The use of hate speech is a serious issue and must be seriously taken into account not only by the government authorities but also by the civil society, including journalists.
Televisions and their products are those that should influence the emancipation of the society and to combat the ethnic, religious, cultural and local barriers and stereotypes. This is especially the case in a multi-ethnic and multicultural country such as the Republic of North Macedonia. The televisions should not empower the stereotypes and the hatred between the citizens who come from different communities. Unfortunately, in our country, it is often the televisions that contribute for the feeling among the citizens from different ethnic communities for even greater ethnic divisions and intensify the hatred between them.
The example that caused stormy reactions in the public in the last couple of days is the case of professor Ismet Ramadani and the director of Kanal 5 TV, Ivan Mirchevski in the “Samo Vistina” show.
When Professor Ismet Ramadani expressed his concern that there is a nationalist narrative and one-sided statements among the Macedonians and their politicians at the exact moment when, in his opinion, that narrative does not exist among the Albanians, he also accused the journalist Aleksandar Vidinovski of not reacting when such statements were made in his show.
This statement was followed by a reaction from the journalist who denied such a thing. The approach of this journalist was professional and he tried to calm the situation.
But Ramadani continued, saying that even in the Macedonian public there is a narrative against Albanians and Albanian political parties, even nationalist statements. He also mentioned to Vidinovski the statement of his previous guest, who said a month ago that "we will trample the Albanians like cockroaches", and according to Ramadani, the host of the show did not react at all.
The host of the show denied it, saying that whenever he hosts the show, and there are nationalist statements from any party, he reacts accordingly. It is absolutely true that Ramadani was right, as he referred to the last couple of TV shows on Kanal 5 promoting ethnic intolerance. An example of this is the news piece showing the flags in the old Skopje bazaar as well as the show that Ramadani mentioned.
Request to leave the live broadcast
But all the problems started when the director of Kanal 5 TV, Ivan Mirchevski, was broadcasted live in the show. He first accused Ramadani of segregating the journalist. After discussions with Ramadani, he asked the host Vidinovski to stop the show and ordered Ramadani to leave the studio. Summoning a guest on a TV show and then kicking him out is neither ethical nor professional.
According to the announcement of the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (ZNM), Mirchevski is the main culprit for the escalation of the situation. They mention that the incident took an undesirable turn when the director of Kanal 5 intervened, demanding that Ramadani leave the studio immediately. The Association expresses serious concern about this intervention, because it directly violates the principle of editorial independence, which is the cornerstone of independent journalism.
According to the code of ethics, the journalist must not incite violence and discrimination on any basis (ethnic, religious, racial, gender, social, linguistic, political, sexual orientation, etc...).
The director of the television is not the one who should be the judge, let alone ‘kicking’ the guests out of the show. The division between the edtors and the management must be respected in the media. You may not agree with someone on many issues, but joining the debate and kicking a guest out of a show is a reflection of the lack of democratic and European values.
The Association of Journalists of Macedonia (ZNM) issued a joint statement with the Independent Union of Journalists and Media Workers (SSNM) and the Council for Ethics in the Media in Macedonia (SEMM) that emphasized the importance and the need to adhere to journalistic standards, as well as to guarantee a discourse that respects and protects editorial independence.
"In a society where live television shapes the public discourse, it is of particular importance that all participants maintain a high standard of communication and speak with their interlocutors in a respectful manner, applying the same to the public as well. The behavior of Mr. Ramadani and his comments towards the host of the show, Mr.Vidinovski, were, unfortunately, confrontational in a certain part of the debate, thus creating opportunities for the debate to stray towards unwanted direction", says the joint statement.
It is also important to mention the position of the Agency for Audio and Audio-Visual Media Services. They indicate that debates related to political-social issues should contribute to the implementation of the freedom of expression, to the culture of tolerance and must never encourage intolerance.
They emphasize that politicians and holders of public positions should be in particular aware of the weight of the publicly expressed word and they must refrain from statements, especially given via media, that undermine the dialogue between different ethnic groups in society.
"Labeling media outlets and journalists, as it was done in yesterday's show by Ismet Ramadani, who is the advisor for Euro-Atlantic values of the Prime Minister, has a negative impact on the freedom of the media outlets and violates the dignity of the journalists. They added that "Politicians and public office holders have a special responsibility towards the public, should show the highest level of compliance with the journalistic profession and should make every effort to make it possible for the media outlets to carry out their work in an uninterrupted manner”, they added.
On the other hand, the support that Mr.Mirchevski received from the Macedonian Association of Journalists (MAN) is inadequate. MAN should protect the freedom of speech and should not take a side, but have an objective position as ZNM does. The statement of MAND said that they are fully backing up the director of Kanal 5, the journalist Vidinovski and the guest Goran Momiroski. According to them, the politician and adviser to the Government, Ismet Ramadani, was accusing others for ethnic intolerance without any grounds.
According to the journalist code of ethics, the journalist must be free of sensationalism in the course of their reporting. But when reporting on this case, there were no elements of "avoidance of sensationalism" in some media outlets.
The Zum Portal published a title “Heat in Samo Vistina' on Kanal 5 - Ismet Ramadani asked not to inflame inter-ethnic tensions, the television was asked to apologize to them." Although the title was balanced and neutral, the same cannot be said for the comments. We have a number of hate speech comments about Ramadani there. Some of these include: "Why do you accept donkeys in the shows"; "Chase away this kind of shit, they are a shame for the country"; "The Albanians definitely went too far with their arrogance and insolence"; "This type of ‘abdal’ must be obeyed", "Bastard from the mountains".
Portals like lider.mk and inbox7.mk also use sensationalist headlines. On the other hand, DW in Macedonian language, in its article about this case, included both sides of the story and their text is written in objective and professional manner.
The presence of hate speech and similar phenomena is harmful to the society and everyone must commit to their reduction. Some the consequences of hate speech include damage to the image of the country, the growth of extremism, obstacles in the dialogues and the cooperation, mutual discrimination and polarization of society.
The use of hate speech is a serious issue and must be seriously taken into account not only by the government authorities but also by the civil society, including journalists. It is important to promote tolerance, dialogue and respect for the diversity in the society and actively combat this harmful phenomenon in order to build a safe society that will live in harmony.
For those reasons, the owners of television and media outlets should be more restrained and act without emotions, because they exercise a significant influence and a little carelessness can cause significant reactions and encourage ethnic hatred.
This article was produced within the Reporting Diversity Network 2.0 project