SEEMO calls for release of reporter jailed in Macedonia / FYROM
Urges thorough investigation of detention, police action blocking journalists’ protest
VIENNA, Oct 24, 2013 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists from South East Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), today expressed concern about recent developments in the Republic of Macedonia/ Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
On Monday, the Skopje First Basic Court sentenced journalist Tomislav Kezarovski, an investigative journalist at the daily Nova Makedonija, to four and a half years in prison. Kezarovski has been in detention since May 28, as SEEMO has previously reported. Kezarovski was arrested in connection with two articles he wrote in November and December 2008 for the magazine Reporter 92 in which he revealed the identity of a witness in an unresolved murder case.
Earlier this year, the witness, who holds protected status, told the court that his previous testimony regarding the murder was false and that he had given that testimony due to threats from the police. The murder case subsequently collapsed and prosecutors claimed that Kezarovski, by identifying the witness, allowed the defendants in the case to influence the witness.
SEEMO today said it was surprised that authorities brought criminal charges against Kezarovski so many years after he wrote the article at issue. The group said that, to the extent the witness held protected status, state authorities were to blame for not having adequately protected the witness’ identify. SEEMO also said that it was important to note that Kezarovski disclosed only the witness’ given name, not a surname, and that the court’s ruling ignored the fact that a journalist’s reports claiming that police knowingly induced a protected witness to give false testimony touched upon a matter of public interest.
In a related development, yesterday journalists gathered in Skopje to show support for Kezarovski, but police erected a cordon to stop the demonstration. The protest was supported by leading journalists’ associations in the country – including the Journalist’s Association, the Macedonian Institute for Media and the Independent Journalist’s Trade Union – and by many individual journalists.
“All of these developments are alarming and send a clear message to other journalists in the country to censor themselves and to stop engaging in investigative journalism,” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said. “I urge the government in Skopje, the president and parliament to react by standing up for press freedom and freedom of speech in the country, and to collect all relevant information and turn it over to investigators examining these cases.
“I also call on the authorities to release Kezarovski immediately and I will be asking the Council of Europe, as well as the European Commission, which recommended that accession negotiations be opened with this country, to strongly monitor press freedom developments in Republic of Macedonia / Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.”