Saturday, December 08, 2012

Peru: Inca Ritual of "Golden Shovel"

Realm of the Incas by Victor W. von Hagen on I recommend the book Realm of the Incas by Victor W. von Hagen to all interested in understanding how the Incas--the last dynasty of ancient Perú--managed to create, manage, and lose their empire, which they called Tawantinsuyu - "The Four Quarters of the World." 

Von Hagen presents and interprets archeological and historical evidence in comparison with other ancient and modern cultures in a very accessible and unconceited manner. For instance, an excerpt from pages 64-66: 
Agriculture was the soul of the Inca Empire; it determined everything. The Andean farmers' year was divided into two seasons: wet and dry. The wet season began in October and extended to May; the dry season, starting in May, although subject to considerable caprice (hence the Inca's preoccupation with obeisance to the unseen powers), continued into November.

In the autumn the lands of the commune were divided fairly between the members of the ayllu, the earth cell which controlled the communal land tenure. First the lands (chacras) assigned to the Inca, that is state lands, were cultivated communally (part of the Indians' mitta tax of service), then the lands of the sun, the state religion. The fruits thereof were harvested and stored for the use of these agencies. These state granaries were stocked, so the early Spaniard remembered, with maize, quinoa, chuñu, charqui (dried llama meat), fish, cords, hemp, wool, cotton, sandals, and military arms, stored in hampers, each item in its appropriate warehouse. They were seen by Francisco de Xerez, the first soldier-chronicler of the conquest of 1533, who remembered these storehouses as being "pilled to the roof, as the Merchants of Flanders and Medina make them."

The work of tilling these fields done, the puric then turned to his own.

August was plowing time, and work in each other's field was--like all else-communal. It began with a festival. The nobility took it all most seriously and always participated. "If," wrote the Jesuit historian Padre Cobo, "the Inca himself or his governor or some high official happened to be present, he started the work with a golden digging stick which they brought to the Inca, and following his example all the other officials and nobles who accompanied him did the same." (No different in idea today than some state official turning the soil with a gold-plated shovel or else laying a cornerstone with a golden trowel.*)
Men and women plowing the fields together. The men use the foot plow, called taclla;
the  women break up the clods of earth. Another woman brings corn chicha to drink.
From "El Primer Nueva Corónica Y Buen Gobierno" by Felipe Guamán Poma de Ayala.
They had no plow as such, and no draft animals. Men used, as they still do, the taclla, or foot plow, which was a thick pole six feet in length with a fire-hardened point; sometimes it was bronze-tipped. There was a footrest near the tip and it was driven deep into the soil by a thrust of the foot and shoulder pressure. The digging stick, like all else in the realm, was a group tool and was seldom used by only one man. His kinsmen of the ayllu formed a long line across the field to be plowed, and with a rhytmic chant "Jailli" (pronounced "whaylyi," which means "triumph"), "...they triumphed over the soil, writes Garcilaso "the Inca plowing it and disemboweling it."

Ayau jailli, ayau jailli
Kayqa thajilla, kayqa suka!
Kayqa maki; Kayqa jumpi!

Ajailli, qhari, ajailli

Free translation
Ho! Victory, ho! Victory,
Here digging stick, here the furrow!
Here the sweat, here the toil!

THE WOMEN (answering):
Huzzah, men, huzzah!

The men worked backward, the women followed facing them and breaking up the clods with a sort of hoe called lampa. Sara (corn) was planted in September, potatoes when the rains began to fall, i.e. between October and November. After plowing the fields of the Inca, the Sun, and their own, they next turned to those fields of kinsmen who were serving in the army, and then finally to those of the sick and the halt. Their principal tribute (it was part of their tax), said Garcilaso, was "the working and cultivating and harvesting of the lands of the Sun and the Inca."
Von Hagen asserts that the Inca dynasty based its absolutist power on superb organizational skills using and upgrading the great achievements of conquered cultures, creation of religious personality cult, and control of the culture by perpetuating a myth that they were the sole civilizing force. Their empire was low-tech totalitarian welfare state which fostered dogma, group-think and isolationism, as ultra-conservatives they could not cope with new concepts such as the notion that other civilizations may exist across the sea.

* Modern example from Macedonia: Top religious authorities auctioning a golden shovel while consecrating a new building. While the state is nominal secular, the politicians and leaders of religious institutions often benefit from combining their areas of competence. All construction activity paid by the state is subject to rituals involving religious blessings and obligatory photo-op of politicians throwing the first shovel of dirt &/ cutting red ribbons

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

No Memorial Service for the Victims of "Donkey Assasinations," Again

Once again, Macedonia has failed to commemorate one of the darkest days in the history of Štip: On December 4, 1911, as a consequence of the so-called "Donkey Assassinations," dozens of citizens lost their lives, and hundreds were wounded.

The goal of this terror campaign (which also included Kichevo and Dojran) was to incite inter-ethnic and inter-religious hatred resulting in physical violence - mutual slaughter of the population of Macedonia. The primary targets were Muslims, who would took revenge on the Christians, which supposed to create chaos that would invite intervention by the neighboring states, with an end result of complete division of Macedonia. Along the way, those who incited the strife would end up as feudal owners who would privatize and "independently" rule whatever piece of territory they can scoop up from Macedonia.

Štip by the end of XIX century. Photo: Wikipedia.

The Wikipedia in Macedonian article on the "Donkey Assassinations" („Магарешки атентати“) references the book "Treason and Assassinations in the Macedonian History" („Предавствата и атентатите во македонската историја“, 2004) by the state historians Violeta Achkovska and Nikola Zhezhov. They point out that the primary motive for the assassinations involved racketeering. The operations involved members of the pro-Bulgarian, "Autonomist" IMRO disguised as peasants bringing time bombs on donkeys, and leaving them in markets or near religious objects. An excerpt from the article follows, while the quotes in brackets are from the book, which covers this topic from around page 143:
As a result of such terrorist activity on December 4, 1911 in Štip in less than an hour, 20 Christians were killed by angry Muslim mobs, and hundreds were wounded. Initial reports by the Kaymakam of Štip to the Wali [Ottoman governor] of Kosovo Villayet  justified this act of violence with an alleged bomb planted near the mosque wall, which injured three Muslims, with one of them dying from the wounds.
Citizens of Štip suffered the most due to this event, regardless of their complete innocence regarding any participation or approval of the initial crime. In fact the assassination "was inspired by the desire to punish them, and to provoke an incident." British Consul noted that after the shocking "murder of six Muslims near Kiliseli, and the legal consequences and other processes in Štip, ...last year, the local elders decided to terminate any relations with the organization lead by Todor Aleksandrov, refusing to pay contributions to his funds--which they did until then--and to receive and smuggle his emissaries upon their visits to the city." After that, Aleksandrov announced his intention "to bring them to their senses."

Several months ago, several right-wing political parties including the ruling party running the Government of RM paid respects to the organizer of these assassinations, Todor Aleksandrov.  They organized several Orthodox Christian memorial services in his honor, attended by at least one governmental minister. They even built an EUR 73.000 equestrian monument dedicated to him in Skopje (unnamed at the time of erection, then amended with an inscription of the name), and sang а song about him during party celebration. However, not a word about the victims. So when authorities in Macedonia talk about honoring tradition, remembrance of the hardships of the common people does not come into play. Citizens of Štip did not make a peep.

Several years ago, Zarko Trajanoski asked the same question. Sadly, in recent times, 101 years after those loathsome events, similar modus operandi was used for several incidents to incite inter-ethnic and inter-religious hatred. History should be thought as a way to avoid repeating past disasters, not as a list of models to imitate...

Sunday, December 02, 2012

New Kind of "Russian" Spam on Twitter

This article is also available in Macedonian | Овој напис е достапен и на македонски
- на Блогерај: Нов вид „руски“ спамови на Твитер
- на Блогспот: Нов вид „руски“ спамови на Твитер 

I came across a new kind of "Russian" spam - I use the term provisionally because the senders all have Russian names. What they do is make mentions of other twitter users and include text of older tweets sent to them. I assume this is a way to make the tweets look more "legit."

I document through photos, as I also reported them to Twitter for spam, which will hopefully lead to their removal.

The first round of such tweets also have retweets from their "pals."

The text was taken from a tweet by RubinBt, who responded to my question five days before prior (related to a Global Voices post).

Possibly the sender/s who controls those profiles is not proficient in Macedonian language at all...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Macedonia: Promotion of Loring M. Danforth's Book on Greek Civil War Refugees in Skopje

The Foundation Open Society Macedonia has published Macedonian translation of the book Children of the Greek Civil War: Refugees and the Politics of Memory by Loring M. Danforth and Riki Van Boeschoten; and is organizing a promotional public debate in Skopje on November 16, 2012. Both coauthors will attend.

The debate will take place this Friday in Holiday Inn hotel at 11:00 hrs CET, and if you are unable to attend in person, there will be live video streaming via the service This service also uploads the video recordings of such events (also on FB) it covers, with a delay of few days, so if you miss it all, you'll be able to make up. 

Loring M. Danforth is a Bates College professor, and the author of classic anthropological work on ethnic Macedonian identity The Macedonian Conflict: Ethnic Nationalism in a Transnational World []. Over the years, numerous sites have quoted excerpts from the book, including myself in 1995 on my personal website I built as a student at Institute of Informatics.

Vasiliki P. Neofotistos wrote the following in her review of Children of the Greek Civil War: Refugees and the Politics of Memory []
Loring M. Danforth and Riki Van Boeschoten offer a masterful, original, and rich ethnographic analysis of the evacuation of children, self-identified as Greeks and Macedonians, from their homes in northern Greece by both parties in the Greek Civil War of 1946–1949, namely the royalist right-wing government and the Greek Communist Party. The refugee children—that is, children who were usually between the ages of three and 14, though often younger or older children as well, who were “forced to leave [their] home[s] and country of origin because of a well-founded fear of persecution” (265)—were evacuated to children’s homes operated by the Greek Communist Party in Eastern Europe and to paidopoleis (literally meaning “children’s cities”) by the Greek government in locations throughout Greece. Based on archival research and ten years of fieldwork in multiple locales around the world, the authors explore in three neatly organized and tightly knit parts the intersection between the stories of lived experiences as told by individual refugee children after the end of the Cold War and the history of the Greek Civil War. They provide pioneering insights into a still controversial episode in Greece’s modern history and maintain a remarkably balanced and sensitive approach, whereby a wide range of personal experiences and perspectives on the Civil War is presented and analyzed in a sophisticated manner.  [...]
Promoters of the Macedonian edition will include Todor Chepreganov, director of the Institute for National History, and Ljupcho Risteski, professor at the Institute for Ethnology and Anthropology in Skopje. FOSM executive director Vladimir Milcin will serve as moderator of the public debate. 

Friday, November 09, 2012

Armenia: Trees Turned into Sculptures

This article is also available in Macedonian and Albanian
- на македонски на Блогерај: Ерменија: Дрвја претворени во скулптури   
- на македонски на Блогспот: Ерменија: Дрвја претворени во скулптури      
- në gjuhën shqipe në Armeni: Drunjët shndërrohen në skulptura    

Examples how trees can remain part of the urban environment after their natural death. I made these photographs on the streets of Etchmiadzin, Armenia, in October 2006.

I already wrote about this (in Macedonian, on Blogspot and Blogeraj) back in 2009, when Skopje City Government started the first massacre of trees on Ilinden boulevard.

The city of Etchmiadzin is a spiritual seat of the Armenian culture, holding the seat of their national church. The complex containing the main cathedral is open and organized as a park with much greenery.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Macedonia: PM Questions "Some Kind of Rights" for Women; LGBT People Under Durres

"Hate Speech breeds Violence"
Photo: The Palm Beach Post
On October 12, 2012, the Macedonian Minister for Labor and Social Policy Spiro Ristovski abruptly announced his refusal of same-sex marriage, marking the start of campaign for distraction of public attention from other issues through inciting hate against LGBT people in some pro-government media. The campaign to rouse homophobia is powered by publishing gay porn images on a newspaper's front page, and promoting bogus research stating that gay parents molest their children. (Exposing minors to pornography is a criminal offense in Macedonia, but there's no record that the authorities pressed charges.)  On October 22, a gay rights activist was beaten up in Skopje, an event condemned by MEPs.

At the Commemorative Event of the public holiday Day of Macedonian Revolutionary Struggle (October 23, 2012), attended by the state leadership, including the President Ivanov (father of one child), the Prime Minister Gruevski (once divorced, fathered two children with his current second wife) held a speech [mk] which caused much turmoil among the citizens, especially those concerned with equal rights for men and women.
Incidentally, the official English translation of this speech seems to be cut short before the PM went into elaborating its main topic - the need to procreate more to boost the economy. The most representative paragraph which was quoted by local media states:
"Today, when we are in incomparably better condition than 60, 100 or more years ago, we, to tell the truth, alongside most of other European countries, face a crisis of family values, with serious long term and so far unstoppable trend of decline of fertility. We live at a time when it is increasingly rare to have a second child in the families, to speak of third or fourth. Contrary to that we lead debates about skewed values, about single-sex marriages, and even about adopting children in those single-sex marriages, about some kind of rights for women, and of men, about which one of them is more represented in politics or in business, and while we spend ourselves on those topics, as a state we are missing a people," Gruevski said. 
The speech and especially the term "some kind of rights" caused uproar on social networks. Many shared [mk] the link to a speech on German womanhood by Joseph Goebbels from 1933 alongside the news [mk] to incite people to compare and contrast. The fact that the same-sex marriage "debate" designated as pointless the PM is initiated and "lead" by his own subordinates, members of his party which imposes iron discipline and top-down coordination on all PR matters was also not considered an example of irony.

During the same day, Macedonian Helsinki Committee opened a LGBT center in Skopje. During the night, the premises were attacked with much material damage.

On October 24, some women CSOs reacted [mk] to the PM's putting the blame on women for not giving birth to enough babies, thus creating problems of competitiveness, investments, expenditure, and roads... by stating that women are "not  a group nor some kind of machines." Some female MPs asked the PM to explain the meaning of his speech at the session of the Parliamentary Committee for Equal Opportunities for Men and Women. Speaking in his defense, Ms Liljana Popovska, MP, whose party DOM is a member of ruling coalition said that:
"...if the Government and the PM did not have good will to advance the rights of women they would not have allowed gender quotas in the Electoral Code and a number of other things... I would not interpret [the speech], it's a matter of style, the way one expresses himself, but I see nothing problematic and I am absolutely certain that women's rights are protected after the speech in the same measure as before it."
In other news, the Minister for Labor and Social Policy (whose official CV omits his marital status, but dependable social media users claim he is and has two kids) again opined [mk] on the issue of low birthrate, providing a nice example of Freudian slip (italic):
"Our kids, and that one child we bear, will have to live under risk, with unsustainable economic system. Where with this population policy... er... this population picture, we'll bring ourselves to a point of having unsustainable economic system and unsustainable pension system," Ristovski said.
According to various estimates, up to one quarter of the population  has left the country in the last two decades since the independence (450.000 out of 2 million, and according to Kapital [mk] 230.000 since 1998), and around 50.000 Macedonians have acquired Bulgarian passports as means to ease emigration or doing business with/in the EU.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Macedonia: The Internet must Fall - an Order from the Committe HQ | #член16

This article is also available in Macedonian 
- на македонски на Блогерај: Интернет мора да падне - наредба од Штабот на Комитетот | #член16
- на македонски на Блогспот: Интернет мора да падне - наредба од Штабот на Комитетот | #член16     

Bribe, buy-off, take over, appropriate, intimidate and if that does not work, destroy the existing media. Meanwhile, open portals "which often publish insulting information and direct attacks on individuals, firms, companies." Conduct media lynches against those who have different opinions - faux lustrations, discrediting, purges. Avoid implementation of Criminal Code [mk] when your propagandists use hate speech with impunity to incite discord and inter-ethnic intolerance. 

Bring the situation with freedom of expression to a pitiful level.

Then, declare a "solution": The Internet "must be regulated"! [mk]

In short: Hungarian scenario in a banana republic.


Because the new legislative "solutions" in Macedonia directly incite censorship through the defamation law, changes in the Criminal Code that reduce the penalties for hate speech and the limitations of the work of foreign correspondents with another bill... Find out more about the efforts of Macedonian activists who demand putting the legislative process on democratic foundations. And join in!


Monday, October 15, 2012

Opening of the Seventh Assembly of World Movement for Demoracy in Lima

This is the second post about my participation at the Lima Assembly of the WMD. Check out the first post in the series.

The first day of the Seventh Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy provided much food for thought. It was quite busy, which proved a bit taxing when confronted with my overly optimistic attitude towards effects of jet lag. The highlight of the day was the opening session featuring several renowned speakers from various world regions relating their own experiences and positions on state of democracy, in a way opening the issues to be discussed in the next three days. This post will provide brief introductions with links, in expectation that the text/videos of the speeches will be made available, as they all were well worth the time to (re-) read or watch/listen. Find out more real-time coverage via Twitter at #LimaAssembly.

The session was chaired by former Canadian PM Kim Campbell, Chair of World Movement Steering Committee, who thanked Peruvian co-hosts from the Legal Defense Institute and Transparencia. Her speech was focused on the simple argument of goodness of democracy, and inclusion as its essential, non negotiable element. In retrospect, after listening of the experiences by other speakers, getting to basics seems justifiable world over, even though it should be obvious in the 21th century, many decades after Churchill famously remarked that "...democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."

Kim Campbell opening the Seventh Assembly of World Movement for Democracy.

The first participant to speak was Yemeni journalist activist Tawakkol Karman (@TawakkolKarman) who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her "non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work." She emphasized the importance non-violent, "peaceful" resistance to dictators everywhere. It needs to be active, through protest and demonstration towards any form of injustice. In that vein, she expressed support for the people fighting the dictatorial regimes of Syria and Bahrain.

Kazakhstan human rights activist Yevgeniy Zhovtis, who was imprisoned by his country's regime and later released thanks to international pressure, first used the opportunity to issue a public call for support of jailed dissident Vladimir Kozlov.  He also spoke about the danger of mock democracies which declare lip-service allegiance to the international framework of democracy and human rights, while enacting regressive legislation and implementing authoritarian and totalitarian practices within the countries they rule. Authoritarian regimes need to be held accountable or we should recognize that international treaties are simply optional. He reminded that democracy is a process, not a destination. At its core is devotion to the truth, the capacity to say black is black and white is white.

Glanis Changachirere spoke about her experience as a grassroots fighter for gender rights in Zimbabwe. She had personal courage to stand up to oppressive traditions, exclusion within the education system and intimidation through imprisonment as a "rebellious girl-child," growing into a founder of youth-based human rights movement. This was quite refreshing, as it reminded by example that the future of democracy might be envisioned by experienced activists and statesmen/women, but would be unattainable without young people who are brave enough to break the chains of conformism and peer pressure.  

In his elaborate speech, Peruvian Foreign Minister Rafael Roncagliolo, also in a way addressed the gerontocratic "argument" that the level of democratization of a country is somehow related to the "age" of its democratic tradition. He pointed that South American countries were among the first in the world to establish democratic systems with their independence, and with their 200-years tradition have longer "track record" than many others, including bulk of European states which achieved that during the XX century. These democracies proved fragile and imperfect, but that is the nature of this historical, evolutionary process. On the other hand, backsliding into non-democratic practices is a danger that looms everywhere.  He also emphasized the essential strength of inclusive democracies as the single civilized form for ensuring social cohesion.
The event ended with a concert by a children orchestra from the Sinfonia por el Perú, part of a movement of musicians and youth workers who utilize music education and performance to instill valuable life skills among poor and "at risk" youth. Their efforts received a standing ovation by the hundreds of participants. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Trip to Peru to the Seventh Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy

During the last few days I undertook a trip to Lima, to the of the World Movement for Democracy

In-flight Croatian newspaper Jutarnji list column "News from Lilliput" claims some
politicians in Poland and Croatia blame communist system abolished in 1990
for the economic misfortunes suffered by the economies they govern.

Moving sidewalks on Schiphol add to the futuristic feeling.

I was spared the long airport waits, which is fortunate as I do not
posses the yogin-like flexibility of this napper.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Two Minutes Hate

This article is also available in Macedonian | Овој текст е исто така достапен и...
- на македонски на Блогспот: Две минути омраза
- на македонски на Блогерај: Две минути омраза   

Short explanation about Two Minutes Hate from Wikipedia:

Two Minutes Hate, from George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, is a daily period in which Party members of the society of Oceania must watch a film depicting the Party's enemies (notably Emmanuel Goldstein and his followers) and express their hatred for them.

The film and its accompanying auditory and visual cues (which include a grinding noise that Orwell describes as "of some monstrous machine running without oil") are a form of brainwashing to Party members, attempting to whip them into a frenzy of hatred and loathing for Emmanuel Goldstein and the current enemy superstate. Apparently, it is not uncommon for those caught up in the hate to physically assault the telescreen, as Julia does during the scene.

The film becomes more surreal as it progresses, with Goldstein's face morphing into a sheep as enemy soldiers advance on the viewers, before one such soldier charges at the screen, submachine gun blazing. He morphs, finally, into the face of Big Brother at the end of the two minutes. At the end, the mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted viewers chant "B-B!...B-B!" over and over again, ritualistically.

Within the book, the purpose of the Hate is said to satisfy the citizens' subdued feelings of angst and hatred from leading such a wretched, controlled existence. By re-directing these subconscious feelings away from the Oceanian government and toward external enemies (which likely do not even exist), the Party minimizes subversive thought and behavior.

In the first Two Minutes Hate of the book, the audience is introduced to Inner Party member and key character O'Brien. Within the novel, hate week is an extrapolation of the two-minute period into an annual week-long festival.

Macedonia: Danger of Censorship with the New Law on Insult and Defamation

I relay the reaction by Metamorphosis Foundation and recommend that all bloggers, users of forums, Twitter, Facebook and of internet in general to do the same to create public debate. If the Parliament adopts the Draft-Law on Civil Liability for Insult and Defamation in its present form, it will surely affect all their lives. The Government reacts to negative PR, especially if reactions come from many sides and those who react do not succumb to the unavoidable initial pressures. Such positive example was the dismissal of the process of adoption of Law on Youth in 2011.

The sections of the Draft-Law on Civil Liability for Insult and Defamation related to communication over the internet can lead to a complete termination of the possibilities for public debate through websites registered in Macedonia, and by encouraging censorship these sections violate Article 16 of the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia.

The draft-law which is currently in its first reading in Parliament also includes sections related to the work of the "online services providers" explicitly mentioning the portals as such, but the term provider itself is not precisely defined so it can also refer to any other online service: providing access in general, an instant messaging application, forums, content aggregation and forwarding, blogging platforms - especially the ones that allow third-party commenting on posts, etc.

Given the recent experiences of applying vaguely defined concepts in practice, the judge himself will have to decide whether he would consider a blogger to be an “online service provider” or an accomplice who “allowed” a stranger to leave a comment under his post which is offensive for a third party, or to have a link to another blog or website that could possibly contain insults or libels for a third party.

The basic article which refers to the internet is Article 11, which says:

Responsibility of the online service provider
Article 11
(1) The online service provider assumes responsibility, along with the author, to compensate for the damage arising from enabling access to offensive or defamatory information.
(2) The online service provider shall not be liable for an insult or slander as a result of enabling access to offensive or defamatory information provided that:
1) the provider proves that the author of the information posted on the website was not acting under direct or indirect control or influence by the online service provider, and
2) the provider proves that he was neither aware, nor that he should have been aware of the offensive or libelous material posted on the web portal, or that within 24 hours after becoming aware of the offensive and defamatory nature of the published text or information, the provider has taken all the technical and other measures for the removal of such information. A request for removal of information can also be filed by the complainant.

Given that every online service provider or website administrator has the technical capabilities to control all content (the form of control can ultimately be deletion or removal of the website from the internet) contrary to the principle of presumption of innocence, with this article the owners are put in a situation to have to prove that they were innocent, instead of the plaintiff to offer evidence for their guilt or malicious intent.

This law will oblige the portals to censor content posted by their users upon the request of the plaintiff, instead of a court order based on a proven offense. For example, a government official may be offended if someone presents evidence of his corruption. If the provider cannot prove that he has taken all the measures necessary to save his reputation, then he is faced with the same responsibility for the contents as the citizen who had published them.

Having in mind the risk of having to pay fines of up to 27,000 euros, it is very likely that the online service providers, in order to avoid lawsuits will prevent the publication of any content generated by the users or at best they would delete everything that they receive a request for. If not, they will also incur costs because they will be forced to employ moderators (lawyers and fact-checkers) who will be able to assess in advance if any comment is offensive or libelous, and at least three administrators who working in three shifts i.e. 24 hours 7 days a week (including weekends and public holidays) to promptly respond to all requests for deletion within the legally stipulated 24 hours.

The opportunities for arbitrary abuse that would be created with the adoption of such a law, by encouraging the online service providers from all societal sectors, and especially from the private and civil society sector, to introduce procedures for censorship of content generated by their users, make this law contrary to the fundamental principles of freedom of speech and censorship prohibition contained in Article 16 of the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia.

Article 16

The freedom of belief, conscience, thought and public expression of thought is guaranteed.
The freedom of speech, public address, public information and the free establishment of institutions for public information is guaranteed.
Free access to information and the freedom to receive and impart information is guaranteed.
The right to a response in the news media is guaranteed. The right to a correction in the news media is guaranteed. The right to protect the source of the information in the news media is guaranteed.
Censorship is prohibited.

Metamorphosis is urging the members of the Assembly of RM to reject the adoption of the law in this form. Passing laws that could literally affect the economic survival of any of the users of online services, which account for more than 60% of the population in Macedonia, due to an opinion they have expressed on the internet and laws that are literally obliging e-publishers to develop censorship mechanisms if they don’t want to be exposed to the threat of huge fines, is in complete contradiction with the basic human right to freedom of expression and the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia.

Due to the complexity and comprehensiveness of the consequences from the adoption of this law, Metamorphosis believes that the process of enactment must be conducted inclusively and in accordance with the Guidelines stipulating the manner of acting in the work of the ministries for the involvement of stakeholders in the process of preparation of laws, enacted with an ordinance of the Government (Official Gazette of RM no. 150 from 27.10.2011) and available on the website of the Deputy Prime Minister for Economy, in accordance with the legal framework for Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA), as well as the Code for consultation with the public during the preparation of the regulation and the Guide for Regulatory Impact Assessment, available on the website of the Ministry of Information Society and Administration. This process must include all stakeholders, starting from online service providers to citizens-users of internet services, bloggers, active users of social networks and readers of media portals who are expressing their views through comments, representatives of the private, civil society and education sector, particularly human rights experts. In order to have a constructive assessment of the effects of the law via comparative analyses with other countries, the process must include relevant international institutions, primarily the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, and international organizations dealing with the protection of freedom of speech.

There is no such process in the case with the draft-law on civil liability for insult and defamation, which by the time of publication of this reaction has not been published yet on the official government websites: ENER - the single national electronic register of regulations of RM and the portal for modern public debates If the Government and the Parliament want this law to have a positive impact on the development of democracy and on the improvement of the quality of life in Macedonia, the draft-law must be withdrawn from parliamentary procedure and the process should be implemented from the beginning.

Metamorphosis invites all societal stakeholders, individual citizens, non-governmental organizations, educational and scientific institutions, private companies, especially online service providers, media and e-publishers, as well as the government entities - especially the ones responsible for protecting the rights and freedoms of citizens, to actively engage in the process for preventing the enactment of this and any other legal "solution" that opens even the slightest opportunity for violation of the freedom of expression in the Republic of Macedonia.

Metamorphosis sends this reaction to the competent institutions of the Republic of Macedonia and the general public, to the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, the Council of Europe and to the international organizations working on human rights protection: EDRi - European Digital Rights, Amnesty International, Index on Censorship, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Macedonia: Internet Penetration up to 2009

The following is an excerpt from my Masters Thesis defended at the University Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne in 2009 under the title Impact of Social Media on Internet Marketing in Macedonia.

For a country of closely packed 2.1 million people, one would think that it would be easy to measure any demographic trend. However, the rate of internet usage in Macedonia, also known as internet penetration, remained a mystery for almost a decade after 1995. Until Metamorphosis Foundation produced the first statistical survey on ICT use in 2004, most of the data available to the public consisted of misinformation and offhand estimates. The former kind of info was usually disseminated by telecommunications market players, which never revealed the actual number of their own subscribers, but strived to soil the reputation of competitors. Some media, “experts,” and high government officials continued to propagate the mantra that the internet penetration is 4%, 7% or 10%1 through inertia for several more years, disregarding statistical evidence that it hovered around 30% at the time.

The controversy took a new form after 2005, when other organizations, including the State Statistical Office, commenced with measuring the internet penetration. The basic difficulty involved defining internet usage as such. Some of the surveyors used the definition of a ‘person who has used the internet within the certain time period,’ but others maintained that, for instance the ‘true’ internet users should be defined as paying subscribers to ISPs, people who used the internet daily from home, etc. Implementations of these restrictive definitions would mean ‘filtering out’ of around half of the users who reported using the internet from internet cafes, or the growing number of people who didn’t have an internet connection at home, but accessed the net at work.

The difficulty of determining the exact rate of internet penetration in Macedonia can be illustrated with Table 1, displaying most of the publicly available data about surveys from the last six years. Various customers of the research agencies placed various conditions on the implementer resulting in variations of sample size, the age range of the respondents, and the kind and phrasing of questions. In the table, some cells remain empty because only publicly available data from the respective surveys is filled in.

Research publisher
Sample age
Sample size
PC use %
Internet use %
PC @ home %
@ home %
Metamorphosis & FOSIM2
Metamorphosis & USAID3




USAID MK Connects5



USAID MK Connects





Broadcasting Council RM11


Table 1: The differences in methodology of internet penetration surveys conducted in Macedonia from 2004 to 2009 have led to almost incomparable results.

All this matters, because the inaccurate and pessimistic estimates and guesstimates of the market size hindered the development of internet marketing in Macedonia. Companies were choosing not to invest in online marketing. Marketing agencies and media rarely or never offered options in this area, thinking that the potential target population is too small.

This clinging to TV, radio and print also meant disregard of the notion that even if its small, the nascent population of internet users consisted of either the richest segment of the population—who could afford the initial high prices under monopolistic conditions—and the most technically and educationally advanced youth, inclined towards upward social mobility. This also meant ignoring the signals related to continuous increase of the internet penetration continues to rise, as the environment grew more enabling over the years. Influencing factors include price drop related to opening the market to competition resulting from the new Law on electronic communications in 2005, lifting the ban on use of wireless technologies, spread of cable TV networks offering internet access, and huge public projects for connecting the educational institutions at all levels to the internet.

Most recent data suggests that around half of the population in Macedonia use the internet with some degree of regularity. This rate of penetration is comparable to the average penetration of 45% for EU Member States from Southern Europe and Turkey, reported by Microsoft in April 2009.12 Even though the small total size of the Macedonian market remains an obstacle (one would expect less opportunities there than in bigger countries with lower penetration, but more developed economy) this basic condition for development of internet marketing has been met.

References [some of them are inoperable in 2012]

  1. MIA. (27.10.2005). Само 10% од Македонците имаат пристап на интернет [Only 10% of Macedonians have internet access]. Total online magazine
  2. SMMRI. (2004). Use, positions and opinions about ICT among the citizens in Macedonia. Metamorphosis and Foundation Open Society Institute – Macedonia.
  3. BRIMA-Gallup.(2005). Catalogue of Local Gov. e-Services. Metamorphosis Foundation and USAID MDW Project.
  4. SMMRI. (2006). Technical Conditions and Development Potential for Broadcasting in Republic of Macedonia. Foundation Open Society Institute – Macedonia and Media Development Center.
  5. SMMRI. (2006). Internet and Computer Usage Survey in the Republic of Macedonia. USAID MK Connects Project.
  6. State Statistical Office. (2007). ICT Use in Households, 2007. Ministry of Information Society of RM.
  7. SMMRI. (2007). Public Opinion Poll Regarding Telecommunication Market in Macedonia. European Agency for Reconstruction, Technical Assistance to Telecommunication Sector Project.
  8. State Statistical Office. (2008). ICT Use in Households, first quarter of 2008. Ministry of Information Society of RM.
  9. Data from survey by Strategic Marketing and Media Research Institute published in Kapital (12.02.2009) Телефонија и интернет [Telephony and Internet].
  10. Data from survey by GFK published by Total (12.02.2009). English translation.
  11. Rating Agency. (2009). Audience Opinion Survey 2009. Broadcasting Council of RM. [In print.]
  12. Microsoft EMEA. (04.2009). Europe logs on: European Internet trends of today and tomorrow.