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News 01 Mar 17

VMRO DPMNE Deflects Blame for Attack on Macedonian Journalists

Macedonia's VMRO DPMNE party has angrily denied claims that it was to blame for Tuesday's assault on two reporters in Skopje - rounding on the media union leader who made the accusation.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
Two journalists from the A1on news outlet  were physically attacked while reporting on the protests.

Macedonia's ruling VMRO DPMNE party on Wednesday dismissed claims by the head of an important media union that it was to blame for Tuesday's assault on two reporters as well as other similar attacks on journalists.

Naser Selmani, head of the Journalists' Association of Macedonia, ZNM, said that even if the VMRO DPMNE party was not directly linked to the attacks, it had created an atmosphere in which such incidents occurred with impunity, partly by not punishing previous incidents.

“This is a culmination of events over the past four years. The government of [VMRO DPMNE leader] Nikola Gruevski is coordinating attacks on journalists in order to prevent objective reporting about events in Macedonia. I want to convey a message to VMRO DPMNE leader Gruevski to pull back his thugs,” Selmani said.

The row started after A1on news outlet cameraman Vladimir Zelceski and journalist Aleksandar Todevski were attacked by unknown assailants on Tuesday in the centre of Skopje.

They were beaten up while reporting on a protest against the announced formation of a new opposition Social Democrat-led coalition government.

"Participants at the protest attacked the reporters from behind, throwing punches towards their heads and kicking them. They took their camera, threw it to the ground and started kicking it, completely destroying it," A1on editor-in-chief Predrag Petrovic said on Tuesday.

The Interior Minister said he condemned the assault.

"In my own name and in the name of the Ministry, I condemn the attacks and I assure you that the Ministry will use all of its capacities to completely resolve this case. All attempts to disturb public order will be sanctioned,” Interior Minister Agim Nuhiu told a press conference on Wednesday, adding that he was summoning 12 witnesses to investigate the event.

However, in a statement, the VMRO DPMNE party on Wednesday rebuffed Selmani’s claims of responsibility - and accused him of “lying and manipulation”.

It also accused him of turning the ZNM into an “association for the protection of the SDSM [the Social Democrats] and of Soros”.

The party has insisted that the opposition SDSM together with NGOs funded by US billionaire George Soros are responsible for destabilizing Macedonia in order to change its government and undermine Macedonia’s statehood.

“Selmani was silent and hiding while journalists were brutally attacked and the wild hordes of SDSM and Soros demolished entire media outlets like Radio Free Macedonia," the party said.

"Selmani, like [former SDSM Interior Minister] Oliver Spasovski was absent the entire year, without doing a single thing to try to protect journalists from Kurir, Sitel, MTV and all the rest who were not writing under orders from SDSM and Soros,” VMRO DPMNE added.

Photo-journalists at the scene on Tuesday took pictures of the alleged attackers leaving the scene and of the two reporters lying on the ground.

A1on meanwhile said it would sue the organizers of Tuesday’s protest of VMRO DPMNE supporters, the newly-formed Civic Initiative for a United Macedonia.

The news outlet said that it will seek compensation for what it called their “savage and primitive behaviour”.

A number of political parties and journalists’ associations, besides the ZNM, have condemned the assault, including the Independent Trade Union of Journalists and Media Workers, SSNM, as well as the SDSM.

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