Macedonia - RWB calls for investigative journalist's immediate release

Reporters Without Borders, Network for reporting on Eastern Europe (n-ost) and Civil-Centre for Freedom (a Macedonian human rights NGO) call for Macedonian journalist Tomislav Kezarovski’s immediate release and the quashing of his conviction on a spurious charge of revealing a protected witness’s identity.

Sentenced to four and a half years in prison in October 2013, Kezarovski spent several months in prison last year before being transferred to house arrest. The outcome of his appeal hearing, scheduled for tomorrow, could result in his being returned to prison.

We call on the authorities to free Kezarovski and overturn this absurd conviction,” said Christian Mihr, the director of Reporters Without Borders Germany, who went to Skopje last weekend.

Kezarovski made only one mistake, criticizing the Macedonian authorities, and we see nothing wrong in that. On the contrary, we nominated him for the 2014 Reporters Without Borders Prize for his courageous work. The protection of investigative journalists should be a condition for Macedonia’s joining the European Union.

Civil-Centre for Freedom director Xhabir Deralla added: “Journalists in Macedonia need security and laws that protect their work instead of obstructing it.

In 2008, Kezarovski wrote an article about a murder case for the Reporter 92 newspaper in which he quoted from an internal police report that had been leaked to him. Five years later, in May 2013, he was suddenly arrested on the grounds that he revealed the identity of a protected witness.

However, the witness had not yet been given protection at the time the article was written and anyway admitted in 2013 having given a false statement under pressure from the police. Kezarovski believes the real reason for his arrest was to make him reveal the identity of the person who leaked him the police report.

An interim European Union report on Macedonia published this month criticizes the media situation there, including the misuse of its defamation laws and the fact that state institutions place almost no advertising in independent news media.

In recent years, media freedom has declined dramatically in Macedonia, whose ranking in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index has fallen from 34th in 2009 to 123rd now.