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"Shqip Media" newspaper journalists stopped and searched by police on their way to cover election campaign

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

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns the recent police action against a group of journalists in Macedonia (Republic of Macedonia / FYROM).

According to information before SEEMO, on Tuesday 3 March 2009, at approximately 18:00, police stopped and searched the car of a group of journalists from the Tetovo-based Albanian-language newspaper, Shqip Media, on the outskirts of the town of Kumanovo. The police officers gave no reason for their actions and told the reporters, who identified themselves as journalists and said they were on their way to Kumanovo to cover the election campaign, to get out of the car and to stand back about two metres while they searched the vehicle and thus ignored their status of being journalists. The search lasted about 30 minutes, after which the police allowed the journalists to continue on their way to Kumanovo.

Naser Pajaziti, editor-in-chief of Shqip Media, who was one of the passengers in the car, said the journalists felt they had been treated like common criminals and complained of the delay in carrying out their assignment due to the police action.

Commenting on the incident, Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General said, SEEMO calls on the authorities in Skopje to demonstrate their commitment to the protection of journalists and to press freedom in general. The extended search of a press vehicle by police without any clear reason is unacceptable and an obstruction to the free flow of news and information. Vujovic added, "I call on the police officials to provide a reason for their actions and to ensure that journalists in Macedonia (Republic of Macedonia / FYROM) are allowed to pursue their profession without hindrance or fear of harassment."

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