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IFJ supports campaign for independent journalism and pluralism

(IFJ/IFEX) - 7 July 2011 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its member the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) today supported the campaign for press freedom and journalists' rights in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

"Macedonian journalists are under tremendous pressure from politicians and media owners and recent events show that the country reached a point where it's simply becoming unbearable to work freely in journalism," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha.

Hundreds of Macedonian journalists demonstrated in Skopje on 4 July to protest against abusive lay-offs, political interference and drastic downsizing of media activities. "Media freedom is now seriously under threat in Macedonia and there is a risk of installing a culture of fear in the profession," said Tamara Chausidis, President of the IFJ/EFJ affiliate SSNM, the Independent Union of Journalists and Media Professionals.

"Macedonia has had a poor record on press freedom over the past years and we are concerned that an applicant country to the European Union is not dealing seriously with a fundamental right such as press freedom," said EFJ President Arne König. "We hope that the European Commission will take our concerns into account in their assessment on the progress of the country towards EU accession and we call on Macedonian authorities to respect standards of press freedom and journalists' rights."

Last month, the EFJ Annual Assembly in Belgrade adopted a resolution condemning unfair working conditions in Macedonian media.

The EFJ says the situation in the media sphere in Macedonia is deteriorating after several papers announced drastic downsizing and serious, experienced and well respected journalists were immediately laid off for protesting publicly. In total, over 200 journalists and media professionals risk losing their jobs in the coming months. Four media outlets (dailies Shpic, Vreme, KoHa E re and A1TV) risk closure due to charges of tax evasions and mismanagement against their owner. A high number of journalists are under constant pressure to work for political or private interests.

"Independence and pluralism in Macedonian media are seriously jeopardized," according to the Independent Union of Journalists and Media Professionals and the Macedonian Association of Journalists. "Silencing by firing or by using other sophisticated economic and social pressures seriously damages the democratic environment in our society. Furthermore, those actions are a direct act against the basic right of freedom of expression and speech in Macedonia."

The Macedonian authorities must take urgent action to improve legislation and impose it in a non-selective way to protect journalists from arbitrary dismissals by media owners who pay scant regard to standard procedures in order to get rid of those who speak out against violations of basic rights, say the IFJ and the EFJ.

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