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Journalists prevented from attending press conferences

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has condemned local authorities in the region of the southern city of Novi Pazar for drawing up a blacklist of undesirable journalists ahead of press conferences.

Enes Halilovic, local correspondent for the news agency FONET and the newspaper "Blic", was banned from a press conference given by the European Union and Swiss ambassadors on 25 September 2007. The authorities said he had been excluded because he gave "too negative a view of the city of Novi Pazar".

The same journalist has also been denied entry to the city hall. He was strongly advised by the mayor's personal bodyguard to apologise for his critical articles.

"Whether the authorities in Novi Pazar like it or not, political leaders are not authorised to decide who has access to information which they make public and who has not," the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

Both ambassadors, who were made aware of the situation, expressed support for Enes Halilovic by refusing to take part in the press conference, judging it unacceptable for the restrictions to be placed on journalists and on press freedom in general.

"We urge the authorities in Novi Pazar to review the basis on which journalists are allowed into press events so that the freedom to inform the public and plurality of opinions are respected," the organisation said.

RSF has discovered the case was far from an isolated one. Similar action has been taken against several journalists in the region and Reporters Without Borders obtained information that the authorities were drawing up a blacklist of journalists ahead of each press conference.

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