Macedonia Police Block Rally for Jailed Journalist

Event date: 
Thu, 2013-10-24 10:30
Police on Wednesday 23rd of October obstructed a protest by Macedonian journalists in Skopje in support of the jailed reporter Tomislav Kezarovski.
Riot police prevented journalists and intellectuals from reaching their protest destination, the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle for Independence.
"The police prevented us from reaching the museum... but they do not scare us... our struggle for release of our coleague will continue," journalist Zoran Dimitrovski, one of the organizers, said.
Police and reporters pushed and shoved when the former stopped them about 100 metres from the museum.  The standstill was otherwise peaceful.
Journalists wore black shirts and lit candles in front of the police cordon to symbolically mark the "burial of democracy". Cameramen and photojournalists joined in by placing down their cameras in front of the police.
Chants of “Police state” and “Freedom for Kezo” could be heard.  Some protestors covered their mouth with stickers saying “Freedom”.  Others tendered flowers to the police officers.
The protest was staged by the most influential journalistc associations in the country. Among them the Journalist’s Association, ZNM, the Independent Journalist’s Trade Union, SSNM, and the Macedonian Institute for Media, MIM.
On Monday, Kezarovski was jailed for four-and-a-half years for revealing the identity of a protected witness in a murder trial, in a case which has raised fears about media freedom in Macedonia.
Many condemned the move as a serious blow to democracy. Among them were the OSCE, the European Federation of Journalists, EFJ, Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, Reporters Without Borders and others.
The government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski has insisted that it played no role in the sentence, and that the jailing was not a case of curbing freedom of speech.
Police detained the investigative journalist from the Nova Makedonija daily newspaper in May. He has been held in custody ever since, despite calls by all the main journalists’ associations in the country for his immediate release.
He was arrested in relation to an article he wrote in 2008 for Reporter 92 magazine in which he revealed the identity of a witness in an unresolved murder case. 
In a spectacular twist, the protected witness this year told a court that his testimony regarding the murder was false and was made under threats from the police. The entire murder trial crumbled and the defendants walked free.
Prosecution claimed that publication of Kezarovski’s article allowed the defendants to find out the identity of the protected witness and influence him to change his testimony.
The conviction of the journalist comes against a background of the widespread closure of media outlets that were critical of the government over the past few years, which has prompted growing concern about press freedom in the country.
Photo galery is available here.
Photos by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
(Source: BalkanInsight)