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News 22 Apr 15

Reporter's Death Threat Angers Macedonian Journalists

Macedonian journalists have expressed outrage over the death threat sent to the family home of veteran TV reporter Borjan Jovanovski - which his wife received.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Borjan Jovanovski

Macedonian journalists have condemned the death threat issued to a prominent TV reporter, Borjan Jovanovski.

A funeral wreath with the words "Final Greetings" written on it was delivered to his family home on Tuesday evening while Jovanovski himself was out.

It was delivered to his wife and children by an unidentified person who said the sinister "greeting" came from Todor Aleksandrov - believed to be a cover name, borrowed from Macedonian history.

"What happened shocked me and my family. My underage children were witnesses of a gruesome act which was surely caused by the institutions who despite all warnings are doing nothing to prevent hate speech and a series of lynch calls against all the opponents of the government," Jovanovski said.

Jovanovski, a prominent critic of the government, reported the incident to the police who took the wreath away for examination.

The Journalists' Plenum, which mainly unites independent and anti-government reporters, condemned the death threat, accusing Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski of fomenting an atmosphere of intolerance of criticism.

"We see this as a mafia-style message from the family that rules Macedonia, directed at all critically inclined media and journalists, [to show] what we can expect if we oppose the government," the plenum said.

The plenum said it planned to deliver a similar funeral wreath to the government at noon on Wednesday, in a symbolic protest gesture.

Macedonia's ruling party condemned the threat and denied any involvement, however.

"Such happenings are completely unacceptable for VMRO DPMNE and are harmful, both personally for the journalist Borjan Jovanovski and his family, and for the entire atmosphere in the country," the party said.

The country's main Journalists Association of Macedonia, ZNM, and the Macedonian Media Institute, MIM, also condemned the death threat, accusing state institutions of fomenting an atmosphere of intolerance of criticism.

This is an "cowardly act directed against all journalists in Macedonia" ZNM said adding that this "incident is a consequence of the spreading of hate speech in media inspired by the conduct of the political parties."

ZNM reminded that the institutions have so far failed to solve a single case where journalists have been subjected to violence, verbal threats and hate speech.

The funeral wreath that the journalist recieved | Photo by: nova.tv

The real Todor Aleksandrov is a controversial figure in history. A senior member of the VMRO nationalist organization in Ottoman times, he was called a “head-cutter” for his alleged role in assassinations of other historic VMRO members.

In 2012, the government funded the erection of an equestrian statue of Aleksandrov in Skopje, after sources close to the ruling party insisted that he had been unjustly portrayed in a negative light.

Jovanovski has been under fire before. In October 2011 Prime Minister Gruevski attacked him in a highly personally manner, accusing him of working with the EU to degrade Macedonia's image.

Gruevski claimed Jovanovski was "well known to the Macedonian public and is involved in a trail of scandals and affairs", adding that "Jovanovski is not a journalist any longer"; the government had just closed the A1 TV station where he used to work.

The Council of the European Union on Tuesday expressed "grave concern regarding the deteriorating situation in the country, in particular in the area of rule of law, fundamental rights and freedom of media."

The latest World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders, surveying the state of media freedom in 2014, has ranked Macedonia at the bottom of the Balkan countries, in 117th position out of 180 listed countries.

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