The 10th International Conference “e-Society.Mk” took place on December 11, 2014, at the City Hall Center in Skopje. The theme of this year’s conference was “Human Rights on the Internet – Freedom of Expression, Hate Speech and Privacy in the Digital World.” The conference was attended by 135 participants from the public, private and NGO sector from the country and abroad.
The event organized by the Metamorphosis Foundation was opened by the French Ambassador to Macedonia, H.E. Laurence Auer, who emphasized the importance of human rights in the age of the rise of the internet and the new technologies.
“Today, more than 1 billion people are connected to the internet. Internet access should be considered a fundamental human right, and we all need to protect it”- said Mrs. Auer. “Our personal data are truly precious, and the space of individual freedom should be protected, with the assistance of civil society, education and the public sector,” she added.
During the session on importance of human rights, keynote speeches were also delivered by H.E. Marianne Berecz – Deputy Head of the OSCE Mission to Skopje, Mr. Ljupcho Prendjov – Deputy Minister of Local Self-Government, Mr. Ivo Ivanovski – Minister of Information Society and Administration, Mr. Robin Liddell – Minister Counsellor, Delegation of the European Union, Ms. Catherine-Amelie Chassin, General Secretary of the International Institute for Human Rights and Peace, and Mr. Bardhyl Jashari – Director of the Metamorphosis Foundation.
“We should be careful on the internet. People are signing up for services and applications without reading their rights and obligations, and without knowing how their data will be used. We need trainings to inform citizens about their rights and obligations on the internet” said Mr. Ivanovski.
“We all want to be safe, but we are using the internet without thinking about how it affects our safety” – said Mrs. Berecz, calling for responsible use of the Internet. “We must be careful when it comes to how we treat each other,” she added.
“We cannot have a well-established system without having freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is the basis of democracy, stability and development”- said Mr. Liddell.
“Freedom of expression has been protected for a long time, but with the development of new technologies we are facing a globalized model, and the judiciary and legislation must keep up with it” said Mrs. Catherine-Amelie Chassin.
The Deputy Minister of Local Self-Government, Mr. Prendjov said: “Citizens must be protected from hate speech. Cooperation between Macedonia and the Lower Normandy region is a good example of exchange of practices regarding human rights.”
Mr. Bardhyl Jashari noted that instead of being afraid of the internet, we should keep the internet free through education and awareness raising about its safe and responsible use.
During the following sessions, experts from the country and abroad talked about the freedom of expression, privacy and hate speech on the internet.
The session on freedom of expression began with the presentation of Ms. Agnes Cerf from the Caen University, presenting the practices, experiences and tendencies related to freedom of expression in France. She added that insult and defamation have been regulated since 1881 in France, and that the French lawmakers have also regulated online harassment.
Ms. Katerina Sinadinovska from the Council of Ethics in the Media talked about the self-regulating mechanisms for upholding freedom of expression and about the main goal of the Council of Ethics in the Media, which is not to allow the powerful political and business centers to control the media.
In the same session, Mr. Dragan Sekulovski from the Association of Journalists of Macedonia spoke of the media habits of citizens, the experiences and current cases related to the Media Law.
Ms. Meri Jordanovska, investigative journalist, spoke about education and how freedom of expression is covered in the official educational curriculum, and about the current events related to the student march.
In the third session on hate speech online, Mr. Filip Stojanovski from the Metamorphosis Foundation talked about the current projects aiming to combat hate speech online and promoted the new mobile application intended for educating and fighting against this phenomenon.
Ms. Uranija Pirovska from the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia talked about reporting hate speech online and stressed that anyone can be a victim of hate speech.
Mr. Milos Ristovski from the Center for Intercultural Dialogue presented the No Hate Speech movement and discussed about the need to promote positive speech instead of hate speech.
“Education plays an important role in youth development, and human rights education is crucial” said Ms. Sarah Barnier-Leroy from the International Institute for Human Rights and Peace, who held a presentation on how hate speech and ethnic/religious tensions are addressed in the official curriculum for primary and secondary schools in Macedonia and France.
According to Mr. Petrit Sarachini from the Macedonian Institute for Media, who presented the key findings from the anti-hate speech project bezomrazno.mk, we need to constantly challenge the system if we want to combat hate speech.
The fourth session of the conference was dedicated to privacy. The session was opened by Ms. Tamara Resavska from the Metamorphosis Foundation who held a presentation on children’s rights on the internet and stressed that the goal is not to intimidate children so they would not use the internet, but to educate them about using the internet safely.
Ms. Liljana Pecova – Ilieska from the Directorate for Personal Data Protection presented the “Privacy Class” project and discussed about the legal framework for personal data protection, the right to privacy, and the experiences of the Directorate in this area.
Mr. Vladan Joler from Share Defense discussed on the topic of “Internet Privacy Atlas: Invisible Infrastructures” presenting the internet from a different perspective, and emphasizing that we ourselves are exporters of personal data.
The fifth and final session called “Synergies” covered experiences from teaching human rights on the internet, presented by teacher Darko Taleski, whereas Riste Zmejkovski from BIRN Macedonia spoke of the civil society organizations and the media.
Mr. Stefan Aleksic from the Youth Educational Forum held the last presentation, covering youth in the media and youth activism, and presenting the activities of Radio MOF.
The conference was organized within the framework of the project “Decentralized cooperation between the Lower Normandy Region and the Republic of Macedonia”, and supported by the Institute for Human Rights and Peace in Caen as a continuation of the long-term cooperation between the Metamorphosis Foundation and the Lower Normandy region in the area of human rights.
Conference photos are available on Flickr.