Publication: “The Constitutional Amendments in the Media: Disinformation, Media Manipulations and Hate Speech (analyses)”

The publication “The Constitutional Amendments in the Media: Disinformation, Media Manipulations and Hate Speech (analyses) offers authors’ analyses, in which, prominent researchers with longstanding experience in the media and the professional media organizations present findings, examples, standpoints and opinions for the reporting of the media, disinformation, media manipulations and hate speech, related to the suggested constitutional amendments that are a precondition for continuing the negotiations for membership of North Macedonia in the European Union.

By analysing the ways in which the media reporting and the public communication were unfolding concerning this issue, four authors’ analyses in the publication have the goal of detecting the key disinformation narratives and models, media manipulations and hate speech, and to point to possible solutions that would contribute to minimizing the damage from the public polarization in the debate for the constitutional amendments.

In the analysis “Disinformation, conspiracy theories and media manipulations for the suggested constitutional amendments”, the author Zharko Trajanoski indicates that the disinformation narratives and manipulations that were recognized during the public debate for the “French Proposition” in 2022, and earlier during the Prespa Agreement negotiations, the Referendum and constitutional amendments in 2018 and 2019, have continued well into 2023 in the media and public communication related to the constitutional amendments.

Through concrete examples, Trajanoski’s analysis presents the key narratives that contained disinformation, conspiracy theories and media manipulations, including the ones for “genocide and ethnocide” of the Macedonian people, “Bulgarisation”, disinformation related to the Macedonian language, disinformation about the start, the opening and continuing of the EU negotiations, as well as, the historical disinformation which were an inevitable part of the media and public communications for the constitutional amendments as well.

In the analysis “The constitutional amendments in the disinformation-hate-polarization algorithm”, the author Zoran Bojarovski starts out with a chronological overview of the events and the explosion of hate speech during the so-called “French Proposition” for overcoming the dispute with Bulgaria and the start of the negotiations of North Macedonia for the EU membership, whose characteristics were reflected in the media reporting and the public debate for the constitutional amendments.

The author indicates that the hate speech was a strong “companion” to the public debate in this phase too, especially in the episodes “The Protocol”, “The Bulgarian clubs in Macedonia”, “Determining the constitutional amendments by the expert group” and in some others. The analysis identifies the characteristics and elements of hate speech and how they are mirrored in the current communication ambience in the country, in the context of the proposed constitutional amendments.

Doctor Sefer Tahiri participates in this publication with the analysis titled “The Media in Albanian language: The constitutional amendments, necessary for EU integration”. From this analysis, it is concluded that the media in Albanian language, similarly to the case with the “French Proposal” from last year, mostly had affirmative reporting for the proposed constitutional amendments that are a condition for continuing the negotiations for the membership of North Macedonia in the EU.

Tahiri points out that even though the reporting was mainly balanced, with room for the standpoints of the governing and parties in opposition from the Albanian and Macedonian political campuses, yet in part of the media critical tone towards the standpoints of the oppositional VMRO-DPMNE were noticed, and great attention was dedicated to the issue of the constitutional treatment of the Albanian language as “language that is spoken by 20 percent of the population”, where the constitutional amendments were presented as a possibility for changes and correction of the formulation that is considered to be an injustice by the politicians and media in Albanian language. The author also focuses on the cases of sensationalistic reporting, use of religious vocabulary, as well as, media contents with disinformation.

Part of this publication is also the analysis from the author Petrit Saraçini “The constitutional amendments in the media and on social media networks: Strong polarization and hate, weak online moderation, little research and petitions to the self-regulatory bodies”. The analysis focuses on media reporting about the constitutional amendments and the strong polarization and hate speech that is caused by this topic in the public, but especially on social media networks, through the standpoints of few professional media organizations.

In the presented argumentation, the prevailing opinion is that the topic of the constitutional amendments causes evident polarization of the public, but on the other hand, it is evident that there is a lack of more comprehensive and professional media research on this issue, for which the self-regulatory bodies point out that they have very few petitions for breaking the ethical regulations in the media reporting. In addition, it is emphasized that very few media moderate the comments on their posts on social media, and concerning hate speech, the organizations point out the need for more consolidated and coordinated response from the institutions.

This publication is part of the activities of the Institute for Media and Analytics (IMA), supported by the European Endowment for Democracy from Brussels, and presents a contribution to the commitments of IMA for promotion of the freedom of media, combatting disinformation and hate speech, development of critical thinking and debate and the search for solutions in dealing with these important challenges.

The English language version of the publication can be downloaded here:

Publication IMA_The constitutional changes in the media_Disinformation-media manipulations-hate speech_analyses_eng_FINAL