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Helsinki Committee: July sees increased trend of hate speech on social media in terms of snap polls

The Helsinki Committee Monthly Report for July has observed an increased trend of hate speech on social media in terms of the early parliamentary polls and the large number of COVID-19 cases throughout the entire month.

Skopje, 7 August 2020 (MIA) – The Helsinki Committee Monthly Report for July has observed an increased trend of hate speech on social media in terms of the early parliamentary polls and the large number of COVID-19 cases throughout the entire month.

According to the report, July saw a surge in new COVID-19 patients, which resulted in negative discourse of ethnic nature stemming from the number of cases by municipalities.

The Helsinki Committee report for July comes after monitoring the measures taken by the Government, especially in terms of respect for fundamental rights under Chapter 23 – Judiciary and fundamental rights, which particularly addresses implementation of the measures and their direct effect on citizens.

“As in the previous months and in line with the observed trend, the focus should be on dealing with the social and economic crisis caused by the pandemic – protection of marginalized communities, proper implementation of measures, appropriate control and enforcement,” the report reads.

At a political level, it adds, discussion prevailed over the July 15 early parliamentary elections. The elections were held in times of a global pandemic  and with measures in place to protect the citizens. Political parties made progress in presenting their platforms via social media, but traditional rallies were neither left out.

Despite recommendations for protection, the social media monitoring showed non-compliance with measures by some of those present at the rallies, as well as failure to take appropriate measures by the competent institutions, the Helsinki Committee points out.

In addition, the Helsinki Committee mentions the preliminary findings of the OSCE/ODIHR special election assessment mission, according to which “the early parliamentary elections in North Macedonia were generally well-run despite the new circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but legal stability was undermined by significant revisions to the legal framework and subsequent government decrees.”

“Candidates had the opportunity to genuinely compete and deliver their messages, although the campaign was characterized by negative rhetoric at the expense of policy discussions on content. Media coverage of the elections generally lacked a critical assessment of platforms, and rules on paid political advertisements favoured the three largest parties. Election day itself went smoothly despite some technical challenges with the reporting of results,” the preliminary findings said.

The Helsinki Committee also reports that the elections overshadowed the draft EU negotiating framework for North Macedonia, presented on July 1, 2020, during Germany’s EU Presidency.

“The negotiating framework is a result of the new enlargement methodology adopted in March 2020. As regards its content, particular focused will be placed on the political commitment to the process, especially in the implementation of the first cluster of chapters dedicated to democracy and the rule of law, and alignment with Chapter 23 – Judiciary and fundamental rights,” the report reads.

The document also tackles labour rights, discrimination, female textile workers, gender equality and hate speech.

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