Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, A/HRC/26/30/Add.2, 1 April 2014: The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
IV. Situation of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in the former Yugoslav
A. General overview
17. While noting with appreciation that the Government has engaged in initiatives supporting the promotion of cultural diversity in the media, the Special Rapporteur was disturbed by reports of the emergence of expressions of hate and incitement to discrimination on the grounds of gender, nationality, religion and sexual orientation in the media and on the Internet. In particular, he noted a lack of attention paid to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.
B. Issues of concern
5. Respect for diversity
75. In this regard, the Special Rapporteur is worried by information he has received about the lack of attention paid by the authorities to the emergence of direct and indirect attacks against sexual minorities in the country and by the use of homophobic language by some political figures and the media.
76. Despite efforts by civil society during the drafting process, the Law on the Prevention of and Protection against Discrimination does not contain explicit references to sexual orientation or gender identity among the prohibited grounds for discrimination. Article 394 (b) of the Criminal Code also lacks specific references.
77. The lack of specific protection for acts against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists is particularly worrying, considering recent attacks against representatives of that community. Activists protesting against discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community were attacked during a march for the International Day of Tolerance in November 2012. In 2013, attacks in Bitola against LGBT United and the Coalition for the Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities were also reported. Over the same period, repeated attacks damaged the facilities of the support centre for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the old bazaar of Skopje, to the extent that consideration was being given to moving the support centre to another location because of the insecurity. Those attacks were reported to the authorities by the victims, but the perpetrators were not identified. The Special Rapporteur was also informed of the dissemination of discriminatory messages in the media, including by some leading broadcasters.
78. The increasing prevalence of expressions of hate, incitement to violence, discrimination and hostility in the mass media and on the Internet indicates the need for permanent attention to the fight against intolerance. In view of the recurrent hostility against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, the authorities should not only address better the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation through national norms, but should also consider paying particular attention to the enforcement of the law to prevent hate speech and violence and investing in non-legal measures, such as education and counter-speech, to encourage the abandonment of discriminatory stereotypes. Formal and open rejection of hate speech by high-level public officials, in particular hate messages targeting sexual minorities, would also play an important role in the struggle against intolerance and discrimination in the country.
V. Conclusions and recommendations
82. Progress was noted in the promotion of access to information, in the expansion of Internet use and in the development of work in minority languages by the media. However, much more can and must be done in these areas as well. The right to access information is not commonly recognized by either officials or the overall population. The proliferation of discriminatory remarks and even attacks against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, for example, demands an urgent and vocal response from the authorities condemning this form of discrimination.
D. Ensure respect for diversity and non-discrimination
94. The State should maintain proactive leadership in the fight against all forms of discrimination, ensuring not only the enforcement of national norms, but also the promotion of non-legal measures to prevent incitement of hatred. Enhanced attention is required to the recurrent hostilities against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. All episodes of violence and intimidation against representatives of the community must be carefully investigated so that perpetrators are held accountable. Formal and open rejection of all forms of incitement of hatred, including against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, by all political authorities in the country is crucial in the fight against discrimination.
Link to full text of the report: Report-SRFoE-The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia-2014-eng
Link to State’s comments on the report: Report-SRFoE-The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia-comments-2014-eng