Text Size

How Can the Voice of the Voiceless Be Heard?

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionSend by emailSend by email

An ethical duty of journalists is not only to report on public protests, but to also present the demands of the protestors. Very few media presented the demands of the protestors, as opposed to the number of media presenting the minister’s statements that the protest held before the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy was a “mistake”, writes Žarko Trajanovski, human rights expert in the latest analysis originally published on fact-checking website mediumi.vistinomer.mk.

“I love you” in sign language, Photo: Bert Heymans, 2009“I love you” in sign language, Photo: Bert Heymans, 2009

“Thank you all for the support, especially the media helping us raise our voice! We have no interpreters, and that is why we are writing this!” (Public meeting of the deaf and hard of hearing of Macedonia)

The recent peaceful protest of a group of people with disabilities was an excellent opportunity to see how many journalists comply with the ethical code and would allow the “voice of the voiceless to be heard”.

Very few media announced the protest. With a few exceptions, the media ignored the announcement for a “Public gathering of the deaf and hard of hearing of the Republic of Macedonia“. Some of the pro-government media did not report at all about the protest outside the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy (MLSP), and some only reported about the minister’s reaction to the protest.

Was the protest before the MLSP held by “mistake”?
Several media presented as crucial the “information” that the protest outside the MLSP was a mistake. For example, Kurir summarized the following ministerial “information” as a subheading:

“Today’s protest of the deaf and hard of hearing in front of the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy was held by mistake because they were asking for changes in the National Association of the Deaf, something that is not the responsibility of this Ministry, was announced today by the Minister of Labour and Social Policy, Dime Spasov.”

Several media published the same content in which the statement of the Minister saying that he was informed about the “mistake” is repeated twice: “I was informed that they actually came in front of the Ministry by mistake, as they actually sought changes in the National Association of the Deaf” and “I’m really sorry that their rally before the MLSP was a mistake, as they already said themselves… ”

The reporters published the ministerial “information” without verifying that representatives of the persons that were protesting actually informed the minister that “they came to the Ministry by mistake.” This verification is also necessary because of the published information that the peaceful rally was not scheduled only before the MLSP: “the deaf and hard of hearing in the country, as an affected group in this case wanted to “raise their voices” and decided to organize a public gathering on September 25, 2013 before the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy at 9.40 am, and then at 12.30 pm before the National Association of the Deaf and Hard of hearing of the Republic of Macedonia.” The information clearly indicates the reasons for starting the public rally before the MLSP: “The National Association of the deaf and hard of hearing is funded by the MLSP, and this ministry has the right to review the work of the National Association (the budget and the program). Many inconsistencies are sure to be revealed if a review is performed!”

Is anyone presenting the demands of the protest?
An ethical duty of journalists is not only to report on public protests, but to also present the demands of the protestors. Very few media presented the demands of the protestors, as opposed to the number of media presenting the minister’s statements that the protest held before the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy was a “mistake”.

The newscast “Demanding their rights: Protest of the deaf from Macedonia” is emphasizing the problem with the shortage of interpreters: “There are about 6,000 deaf people in Macedonia and only 12 interpreters. Those who can, actually pay for their own interpreters, so they can communicate in a court, or a hospital. Since they cannot communicate without an interpreter, they are often losing cases in court or receiving the wrong diagnosis from their physician.”

The article “Who should help the deaf?” clearly indicates the key demands addressed to the MLSP: “During today’s protest of the deaf and hard of hearing in front of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy about thirty people with a hearing impairment demanded the competent institution to approve more funds for their social development, a normal life with a good job, education and employment of interpreters and codification of the sign language. They also demanded a detailed review of the work of the management of their Association and the introduction of certificates for interpreters.”

In the article “Who should help the deaf” priority is given to the problems and demands of the protestors, followed by the statement of the Minister (during the announcement, a sign is displayed, reading “Don’t forget us! We are also part of this country. Stop employment discrimination”):

“Minister Dime Spasov, instead of examining the situation of the deaf and hard of hearing, said that today’s protests outside the ministry were not held at the right address.”

Some of the media don’t hear persons with impaired hearing
None of the pro-government media presenting the ministerial “information” that the protest outside the MLSP was a “mistake” published the refutation of the protestors. Only “Telma” published the article “The protest of people with hearing loss was not held at the wrong address” stressing that “the deaf were not outside the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy by mistake, and they were hoping that the Minister will demand a report from the president of the Association of the deaf and hard of hearing on the budget it receives each year.”

Some pro-government media published articles about the protest without hearing the voice of the protestors, although they already thanked “the media that helps us raise our voice” in advance. For example, in the article “The deaf and hard of hearing will receive 4,000 denars a month,” the source of information is only the minister, whose claim that the protest was a mistake is placed as a confirmed information in the subheading: “The protest of the deaf and hard of hearing outside the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy was held by mistake…” The article doesn’t mention the problem with the shortage of interpreters, but it highlights a ministerial statement that the fee (which will only be received by “completely deaf-mute persons from January 2014″) will also be the solution for “providing interpreters”: “I’m not saying that this money will solve all the problems, but it will significantly help them in overcoming the problems they are facing, including the provision of interpreters.” The media completely ignored the question of how would interpreters be provided in all the cities, when there are actually only 12 certified interpreters in the “List of sign language interpreters in the Republic of Macedonia“.

Only one media published a reaction regarding the ministerial statement that the protest will be resolved partially with a compensation:

“The protest was not a request for charity, but for proper management of the only institution in the country which should be fighting for our rights, and which is the only one competent for training sign language interpreters, something that it hasn’t been doing for years.”

Most of the media did not mention the support from the Helsinki Committee
The pro-government media completely ignored the public support from the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia with its announcement “Institutional obstacles for the deaf and hard of hearing in accessing their rights and justice”, published only on a few websites. Only a few media reported about the offered free legal assistance and presented a public statement from representatives of the Helsinki Committee emphasizing that the protest was held at the right place:

“I think the protest was held at the right place. It is exactly the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy that needs to supervise the work of the National Association, so it’s this ministry’s responsibility.”

Unfortunately, the peaceful protest in which one of the key demands was the training of more sign language interpreters was not an incentive for bringing up the following issue of public interest in the media: Why isn’t sign language interpreting provided by TV stations and news portals publishing video content, at least for their key contents?

****************************************

This review was created within the framework of the USAID Media Strengthening in Macedonia Project – Media Fact-Checking Service Component,, mplemented by Metamorphosis. The review is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of its author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Metamorphosis, USAID or the United States Government. For more information on the work of USAID in Macedonia please visit its website (http://macedonia.usaid.gov) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/USAIDMacedonia).

Share this