Global Voices condemns the attacks on North Macedonia NGO Metamorphosis Foundation

Group photo of Metamorphosis staff taken during a September 2019 event, published on their Facebook page. Used with permission.

Since November 12, a group of online media outlets and social media accounts in North Macedonia have been waging a coordinated attack against the staff of Metamorphosis Foundation, a Skopje-based NGO. A partner of Global Voices, Metamorphosis has been doing groundbreaking work on freedom of expression and digital rights since 2004, including founding the online fact-checking service Truthmeter (Vistinomer), among other projects.

The attacks have exploited the volatile political situation that currently prevails in North Macedonia, falsely accusing Metamorphosis of colluding with Facebook to censor “patriotic” content from the social media platform. They also include calls for physical violence towards Metamorphosis staff, threats of sharing of their private information, and online harassment. Photos of Metamorphosis staff, including its journalists and managers, have been disseminated online in the style of obituaries or Wild West “Wanted” posters.

Global Voices strongly condemns these attacks on our long-standing partner. We call on North Macedonia's authorities to investigate these activities and to enforce the appropriate legal remedies against the perpetrators, as well as provide protection to Metamorphosis staff. We echo Metamorphosis Foundation's own call to local media outlets that have amplified these attacks to issue retractions as soon as possible.

Since its inception 16 years ago, Metamorphosis Foundation has stood on the frontlines of the fight for freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and protection of digital rights in North Macedonia and the wider Balkans region.

Truthmeter is a certified signatory of the Code of Principles of the International Fact-Finding Network. It has worked with Facebook under its Third-Party Fact-Checking Program since July 2020. Under this program, Facebook employs certified fact-checkers from around the world to identify misinformation circulating on its platform. Truthmeter, like Facebook's other partners, does not engage in censorship of any kind — it merely reviews and rates the accuracy and integrity of content that circulates on the platform and posts fact-checking articles that Facebook attaches to each item that is rated. Removal of content remains at the sole discretion of the company, which uses its own internal mechanisms and applies its own Community Standards in carrying out this function.

After Metamorphosis alerted Facebook about the attacks against them, the company removed posts that the company found to be in violation of its anti-harassment policy. However, investigations conducted by Metamorphosis have revealed that screenshots of such posts remain in circulation on other popular social networks.

On November 13, Metamorphosis released a statement denying the libellous claims against its staff. It also filed a criminal complaint with local law enforcement. At the time of the publication of this statement, Metamorphosis is yet to receive any response from North Macedonia's Interior Ministry.

Metamorphosis Foundation also intends to press defamation charges against media outlets who have backed the hate campaign and refuse to publish a retraction.

Global Voices joins North Macedonia's journalist associations and press freedom advocates, the Civil Center for Freedom, the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, and ambassadors to North Macedonia from the European Union and the United Kingdom in vehemently condemning those attacks. We stand in solidarity with our colleagues.

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