Civil society working to protect human rights online in Macedonia

Author's name: 
Bardhyl Jashari

Over the past few years, Macedonia has seen a backslide in democracy and human rights, including the swift enactment of a repressive new Media and Defamations laws. In June 2013 Metamorphosis developed and submitted a stakeholder report for the Universal Periodic Review of the country on freedom of expression, freedom of information, privacy and hate speech, following a visit by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue.

Since last year, Metamorphosis has worked with an informal network of civil society to oppose these new laws, promote and advance the basic human right of freedom of expression, primarily in Republic of Macedonia, and throughout the world.

1. In response to new restrictions on freedom of expression – with the speedy enactment of the Defamation Law, and the adoption of the Law on Media, Metamorphosis supported and participated in the grassroots activities demanding public consultations, submitted appeals to the Parliament based on expert analyses, in cooperation with other domestic and international CSOs, and contributed to stirring of the debate on social media, centred on the hashtag #Article 16 (Mac. #член16, representing the anti-censorship article of the Constitution of Republic of Macedonia) and culminating with the online protest of a day-long blackout of around two hundred websites on October 9.

2. Metamorphosis took part in the founding of the Front for Freedom of Expression, a wide platform composed of individuals, organizations, institutions and informal groups acting as an informal network with a common goal to preserve and advance the basic human right of freedom of expression, primarily in Republic of Macedonia, and throughout the world

3. Within the Front for Freedom of Expression, an advocacy platform which it co-founded together with ten other concerned civil society organizations, Metamorphosis took part in the initiative to contest the Law on Civil Liability for Defamation in front of the Constitutional Court. The initiative involved preparation of expert analysis and submission through joint petition of all members of the Front.

4. In addition, the Media Fact-Checking Service Project aims to empower Macedonian citizens to hold the media accountable, and to aid journalists in the implementation of their professional standards by providing online tools and resources for public education and awareness raising. The service will also increase the citizen demand for fact-based, objective and professional news and information.

5. Metamorphosis continues to participate in activities related to the overall area of freedom of expression, and in synergy with other projects also tackle one of the most damaging media malfunctions – the constant rise of hate speech. As a result a web site serving as an information hub and resource for NGOs but also for the general public was established.

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