ECPMF Calls for Solidarity with Turkey’s Journalists

leipzigOn October 7th 2016, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) released 130 balloons to the sky of Leipzig, Germany, to show solidarity with the jailed journalists in Turkey.

As part of this year’s European Media Freedom Conference, the international participants and guests gathered to take a stand for the protection of media freedom in Turkey. Together with Can Dündar, who receives the Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media of the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig, they appealed: “Free the journalists!”

Jane Whyatt, managing director of the ECPMF, stated:

“It was 96 when we printed our postcards, today Yavuz Baydar told us about 126 journalists in jail – we, our colleagues and our friends in Turkey actually lost track of the journalists who are currently imprisoned. Their freedom has not been taken away because they did something wrong – but because they were doing their job. They are critical towards the government and ask questions, they investigate on topics like corruption instead of accepting the facts given to them. In proper democracies, this is appreciated as it fosters a debate. In Turkey, this makes you a suspect and even a terrorist.

Sevgi Akarçeşme, who unfortunately had to leave the conference already and could not stay with us, said in a talk here in this place on Wednesday that she actually is glad that she has been living in exile for the last 6 months – because all her colleagues and friends who are still in Turkey can only live under constant fear.

And Can Dündar said yesterday that “Turkey is an open prison”: We do not only want to count the numbers of those who are imprisoned. But we want to look at the human stories behind the numbers. We want to think of the families and friends who might not be in prison, but have to suffer, too – and who are like in a prison as their passports are cancelled and they cannot travel – like many friends and colleagues we invited, like the wife of Can Dündar and like the other winner of the Prize of the Freedom and Future of the Media, Erdem Gül.

And of course, we also want to think not only about the journalists, but all the other academics and civil servants who have been imprisoned without reason, without justice.

We free a balloon for every imprisoned journalist in Turkey. By this, we do not only set a nice sign against the grey Leipzig sky, but – united with all our voices from all over Europe – here and today launch a strong call to President Erdogan in Turkey as well as to the EU and our MEPs to restore and respect media freedom and other human rights. FREE THE JOURNALISTS!”

 (Photo: Christian Lamm, ECPMF)

Drug-Addicted Children Die in the Streets

Erhan, Sali and Femi are no longer alive. They all died of a heroin overdose during the last few months. They were 10, 11 and 13 years old. In Skopje, Macedonia, no institution gives help to children between 5 and 14 years, who are addicted to heroin and glue sniffing. These youngsters need medical and psychological help, but no institution is prepared to help them due to their age. Left on their own, they die on the streets.

Erhan died in the center of Skopje, at “Record” and was found by passers-by. Shortly after, Sali died near the city square, at “Mepso”. A syringe was found next to him. The children that we used to see in the center of Skopje every day, running after us with the words: “Auntie, give me 5 denars”, are not there anymore.

Reporters  Meri Jordanovska and Marija Mitevska  met Erhan exactly a year ago, in front of the entry of the City Trade Center in Skopje. He told them his New Year wishes, he counted to 10, that was what he knew, he told them what he wanted to do when he grew up.

– I want to have children, a house, to work…I would work anything, I would throw garbage for example, just to have money.

Erhan is not there anymore, he did not live to find a job, to have children and a house. At the same place now there are other children. They are the same age as Erhan and heroin addicts.

When the reporters asked them about the death of Erhan, Sali and Femi, they ran away. They were scared that they might be social workers who would take away custody from their parents.

Read Jordanovska’s and Mitevska’s follow-up on the investigation of Skopje’s drug-addicted children – Part 1 Part 2

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Pulling out of the Balkans Media Market

The German media company WAZ is one of the strongest in Europe. But its entry in the Balkans was not so easy.

The work of WAZ in Serbia and Croatia is marked with media companies in debts, nontransparent business practice, ties to tycoons close to the state, tight connection with the governments, obsolete editorial policies and partially fulfilled contractual obligations.

Reporters Ilko Ćimić and Žarka Radoja researched the issue. Their work was published on October 23, 2012, in the influential regional online media e-Novine.com and Croatian online media Index.hr

Read the original articles in e-Novine or in Index.

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Water Money Disappeared Down the Drain

When people in Tetovo, Macedonia, turn on the water, nothing may come out. The water supply is inconsistent – and not because the problem has been ignored.

The “messed” story of the water supply system in Tetovo started in 2001, though attempts to ensure enough water for the town were made earlier as well. In 2011, the Macedonian Government allocated about 2.2 million Euros for this purpose. Only a part of the project has been realized with this amount of money, and everything has stopped now.

Based on some information, still unconfirmed officially, the money has been given to the company “Idnina Engineering” from Skopje, which was responsible for the project realization. Five years later only a third of what was projected was carried out. There is suspicion of an enormous corruption scandal, and the prosecution in Tetovo has filed a charge against two people involved in this affair.

Gezim Sulejmani followed the water, and the story was published in FAKTI (a daily newspaper in Macedonia) on November 11, 2011.

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Dressed Up in Stolen Feathers

Dolce&Gabbana, Cavalli, Gucci… you find the brands in fancy malls, but also in Macedonian garages. Inspectors from Macedonian customs entered there, disguised as buyers, and went out with the arrested owners of the improvised shops.

Smugglers manage to get in the pieces of Trussardi, Dior and Armani and other well known brands. Most often they bring them from Serbia or Greece. But the items are not bought from designers’ factories or warehouses – purchasers buy from thieves. So the jet setters and politicians decorate themselves with stolen brands.

Macedonia is often a transit country for such smuggling. The customs and the inspectors that protect industrial property think that the chain of hawkers is well-organized.

In Macedonia Madam Pepi was the synonym of a shop for black market branded clothes. For more than a decade she dressed Macedonian lawyers, members of Parliament, people from the show business, but also journalists. Everyone knew that they were buying illegally, but they didn’t say it. It was more important for them to show themselves than to say it. Now, in prison, Pepi most often wears sports clothes. We don’t know whether they are branded as she turned down our request for an interview. She has been sentenced to four years in prison as she also brought cocaine for her customers from the jet set with the fur coats and the dresses.

Branded goods “Full Fullova” – is only one of those internet boutiques which on Facebook call customers to buy Burberry and Cavalli shoes for 15 or 35 Euros, Louis Vuitton for the same amount – true to the original. Serbia is the neighbour where the well manufactured copies come from and Greece is the neighbor where quotas come from. They start from China, go to Turkey and then by ship through the Thessaloniki port to the Union and then in trucks they travel to Belgium via Macedonia as a transit.

Reporters Snezana Lupevska, Maja Jovanovska and Emilija Jovanovska folowed the trail. Their stories were published on Macedonian tv, Channel 5, on May 8, 2011.

See the original broadcast

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“Sentenced” to Freedom

In Moldova persons sentenced for serious crimes to tens of years of prison can buy their freedom with the help of lawyers who have influence on the judges and prosecutors. The journalists Victor Mosneag, Tatiana Etco and Nicolae Cuschevici revealed how the system functions .

In the past 3 years, about 60% of convicts were released before term using various methods, legal or illegal. The redemption of one year of prison costs in Moldova about 1000 Euros. The journalists contacted a lawyer who is dealing with the release of convicts before term, requesting his help in releasing a person sentenced for murder. The lawyer promised that he could reach an understanding with the judge and with the prison’s staff in order to release a convict before term; however it would be easiest to do so if the convict had served at least half of his term.

The journalists investigated the cases of the persons illegally pardoned by the President of Moldova and illegally released. For example, on 4 July 2011 Marian Lupu, the Moldovan president ad interim at that time, pardoned Larisa Focsa, an well-known rogue sentenced to 13.6 years of prison by an irrevocable judgment on 5 July 2011, i.e. a day before the pardoning order.

The series was published by the newspaper Ziarul de Garda.

Read the original story (in Romanian) Part 1 (published May 24, 2012), Part 2 (published May 31, 2012), Part 3 (published June 7, 2012) and Part 4 (published June 14, 2012)

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Kidney Patients Get Hepatitis in Hospital

Kidney patients in Macedonia become infected with Hepatitis C, when they go to clinics and hospitals for dialysis. Patients as well as nephrologists (kidney specialists) confirm this. The reason is that the safety standards are not put into practice, and there is no control of the patients’ safety.

Economic analysts say that dialysis is carried out in substandard conditions due to the fact that the centers do not have enough money for dialysis.

The data from the dialysis centers about patients infected with Hepatitis C are striking. According to the kidney patients’ association “Nefron”, there are centers where 30 per cent of the patients are infected, but there are also centers where more than one half of the patients are infected with Hepatitis C.

According to experts, the infection is transmitted because the machines are not always completely sterilized between patients. They also save on gloves, so the nurses can transmit the infection. “The same nurse works with both patients infected with Hepatitis C and those who are not”, complains Dushko Gjorgjievski, vice president of “Nefron”. He claims that patients who come to the dialysis centers, due to the physical non-separation, are directly exposed to Hepatitis B and C infection.

Experts say that the main problem is the lack of sufficient dialyses places. The nephrologist Ninoslav Ivanovski, explains: “So, if there are not enough places for dialysis, it happens that healthy patients are placed on machines on which only positive patients are dialyzed”. According to his estimates, in some centers there is even 90 per cent infection with Hepatitis C. Ivanovski believes that the problem is also in the fact that patients are not regularly controlled whether they are infected or not as the money for testing is a burden on centers’ budgets.

Jasmina Jovanovska investigated the situation. Her article was published in the daily newspaper “Utrinski vesnik” on June 5, 2011.

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Child Prostitution Continues in Macedonia

Again, Macedonian public has been astounded by the news that two 14-year-old girls had become victims of a chain of juvenile prostitution. Six years ago in a similar case, twelve men were sentenced to a total of 65 years’ imprisonment for а child sexual abuse. Now another network was detected also in the same city, Shtip in eastern Macedonia. Two 14-year-old girls were involved. Viktorija Dimitrova–Jovanova and Vesna Kolovska investigated whether these two cases were related.

The reporters talked to one of the girls involved in juvenile prostitution. She started at the age of 14, when she said she has entered the prostitution “half-consciously”. A young café owner, whom she considered to be her boyfriend, started selling her to clients, and after a few months he was reported to the police. He was sentenced to 3.5 years imprisonment, but he never served the sentence, because he had run away abroad. The second girl is not alive any more. According to the doctors’ report, she committed suicide with an overdose of sedatives, but according to her parents she had been overdosed by the pimps a day before her witnessing in the investigation.

Six years later two other girls at their age confirmed to the police that they had been giving sexual services for money to men.

This investigation lasted for about three months and just like six years ago, the case was based on the girls’ statements. The girls’ age from the two cases is a pure coincidence, but the question is why is Shtip the only town in Macedonia where two cases of juvenile prostitution have been found and closed? One of the judges Stojan Mihov, accredits the merit to the agile police and the circumstances.

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Your Phone Company is Looking Out for the Pennies

If your telephone bill was charged a couple of cents more, you wouldn’t even notice. It doesn’t really mean much to the customer, but on the company’s side it means millions. This was the case with the “mailbox”, when mobile operators earned millions and then they were punished with serious fines.

“It was about services which the consumers did not actually use – as was the mailbox. Even though these unjustified payments did not include high amounts from the individual perspective (about 6 denars per consumer), at a company level it meant a lot of money,” says Valentina Nikolova – leader of a sector within the Commission for Competition Protection.

Last year T-Mobile Macedonia was fined with 800,000 Euros by the Commission for the mailbox service which was directly harming the consumers. This year, another mobile operator, ONE Telecommunication Services was also fined with 250,000 Euros for the same mistake.

Due to a manipulative expense which damaged the consumers, EVN Macedonia was fined with about 500,000 Euros and almost 1 million Euros was the fine that Macedonian Telecom had to pay for the abuse of its dominant position in the market whereupon it charged the consumers from 6.25 to 50 denars for manipulative expenses depending of the type of service.

Meri Jordanovska checked the phone bills and published the investigation in FOKUS, a weekly newspaper in Macedonia, on December 9, 2011.

Read the original articles (part 1) (part 2)

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You Have a Right to Ask, but Don’t Expect an Answer

More than half of the Macedonians do not know that they have the right to free access to information according to the law. But even if they did and sent a question according to this law, not much would probably happen, conclude Igor Ilievski and Aleksandra Filipovska here.

The two reporters sent questions to 40 institutions to ask for public information. Most of the institutions didn’t reply within the legal deadline of 30 days. They institutions in general did not reply to questions such as: “how much was spent for”, employments, part-time contracts or official’s privileges.

They waited for answers from several institutions for months. For example, after four months, the General Secretariat of the Government required an address where to submit the reply, in which it did not state any of the required information. It took the Ministry of Environment five months to send a reply to the request for pollution information. In the answer there was no specific information, but it contained reference to a websites and rulebooks where the required data could be found.

Fortunately, there are opposite examples. The Ministry of interior gave the answer by telephone only one day after the request has been sent.

The story was published in the daily newspaper DNEVNIK on November 29, 2010.

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