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SEEMO condemns recent attacks on media outlets, journalists

(IPI/IFEX) - The following is a press release by the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an IPI affiliate:

IPI affiliate SEEMO condemns recent attacks on media outlets and journalists in Macedonia (Republic of Macedonia - FYROM), Serbia, Cyprus and Slovenia

Vienna, 23 November 2007 - The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), strongly condemns recent attacks on media outlets and journalists in South East Europe (SEE).

According to information before SEEMO, on 19 November 2007, the transmitter of the private TV station ALSAT-M, which covers the Kumanovo region in northern Macedonia, was destroyed. On the same day, in Suva Gora, the station's electrical supply was interrupted and a driver for ALSAT-M transporting the transmitters was robbed. Significantly, the building where the ALSAT-M transmitter was stored also contains the transmitters of other media; however, only the equipment of ALSAT-M was damaged. Furthermore, during the past two weeks, the signal of ALSAT-M has been periodically blocked in the regions of Tetevo, Gostivar and Kumanovo; in particular during the transmission of news. ALSAT-M has also come under pressure from state representatives during recent weeks. On 25 and 26 September, journalists and TV crew members of ALSAT-M were attacked by police. SEEMO reported about these incidents at that time.

SEEMO is also concerned about the pressure exerted by some companies on media in Serbia. We are especially concerned about the problems faced by editors and journalists of the daily Politika in Belgrade. Based on an editorial in Politika, published on 16 November 2007, the newspaper is under pressure from representatives of the Delta Holding Company. According to Politika's editor-in-chief, Ljiljana Smajlovic, the President of Delta Holding, Miroslav Miskovic, has made several telephone calls to editors and journalists of the newspaper, criticizing them for their "lack of patriotism" and accusing the newspaper of not supporting his business empire. SEEMO believes that these calls may represent an attempt to influence the newspaper's reporting.

In another incident, Delta Holding has threatened to use Serbia's laws against "anybody who states anything untrue about Delta Holding or its management." Every company has, of course, the right to contest the accuracy of the reporting about its activities, but, given the fact that Delta Holding is one of the largest companies in Serbia, it must accept criticism as well as investigative news stories about its activities. The problem of attempts to influence the media in Serbia highlights the need for a voluntary and independent complaint mechanism, in order to resolve these issues.

At the same time, SEEMO condemns the fact that Cedomir Jovanovic, the President of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), initiated on 21 November a criminal investigation against six media representatives in Serbia. Jovanovic found the reporting of these six media unacceptable and claimed that media are supportive of commercial interests. SEEMO believes that Jovanovic must accept that journalists have the right to report critically about him.

SEEMO also condemns the latest attack on the newspaper Africa, which has for years been a target of those who are against freedom of opinion in north Cyprus. During a demonstration several days ago in front of the newspaper's building, members of the ultra-right organization the Grey Wolves, accused Africa of being anti Turkish and the voice of the Kurdish population.

Finally, SEEMO would also like to announce that, together with the International Press Institute (IPI), it will carefully watch developments in Slovenia over the forthcoming weeks after an IPI fact finding mission visited Ljubljana on 8 and 9 November. In this connection, we are surprised that the Slovenian Prime Minister, Janzes Jansa, said on 19 November that Slovenia's image was being tarnished from within, and singled out the petition signed by 571 journalists against governmental interference in the media as a prime example of this movement.

Commenting on these press freedom violations, SEEMO Secretary General, Oliver Vujovic, said: "SEEMO strongly condemns these attacks, as well as any government or state actions, including at the level of the police, as well as by companies and political parties, that restrict the work and free movement of journalists, freedom of expression and investigative journalism".

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