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Macedonia: Tomislav Kezarovski must be released immediately, press freedom groups say

IFJ/EFJ

This statement was originally published on ifj.org on 16 January 2015.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its regional group, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), today condemned the Macedonian court's decision to uphold the charges against Macedonian journalist Tomislav Kezarovski and confirm a two year sentence. Together with their members in Macedonia, the Association of Journalists of Macedonia (ZNM) and the Trade Union of Macedonian Journalists and Media Workers (SSNM), the IFJ and the EFJ call on the Macedonian authorities to immediately release Tomislav Kezarovski.

"Kezarovski is an innocent journalist who should never have been jailed for doing his work. The court's decision is shameful and we demand his immediate release,” said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. “The IFJ stands fully behind our affiliates in Macedonia who organized journalists' protests this morning outside the court house.”

Kezarovksi, an investigative journalist at the daily Nova Makedonija, has been in detention and then under house arrest since 28 May 2013 for an article he wrote in 2008 for Reporter 92 magazine in which he allegedly revealed the identity of a witness in a murder case. The Court of Appeal cut the original sentence to two years but confirmed the original guilty verdict. Kezarovski has been under house arrest awaiting for the outcome of the legal procedure. He is now expected to be imprisoned again for several more months.

The Association of Journalists of Macedonia (ZNM) accused the courts of making political calculations when they should have instead freed an innocent journalist.

“The only fair decision by the Court of Appeal in Skopje was to dismiss all charges. Instead of taking into account the rights of an innocent journalist who revealed abuse in the work of public institutions, it has decided to protect those who thought two years ago, that the imprisonment of a journalist in Macedonia could easily pass,” said Naser Selmani, ZNM President.

Tamara Chausidis, SSNM President, added that "Kezarovski took on himself the hardest mission to defend the integrity of Macedonian journalism. That is why the sentence for him is a sentence for all of us. Kezarovski is innocent and Macedonian journalism is innocent too. The only mistake he made was protecting a source and telling the truth".

"He just did his job. He should never have been imprisoned for the charges against him. This decision is a real shame for the country", said the president of the EFJ, Mogens Blicher Bjerregård. "Today's excessive verdict sends a message of censorship to other journalists in the country. Elsewhere in Europe, journalists are allowed to carry out investigative reporting of issues in the public interest free from the threat of imprisonment. We will strongly report this case to the intergovernmental organisations dealing with Media Freedom."

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