Home 2013 Should’ve known better?: Press and fan reactions to the FYR Macedonia controversy

Should’ve known better?: Press and fan reactions to the FYR Macedonia controversy

An editorial from Zack.  This content does not reflect the views of ESC United or its readers.  We encourage readers to share their comments below.

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As many of you know, Esma from FYR Macedonia has been under fire for some quotes she ALLEGEDLY made upon their return home:

For those of you who are unaware, Esma reportedly blamed the “gay lobby”:

“This is an outrage!…Only faggots! This event has been taken over by those who run gay pride parades all over the world. I had heard it all before but that was the first time I saw with my own eyes what’s become of this wonderful music competition. No wonder we did not qualify as it is clear who goes there.”

Esma then reportedly added that Lozano was not allowed out of his hotel alone, due to the gays wanting to ass-grab him at the EuroClub.

For many in the Eurovision press, it is believed that they must provide current, up-to-date news on the Eurovision Song Contest.  However, as the article’s content spread across the Internet, among the many angry comments from fans, there were some who questioned the integrity of the news source, KURIR.

Fans from and near the Macedonia area stated that KURIR is a seedy rag paper that is notorious for flipping the truth.  One fan noted that Esma previously sang at a gay wedding at 2008 and included an article (link is here – not in English).  Others questioned whether she might have been joking and that the quote was taken out of context.  Even Nina, one of the backup singers came to Esma’s defense:

“Hey guys, I am one of Vlatko and Esma’s back-vocals on this years ESC… I can assure you that the statement about the gay lobby is NOT true, Kurir from Serbia is more attraction media, than true media… She was the one telling us how she has a lot gay friends, how she enjoyed their company all these years, and how she treats them well… Please ESCtoday, don’t do this to her, this is very very untrue. I’m not going to make any comments about her singing, we all did our jobs, and it’s up to you to decide weather it’s good or not. I assure you that this is drown out of context… We enjoyed every minute of going out, Vlatko was at every ESC event and this statement is a journalist lie…Best regards from Macedonia everyone ♥.”

So what can we conclude about this?  Well as Wiwi Bloggs reported, Esma made a statement via Plus Info:

“It’s a fabrication, I never said such a thing. If you’re an adult, you are free to live however you want. I love all gays and they love me. I have never offended them and I never said anything bad about them. I have no prejudice. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs.”

So a big sigh of relief so far.  Nevertheless, this Esma controversy serves as a example of how fans, press, and artists interact.  Some thoughts are below:

1) The general consensus was that KURIR is not a credible newspaper.  This should have been a red flag, but being that most Eurovision websites are oriented towards those who speak English, it is hard to tell.  Thanks to the fans, the websites were able to realize that KURIR lacked credibility.  With Esma’s denial of the quote at the least, KURIR needs to come out and make a statement about this matter.

2) Fans may have been correct in complaining how websites portrayed the news as concrete facts. They stated that they had wished websites had used terms such as “allegedly” and “speculated” when reporting Esma’s supposed quotes.   They demanded that sites confirms their sources, or use multiple sources. In reality, they wanted information to be verified.  I think readers have every right to question the content that is presented.

3) However, I want to highlight what I assume to be the websites’ perspectives.  They believe that fans want information ASAP.  They feel they are under so much pressure to provide up-to-date coverage. In Malmo, at times, it felt like the press was competing with one another to be the first to upload an article or to upload a rehearsal video. They do this for their fans. So I don’t believe any website that posted this news about Esma did it to vindictively ruin her reputation. A good example is how Wiwi Bloggs covered the story.  Although they are sarcastic in their web content (and that is partially why I love them!), you can tell that were very sad to have to post an article like this.  And when they got more information from their readers, they had no qualms owning up to it, apologizing, and posting updates. Hats off to them.

4) This also leads to another thought from my Eurovision experience in Malmo. In reality, a lot of the press present were not from TV or radio.  They were fan websites created by fans for fans.  As fans, they reported on what their readers want to know about, but also posted their opinions as well.  It’s a hard balancing act. I myself had to learn that while reporting in Malmo. But reader feedback made me think a bit more about what I wrote and published, so in the end, it was a good learning experience. So again, the websites that reported the Esma story were doing so because they felt the fans should know.  I’d also like to add that in the first week of Eurovision, the biggest presence of press came from these fan-based websites.  The big broadcasters came in week 2.  So I ask that these sites be given credit for trying, whether or not you may agree with a writer’s opinion or not.

5) Another great thing about the fan websites is that you as the readers have the power.  We are writing for you.  Without you, we are nothing!  We piss you off, you leave, and our website goes down the drain!  So we applaud all the fans that are brave enough to question content.  In the context of the Esma controversy, the readers, not the websites, have been the greatest source of information to provide a well-rounded view of the situation and the characters of those in question.

6) But at the same time, the readers also can be vicious!  Comments about Esma have not been nice.  She’s been called “fat,” a “drag queen,” “homophobic” just to share a few.  If in a few days, we find out that in reality, Esma DID NOT say those homophobic words, what does that say about us as readers who lashed out at someone who really was not our enemy?  I am not saying that the reader reactions are not justified.  Hearing homophobic comments from someone participating in an event that has many gay fans is ridiculous in my opinion.  However, what is said in the comments sections on websites will have been published. Esma has asserted her innocence, and we hope she never did say such words.  But at the same time, I’d hate to see her have to read through some of the comments. With our websites, we have to think carefully about what we write and the potential consequences before publishing them. Would it be an impossible dream to think that readers would do the same?

7) Although I wrote this section before Esma professed her innocence, I still think it’s important to note.  So I’ve tried to make some changes to have it reflect current news.  Before Esma denied saying such words, some readers thought that perhaps it was a poorly-worded joke that was misinterpreted.  This would have been quite possible.  Still, the use of such language is inappropriate.  I’ve seen it many times where someone will think they have a “gay-pass” and can thus, use offensive terms such as “faggot” because they know it’s just a joke and they have gay friends.  You can see the same thing occur not just with gays, but with groups of ethnic and racial minorities too.  The fact of the matter is that these offensive words should not be used by ANYONE.  Whether you’re gay or straight or anything in between, the use of the word “faggot” is offensive.  Still, this is easier said than done.  I myself am still guilty of using the word, even as a gay man, and I need to do better myself.  So in regards to any Eurovision artist using such language, they  should apologize, acknowledge the inappropriate use of the word, and learn from it.  And we as fans should accept this apology, learn from it as well, but be there to remind the perpetrator and ourselves that language like that is hurtful.

8) I’m reassured to her Esma profess her innocence.  I know a colleague of ours was delighted to meet her.  And from we saw, she seemed to have enjoyed her Eurovision experience.  Regardless of what people thought about her vocals at Semi-Final 2, it looked like she was having fun on and off the stage.  Like with all the artists there, we hope that despite not qualifying to the finals, the entire delegation can look back at Eurovision 2013 as a memorable experience.

UPDATE: This is from Russell Davies, assistant head of delegation for Macedonia:

Dear Editors,

I have been asked to write on behalf of Esma regarding the false media stories that are circulating in a number of Eurovision Song Contest fan website alleging that Esma is homophobic. The story published in the Serbian tabloid newspaper ‘Kurir’ is a complete fabrication. On behalf of Esma, her management and the Macedonian Delegation for Eurovision, we strongly repudiate these falsehoods. Apart from an interview that will be published on escxtra.com this weekend, Esma has not given any other interviews to media since her return to Macedonia. 

Esma does not follow any of the Eurovision fan sites, Facebook, twitter, etc. and was most distressed when she was told this morning of this false story. As a Romany she is particularly sensitive to the percussion of all minorities. She 100% supports the gay community, and has a strong believe that everyone may live their lives as they choose. Esma has a many gay friends, whom she respects and supports. Her own personal principles are that all people should be free to make their own choices so they can live free happy and fulfilled lives.

Esma’s management team are concerned about the damage this false story may cause to Esma’s personal and professional reputation. With this in mind we ask that all stories published on your respective websites relating to these falsehoods should be immediately amended and include this rebuttal.

As far as Lozano is concerned, I can personally confirm that he enjoyed many evenings in both Eruoclub and Eurocafe during his time in Malmo. He particularly enjoyed the Balkan Music Night and the Closing Party. Again the comments written about him in the ‘Kurir’ newspaper are utter nonsense!

Regards

Russell Davies
Assistant HoD – Macedonia

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter.  Did the press do a good job covering this Esma controversy?  Are fan reactions towards the press and towards Esma justified?   And what happens to KURIR?

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One Comment

  1. Roy van der Merwe

    May 24, 2013 at 08:21

    Living in South Africa and not reading all these websites, I was almost unaware of this story. I did meet Esma and she was wonderful, of course a language barrier but we had Kristian, who speaks fluentely Macedonian and he told me that Esma loves evey moment of her Eurovision experience. I think thge Serbian paper should be denied accreditation for 2014.

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