New York, September 6, 2002—The Interior Ministry of Macedonia announced today that it is filing criminal libel charges against Marjan Djurovski, a journalist with the weekly magazine Start, which is based in the Macedonian capital, Skopje. The ministry also stated that additional steps would be taken against other local journalists.
According to the Interior Ministry, the charges were in response to an article by Djurovski in today’s issue of Start (www.start.com.mk) claiming that the government was prepared to start a war to delay the September 15 parliamentary elections.
Gen. Goran Mitevski, director of public security at the Interior Ministry also said that authorities would press new criminal charges against other local journalists.
“Journalists should never be threatened with criminal prosecution for doing their jobs,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). “The charges against Marjan Djurovski should be dropped immediately.”
The criminal libel charges against Djurovski follow a threat to editors made by Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski, a hard-line Macedonian nationalist, on August 30. A September 4 press release that the Interior Ministry distributed to the media in Skopje warned that editors publishing unspecified information about plots by international organizations and embassies to disgrace the ruling authorities in the pre-electoral period will face criminal charges. [Click here to view press release.]
Political and inter-ethnic tensions are high in the walk-up to parliamentary elections, which are only nine days away. While the elections are part of a peace agreement signed by the government and ethnic Albanian rebels following six months of intense fighting in 2001, a lasting peace seems elusive and violence has escalated in the past week.
Government officials have also grown increasingly intolerant of criticism this year, publicly denouncing the Macedonian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights and the Brussels-based International Crisis Group for exposing official corruption and human rights abuses.