The Vienna-based South and East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), is concerned that recent judicial and political pressure on private broadcaster, A1 TV, in theRepublic of Macedonia – Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, may have been spurred by the broadcaster’s critical reporting and could therefore constitute a violation of media freedom.
Television A1 TV and newspapers Vreme, Shpic and Koha e Re, all belonging to Velija Ramkovski, have been the subject of a judicial and police investigation since the arrest of Ramkovski and his 15 associates in December 2010. Earlier, on 25 November 2010, the police blocked the journalists from entering the A1 TV premises, without an explanation as to why it was forbidden to enter or leave the building. Financial police and members of the Public Revenue Office raided the building in which the media outlets are located, as well as other companies allegedly connected to Ramkovski.
On 28 January 2011, the bank accounts of 11 legal subjects located at the same address, including the TV station and the three newspapers, were blocked. They were later unblocked by court order on 8 February 2011.
A1 TV is known for its critical reporting and has been publicly labelled unpatriotic by Government representatives, according toA1TV sources. In addition, the Government appears to have reduced its advertising expenditure on the channel and advised others to follow its example.
SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said: “SEEMO supports all official efforts to combat corruption and tax evasion, and favours transparency regarding media ownership. However, Skopje authorities must also guarantee freedom of expression and allow media access to all political players.” Vujovic added that criminal investigation “should not prevent journalists from doing their job.”