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Journalists receive anonymous death threats over reporting on country's name debate

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

IPI / SEEMO ALARMED ABOUT DEATH THREATS TO MACEDONIAN JOURNALISTS

Vienna, 4 April 2008 - The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists from South East Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), is alarmed about recent death threats against a group of Macedonian journalists.

According to information before SEEMO, several Macedonian journalists, professors and politicians received anonymous death threats warning that they would be "liquidated" if they did not stop being "anti-Macedonian" in current dialogues with Greece regarding the countries' dispute over the state's name. Some of the e-mails were signed by an organisation identifying itself as the "Macedonian guard".

The e-mails containing these threats were aimed at a group of journalists from both print and electronic media in favour of reaching a compromise in the talks between the two neighbouring countries. The debate regarding the appropriate name for the Republic of Macedonia/Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia began with the break-up of former Yugoslavia, with Greece objecting to the name Macedonia because a Greek northern region bears the same name.

According to SEEMO's sources, the messages were sent by ultra-nationalist circles, and the targeted journalists refuse to be intimidated by the threats.

"Intimidating journalists and forcing them to self-censor their work is not acceptable", said Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General. He added: "Vigorous political debates, which are vital in democratic societies, are possible only where people have access to a variety of opinions."

SEEMO therefore strongly condemns these threats, and urges the authorities in Skopje to take action to ensure that the culprits are promptly identified.

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