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news 21 Jun 13

Macedonian Media 'Intimidated', UN Rapporteur Says

On a visit to Macedonia, the UN Rapporteur for freedom of speech, Frank La Rue, said journalists increasingly operated in a climate of intimidation.

Skopje

At a press conference in Skopje on Friday, La Rue said that an atmosphere of intimidation existed towards journalists in Macedonia.

“There is an atmosphere of intimidation towards any kind of critical press  that questions, investigates or criticises the authorities," he said.

"Journalism should be practiced without a feeling of fear and with absolute independence,” he added.

La Rue mentioned several examples of decreasing media freedom in Macedonia, such as the closure of the daily newspaper Fokus and other media outlets.

He also mentioned the deficient investigation into the death of Nikola Mladenov, the detention of Nova Makedonija journalist Tomislav Kezarovski, and poor implementation of the freedom of information law.

La Rue urged the authorities to conduct a detailed investigation into the death of Mladenov, a journalist who died in March in a car accident.

“This case can’t be treated as a simple traffic accident. A detailed investigation should be done so that cloud of suspicion and fear that it provoked could be dispelled,” he said.

The UN rapporteur said it was also unacceptable for a journalist to be detained merely for having published an article.

“The detention of Kezarovski sends a negative signal about the situation with freedom of the media in the country," he maintained.

"Using detention to solve a case in which the identity of a protected witness was uncovered in a newspaper article is disproportional and I regret that the authorities denied my request to meet Kezarovski,” La Rue added.

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

La Rue assessed the decriminalization of defamation and libel in Macedonia as positive but noted that lawsuits against the media were piling up.

“I was informed about the accusations against Fokus and its editor and journalists only because they transmitted the statement of a former ambassador to the Czech Republic," he said.

"It is completely inappropriate for the courts to work on lawsuits for defamation for transmitting statements of officials or third parties,” La Rue added.

Fokus published an article quoting Igor Ilievski, a former ambassador to the Czech Republic who laid the blame for various illegal acts at the door of the head of the secret police, Saso Mijalkov.

He has since demanded 15,000 euro in compensation from the paper, 10,000 euro from the editor and 2,000 euros from the author of the article.

La Rue's report on media freedom will be finished next year and presented to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2014.

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