Macedonia Foreign Minister Apologizes To FT Correspondent Threatened By Local Journalist

Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov has apologized to a correspondent of the Financial Times after she was threatened on Twitter by a journalist from Macedonia's state news agency.

Valerie Hopkins, who is the Balkans correspondent for the British newspaper, was threatened in a tweet by Cvetin Chilimanov, an employee of Macedonia's MIA news agency, after she traveled to Skopje to cover the September 30 referendum on whether to change the country’s name.

The proposal to change the ex-Yugoslav republic's name is aimed at resolving a decades-long dispute with Greece and open the door to eventual NATO and European Union membership.

Chilimanov, who is known for his anti-Western stance and his online criticism of Western officials and ambassadors in Macedonia, tweeted on October 2, "To all taxi drivers following me, if this one gets in your car it’s time for uncle Kumplung" -- a reference to a character in a 1990s film about a taxi driver who beats and rapes women.

Dimitrov apologized in a tweet on October 3 for Chilimanov's action. He tweeted, "Dear @VALERIEin140 please accept my apologies on behalf of the whole country. This is not what Macedonia stands for!"

Dimitrov's reaction came after the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) also condemned Chilimanov's threats as "shameful and unacceptable."

"Tweet threatening journalist Valerie Hopkins is shameful and unacceptable," OSCE Media Representative Harlem Desir tweeted on October 2. "All threats against journalists, especially gender-based incitements to violence against female journalists, are irresponsible."

The OSCE called on Chilimanov to "immediately" remove his tweet, but the message was still visible on October 3.

The U.S. ambassador to Macedonia, Jess Baily, retweeted the OSCE tweet and wrote, "Calling for violence against journalists is disgraceful. [Chilimanov] should be ashamed."

Chilimanov, who is deputy head of the Macedonian Journalists Association (MAN), was also one of the founders of a campaign against U.S. philanthropist George Soros.

With reporting by