities are being marginalized

Representatives of the smaller ethnic communities are being marginalized from the main debates in the media on issues related to the future of our country. The major media are in Macedonian and Albanian and the views promoted in those media are predominantly related to the elites of the Macedonian and Albanian communities. When there is a misunderstanding between the Albanian and Macedonian political parties or between the government and the opposition, the views of the representatives of the smaller ethnic communities are presented as close to one side or the other, and not as a different view. The state bodies have the same logic. The Ohrid Framework Agreement was signed by 2 Macedonian and 2 Albanian parties. Only Macedonian and Albanian parties participated in the leadership meetings. When an agreement is reached, the parties of the smaller ethnic communities can choose whether to support the agreement or not, but they cannot change the agreed solution. In our country, consensus means an agreement reached between the Macedonian and Albanian political elites. Ten percent of the population is excluded from that consensus.

Recommendations for inclusive journalism

The media in our country are largely politicized. Politics is a dominant topic in the news. Only a limited number of politicians and experts who speak on behalf of all citizens are guests in the debate shows. It would be good for the media to take into account diversity upon employment of personnel; however, that depends on their good will. There is ethnic diversity in the public service broadcaster, as stipulated by law. It would be good to prepare guidelines for inclusive journalism by the media community and the NGO sector. Training journalists, editors, photographers and camera operators about inclusive journalism is a good idea. I support the idea of ​​specialized shows, a specialized channel or a specialized internet portal for inclusive journalism. Previously, as a member of the Management Board of the AJM, I had a meeting with the Norwegian ambassador based in Belgrade and asked him how his country manages to be constantly at the top of the world in terms of media freedom. His answer was: money. Norway provides money to achieve inclusive journalism for all communities and media groups. Why would our country not do the same within the framework of its possibilities?