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News 05 Jun 13

Macedonian Journalists Seek Reporter's Release

A delegation of journalists, demanding the immediate release of their incarcerated colleague Tomislav Kezarovski, emerged unsatisfied from Tuesday’s talks with the court’s head.

 
Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
 

The head of Skopje’s criminal court, Vladimir Pancevski, told journalists he had no power to influence the judge who ordered 30 days of detention for Kezarovski and advised the defence to file a formal complaint.

“Detention has been ordered for two reasons: the risk of his escape and the danger that he may influence the witnesses who in this phase of the investigation have not yet been examined,” the spokesperson for the court, Vladimir Tufegdzic, said after the meeting.

This explanation was deemed unacceptable by journalists.

“These reasons are unacceptable to us," said journalist Zoran Dimitrovski. "We demanded the re-examination of his detention... and, taking into consideration that he is a journalist, that the public interest and the dignity of the profession are at stake."

Kezarovski, an investigative journalist at the Nova Makedonija daily, is currently being detained for 30 days in relation to an article he wrote in 2008 for Reporter 92 magazine in which he revealed the identity of a witness in a murder case.

Last week, during his arrest by special police, Kezarovski was paraded in handcuffs in front of the cameras as he was led to and from the court.

According to media reports, he is being charged with revealing the identity of a protected witness and has been asked by an investigative judge to reveal the identity of his source.

Last Friday, the association of Macedonian Journalists, ZNM, the Independent Journalist’s Union, SSNM, and the Macedonian Institute for Media, MIM, held a protest before the court in Skopje, demanding his release.

The ZNM also sent a letter to ambassadors in the country, seeking their help and voicing suspicions that the only reason for his arrest was to press him to reveal his source.

Meanwhile, condemnations of the arrest have mounted.

Dunja Mijatovic, the OSCE representative for freedom of the media, described the detention as “excessive”. It “sends a negative signal about the state of media freedom in the country,” Mijatović said.

“Journalists must be allowed to carry out investigative reporting of issues in the public interest free from the threat of imprisonment and without being forced to reveal their sources,” Mijatovic added.

The international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders demanded “the immediate release” of Kezarovski, adding that he had been jailed “on suspicious grounds.

“We are very worried by the constant decline in freedom of information in Macedonia, which is now ranked 116th out of 179 countries in our 2013 press freedom index," it added.

"Imprisoning a journalist for investigative reporting that was clearly in the public interest will not improve this situation,” it continued.

The Association of European Journalists also sought the immediate release of Kezarovski.

In 2008, police said they had uncovered the suspects behind the 2005 murder of 57-year-old Lazar Milosevski in the village of Orese near Veles.

Two brothers, Ordan and Ljupco Gjorgievski, were charged as perpetrators while Gjorge Petrovski, who was then extradited from the United States, was charged with ordering the murder.

But, in a spectacular twist, in February, the former protected witness, Zlatko Arsovski, admitted false testimony against the defendants, saying he acted under police threats.

The sensational admission resulted in release of the defendants who had claimed all along that a police inspector had framed them out of revenge.

Adding to the confusion, while Kezarovski is charged with revealing the identity of a protected witness in the article from 2008, the witness himself told the court in February that he only became a protected witness in January 2010.

 

 

 
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