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Macedonian authorities urged to drop charges against Tomislav Kezarovski ahead of hearing

Macedonian authorities must ensure that all the “absurd” charges against the journalist Tomislav Kezarovski are dropped so that justice and freedom of expression can prevail.

This is the stance issued by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) ahead of Kezarovski's case hearing at the Macedonian court of appeal this Friday, 24 October.

“Tomislav Kezarovski is being unfairly unpunished for standing up for his profession and protecting his sources,” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha, who visited Tomislav and his family back in March to convey solidarity from IFJ unions worldwide. “We demand that justice is upheld and Tomislav can walk away from this nightmare as a free man.”

In 2013, a tribunal in Skopje sentenced Kezarovski to 4.5 years in prison for refusing to reveal the names of the sources he used to write a series of investigative articles for the magazine Reporter 92.

In the articles, Kezarovski said that a protected witness had made a false declaration in a murder case. When he was called to testify in court the judge in the case ordered him to name his sources. He revealed the identity of his police source, but refused to reveal the identity of his other sources.

As a result, the journalist spent nearly half a year in a prison cell of eight square metres with three other prisoners, with just a small window and a toilet. Since then he has been under house arrest for five months, is unemployed and is living in very difficult conditions. The IFJ and EFJ's Macedonian affiliates, the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (ZNM) and the Trade Union of Macedonian Journalists (SSNM), have continued to provide him with support throughout his ordeal.

A joint IFJ/EFJ delegation have arranged to meet with Andrej Lepavcov, the Ambassador of the Republic of Macedonia to the European Union, later this month to discuss Kezarovski's case and wider press freedom violations in Macedonia.

EFJ President, Mogens Blicher Bjerrregård, visited Kezarovski at his home on the outskirts of Skopje earlier this month, reporting on the huge emotional and financial distress the case continues to cause to the journalist and his family, particularly as the court date approaches.

“On October 24, it will be decided whether he will return to prison or if he can go out of the court room as a free man. Either way, his life will never the same,” said the EFJ President. “He will need to find a new job as journalist in Macedonia where the sector has suffered a serious loss. Since his arrest, his wife has also had difficulty finding a job as soon as she informs the potential employer about her surname Kezarovski.

He continued: “It is essential that international organisations like the European Union, the Council of Europe and UNESCO not only have press freedom as key issue, but also pursue effectively the abuses that are taking place. Right now, we need more than one finger pointing to Macedonia.”

The EFJ has also developed a short video showing international solidarity with our colleague Tomislav Kezarovski which you can watch here:

Solidarity with Kezarovski from EFJ on Vimeo.

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