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News 21 Feb 13

Macedonian Journalist Returns Awards in Protest

Zoran Ivanov said he was returning his journalistic prizes and quitting journalism after 40 years in protest against the growing politicisation and subversion of the media.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Macedonian journalism had hit rock bottom, Zoran Ivanov said

Ivanov's move comes after he was sacked from Alfa TV on Wednesday, and after the new Serbian owners of the former critically inclined outlet changed the editorial policy.

“Vulgar daily politics have bought and occupied the entire Macedonian media and journalistic space. It has turned it into a cartel-like propaganda machine and it oppresses and humiliates journalists,” journalist and editor Ivanov wrote in an open letter to the public on Thursday.

He was now quitting journalism after some 40 years in the profession, he said, feeling that journalism in the country had hit rock bottom. Before his post at Alfa, Ivanov is also known as former spokesperson of the government, the former President Branko Crvenkovski and head of the state news agency, MIA.

“Macedonian journalism has lost its meaning. It has become an extension of the politics of the ruling party's propaganda centre,” he added.

Among other prizes, Ivanov said he was returning three "Mito Hadzivasilev- Jasmin" state awards for achievements in literature and journalism, two "Krste Petkov Misirkov" awards for best journalist of the year and a lifetime achievement award.

“With an apology and all due respect to the juries, I am returning all my journalistic awards,” he said.

Ivanov was the TV station’s former editor-in-chief, but resigned from the post in January after it became clear that Alfa was preparing to change its editorial policy and after his political debate show, “Word by Word”, was pulled. Although he left the top post, he stayed on at the station till Wednesday.

The excuse for the layoff was that there was allegedly not enough work for Ivanov in the TV station.

In October, Balkan Insight revealed that Alfa TV, previously one of the last prominent outlets that were critical of the government of Nikola Gruevski - was sold to a Serbian firm in circumstances, and under terms, that remain unclear.

Alfa is one of six TV stations with a nationwide broadcasting concession.

According to documents obtained by Balkan Insight, CHS Invest paid only 150,000 euro in June 2012 for a majority stake in Alfa whose real value was closer to 2.5 million euro, a Balkan Insight investigation showed.

CHS Invest is part of Com Trade Corporation, owned by a company registered in the Dutch Antilles and run by the Serbian businessman Veselin Jevrosimovic.

The sale was concealed from both the Macedonian public and the station’s own staff for four months.

The takeover came at a time of growing expressions of concerns for the future of media freedom in Macedonia.

The World Media Freedom Index 2013, published last month by Reporters Without Borders, ranked Macedonia in 116th place out of 179 countries in the survey, marking a hefty drop of 22 places from the previous year.

Four years ago, the country was ranked in 34th place in the same media freedom report.

"Macedonian journalism needs revolution and a fresh start" Ivanov wrote.

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