North Macedonia journalist organizations condemn verbal attack against female journalist

One of the photographs taken by the journalist Ilinka Iljoska just before receiving threats on August 15. Photo by Meta.mk, used with permission.

This article was originally published by Meta.mk. An edited version is republished here under a content-sharing agreement between Global Voices and Metamorphosis Foundation.

The Association of Journalists of Macedonia (AJM) condemned the threats and the insults that employees of Skopje’s public enterprise for communal hygiene Komunalna higiena – Skopje (KHS) hurled at Meta news agency’s journalist Ilinka Iljoska in Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia. The incident occurred on Monday, August 15, 2022.

A photo of scattered garbage taken on August 15 in Skopje by Ilinka Iljoska. Photo by Meta.mk, used with permission.

Iljoska reported that on Monday when she went to work, she photographed the scattered garbage in the park in front of the building where she lives and the brooms at the garbage container in the Skopje municipality of Kisela Voda. Then employees of KHS, who were in the park at some distance, noticed her taking photographs and approached her.

“When I arrived at the bus stop, one man in civilian clothes and one street cleaner crossed the street and came to me. The man in civilian clothes introduced himself as the foreman after which I also identified myself by name and surname and I told him that I work with Meta news agency and said: ‘How can I help you?'” Iljoska explains.

A photo of scattered garbage taken on August 15 in Skopje by Ilinka Iljoska. Photo by Meta.mk, used with permission.

The man who identified himself as an employee of KHS demanded that the journalist delete the photos and argued loudly with her, telling her she must not take photographs ever again. Iljoska replied that she photographed in a public space and that there was no notice that photography is forbidden. Then she received direct threats:

„Ми кажа дека знае која сум и дека и од друга екипа, од службата што е задолжена преку општината за косење на зелените површини знаат за мене и ме фотографираат кога се жалам дека не си ја вршат работата. Ми рекоа дека ќе видам што ќе ми се случи следниот пат кога ќе го шетам кучето. Се расправаа со мене сè додека не дојде автобусот за да ме испратат со зборовите: Ај влези си во автобус и друг пат да не правиш така.“

“He told me that he knows who I am and that another crew, engaged by the municipal government to mow the grass, also knows about me and that they take photos of me whenever I complain that they do not do their job. They told me that I will see what will happen next time I walk my dog. They argued with me until the bus arrived and they told me at the end: Now go on the bus and do not act like this anymore.”

Due to concern for her personal safety and the safety of her family,  Ilinka Iljoska sought legal counsel from AJM and with their help later lodged a complaint at the police station. She explained:

„Не само што јас лично не се чувствувам безбедно, туку заканата ја сфатив дека може да ми го отрујат или повредат миленикот. А стравувам дека и моите деца се во опасност затоа што и тие често го шетаат кучето. Ова не им се случува прв пат. И друг пат ми довикуваат и се жалат на нивните претпоставени кога фотографирам како не си ја вршат должноста. Но, ова денес беше прв пат да се осмелат да ми пристапат и грубо да бараат да бришам фотографии и да ми се закануваат дека нешто може да ми се случи ако продолжам да си ја вршам работата. Тие не само што знаат која сум, туку знаат и точно каде живеам.“

“Not only that I do not feel safe, but I am also scared that they might poison my pet. I am afraid that my children are also in danger, because they often walk our dog. This is not the first  time that these persons had tried to intimidate me. Earlier, on many occasions they yelled at me [from a distance] and had complained to their superiors when I photographed them idling. But the latest incident was the first time someone dared come to me and demand harshly [to my face] to delete my photographs, while threatening directly that something could happen to me if I continue doing my job. They made it clear to me that they know exactly who I am and that they also precisely know where I live.”

“AJM urges Komunalna higiena – Skopje to start a disciplinary procedure against the offenders for the verbal attack against journalist Ilinka Iljoska. We also urge the enterprise to produce an action plan for the education of the employees on the public interest and their interaction with the citizens, since this is not the first time when Komunalna higiena – Skopje reacted in this or similar manner towards the citizens,” AJM’s reaction reads.

KHS condemned the incident, announcing disciplinary action for perpetrators

On August 18, the public communal enterprise KHS issued a public announcement condemning the incident:

Uncollected garbage in Skopje. Photo by Ilinka Iljoska/Meta.mk, used with permission.

“We most strongly condemn the verbal attack against the journalist of Meta.mk while performing her work duties. The employees of public enterprise Komunalna higiena – Skopje will be subjected to disciplinary procedure,” states the response received by Meta.mk from this public enterprise.

The response also included a statement of encouragement for all media and the public to vigilantly monitor the work of the their employees and invitation to direct all questions to the public enterprise which remains “open and transparent.”

The verbal attack was reported to the police and its Violent Crimes Department is expected to forward the case to the competent State Prosecutor's office.

The front page of the Bulletin of the Trade Union of Journalists and Media Workers, August 2022 issue.

Meanwhile the August issue of the monthly bulletin of the Independent Union of Journalists and Media Workers (SSNM) “Journalism as Public Good” covered the incident with Ilinka Iljoska as part of their coverage of the topic “Position of women in media and the challenges they face.”

The monthly bulletin also covered the wider context of women in media, including a story on investigative journalism related to women journalists and their contribution to the profession, research by Reuters Institute on gender equality in the media,  increase of harassment against female investigative journalists, and the situation with pressure against women in media in Montenegro.

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