Anti-Romani Speech in the Macedonian Press
29 October 2003
In recent months, there has been a noticeable rise in the number of cases in which the Romani ethnicity of alleged perpetrators of crimes has been emphasised in the Macedonian media, in a manner linking Roma and crime. For example, in a recent case of a violent conflict between a group of teenagers in Skopje on February 22, 2003, a young non-Romani male was killed and three were injured. Subsequent coverage of the incident in the Macedonian national daily newspapers Dnevnik and Vest emphasized that the two alleged minor perpetrators were Romani. In another case, on February 25, 2003, Vest published an article on the attack of a mill manager in the village of Topolcani, reportedly committed by "two Romani persons". On January 21, 2003, Vest ran a report on "Romani drug dealers caught with marijuana". In an earlier article published on December 21, 2002, Vest informed its readers in a headline that "Roma sell their children for 50 Euro and force them into prostitution".
Additionally, in a case of alleged child abuse in Štip, on February 13, 2003, Vest published the full names of the two-year-old victim and her mother, who was the alleged abuser, both Romani; on February 15, 2003, Dnevnik also published the names of the baby and her mother. In doing so, the newspapers violated the privacy of the persons involved, as well as the right to the presumption of innocence, guaranteed inter alia by the Macedonian Constitution. On February 20, 2003, the Skopje-based daily newspaper Utrinski vesnik ventured a step further by publishing a lengthy opinion piece on the "Gypsy child-killer" and "Gypsy children abused by their parents".
In a March 6, 2003 letter to Macedonian Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski, the ERRC expressed its concern that the media in Macedonia is currently fostering an atmosphere of anti-Romani hostility. In light of Macedonia's obligations under international human rights law to combat racial discrimination, the ERRC urged the Prime Minister to speak out against anti-Romani hate speech and the unnecessary provision in the media of the ethnic background of alleged perpetrators of crimes, as well as instances of incitement to racial hatred in the media. As of July 22, 2003, the ERRC had not received a response to its letter. The full text of the letter can be viewed at: ERRC Letter of Concern to Macedonian Prime Minister Concerning Recent Roma Rights Abuses in Macedonia.
(Dnevnik, ERRC, Utrinski vesnik, Vest)