The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed dismay after a recent media freedom violation in Macedonia. SEEMO also welcomed the ruling received by formerly jailed journalist Tomislav Kezarovski (Tomislav Kežarovski).
On Thursday, 2 November 2017, two media workers were detained in Skopje and questioned by police authorities for several hours. Ibrahim Mahmuti, camera operator for private broadcaster TV 21-M, and Blerim Uka, a Kosovo photographer, were interrogated after police officers claimed having caught them “secretly taking pictures of judges during a high-profile terrorism trial”. According to local sources, all media workers were invited into the court room prior to the beginning of the trial in order to film and photograph the suspects. Mahmuti and Uka were accused of having taken photos of the judge, for which they were detained and interrogated for 6 hours before their materials were looked through, only to confirm that they had indeed not taken any photos of the judges in question.
On 3 November, a Macedonian court ruled for the exoneration of journalist Tomislav Kezarovski. Kezarovski was sentenced to four and a half years in prison in 2013. He was arrested and prosecuted for investigating the death of a colleague in 2005 and for reporting in an article in 2008 that a witness in the case revealed he was pressured by police to act as false witness, indicating a conspiracy within the judiciary.
A court found Kezarovski guilty of “disclosing the identity of this protected witness and police activity following the murder”. So far the journalist has gone through five retrials, as his sentence was overturned four times. This latest sentence concluded that there was a lack of evidence to convict the initial suspects for the murder, and Kezarovski has been de facto declare innocent.
SEEMO expressed deep dismay for the time Tomislav Kezarovski spent in jail under torturous conditions, while also having been entirely innocent. SEEMO reminds authorities in Macedonia that investigative work of journalists must be respected and protected, rather than seen as a source of nuisance, and that journalists who adhere to professional principles and the truth must not become victims to be persecuted and tortured by the state itself. SEEMO hopes this is the last journalists in Macedonia to be a political prisoner.
SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.