Brussels, April 28, 2017–Macedonian police and prosecutors should swiftly bring to justice those responsible for injuring at least two journalists and assaulting at least four others in last night’s storming of the parliament building, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Nationalist demonstrators, many of them wearing masks and hoods, last night stormed the building in the capital Skopje to protest yesterday’s election of an ethnic-Albanian politician as speaker of the parliament, according to media reports and journalists who were present at the scene.
Dimitar Tanurov, a reporter for the independent online Meta news agency, was among the roughly 100 people, including at least seven lawmakers, media reports said were injured in the attack. Tanurov told CPJ he was taking pictures of the scene inside parliament with his mobile phone when an angry protester threatened him, tried to take his phone, and told him to stop taking pictures. He said that other protesters then joined in and also started hitting him.
“When they saw my press card and the outlet I worked for, they called me a traitor, took my phone, and continued to beat and kick me while I was lying on the floor,” Tanurov said. He said an unknown person managed to drag him to a safe spot, then out of the building, and that he sustained multiple injuries to his face and head, but was not hospitalized.
Nikola Ordevski, a cameraman with the independent Makfax news agency, was being treated in hospital for a concussion, Makfax Editor-in-Chief Santa Argirova told CPJ. Argirova said she did not know the specifics of the attack on Ordevski.
“Police have a responsibility to protect citizens, including journalists, regardless of which politicians hold power,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Mobs cannot be allowed to attack journalists with impunity anywhere, and this is especially shameful in a democratic nation seeking European Union membership.”
At least four other journalists covering the events said that protesters pushed them, kicked them, threatened them, or seized their equipment, but that they were not seriously hurt, according to the news website Balkan Insight.
According to press reports and multiple videos from the scene, police initially did not intervene, instead allowing protesters into the building. In a press conference today, Provisional Interior Minister Agim Nuhiu–who has occupied his post since a close election in December 2016 failed to resolve the country’s political crisis–told reporters that police “did not do their job,” and that part of the security forces was under “political influence.” Nuhiu said he had offered his resignation as a result, according to press reports.
With police failing to provide protection, employees at the building sheltered journalists and lawmakers in the basement, where they remained trapped for hours, according to press reports. Police eventually reestablished control by cutting electricity to the building and using flash grenades to drive the protesters out, according to press reports.