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Members of the media are seen in Skopje on June 9, 2011. Two Macedonian journalists were recently harassed by local government staffers in Aračinovo. (Reuters/Ognen Teofilovski)

Journalists threatened by government staffers in North Macedonia town

May 3, 2019 9:06 AM ET

On April 17, 2019, a reporter and a camera operator working for TV21, a private cable station in North Macedonia, were threatened by local government staffers in Aračinovo, a town east of the capital, Skopje, according to a report from TV21 and a statement by the Association of Journalists of North Macedonia, a local press union.

North Macedonia was formerly known as Macedonia; the country changed its name in February after a national referendum, according to news reports.

The journalists were in Aračinovo to report on complaints about local infrastructure, according to TV21 and the association statement.

When the journalists met with four local government staffers to request an interview with Mayor Milikije Halimi, the staffers, identified in the association statement as relatives of the mayor, responded by demanding that the journalists erase their footage of interviews with local residents and threatened to break their cameras, according to TV21.

When the journalists refused to delete the recordings, the staffers first locked them in a room in the municipal building and then forced the journalists into a car and drove to the TV21 headquarters in Skopje, where the staffers repeated their threats to the outlet's editors, according to TV21. Newsroom employees called the police, and the four people left the scene after the officers arrived, according to TV21 and the association statement.

CPJ contacted the journalists via email, but they declined to comment and requested not to be named, for fear of further harassment.

TV21 reported the incident to the Aračinovo police, but the police declined to open an investigation, an Association of Journalists of North Macedonia representative told CPJ.

The association contacted the North Macedonia public prosecutor, who said he saw no elements of a criminal act in the case and would not open an investigation, the representative said.

Mayor Halimi condemned the threats by her staffers in a letter sent to the Association of Journalists of North Macedonia, saying that she demands an investigation by the Ministry of Interior.

CPJ did not receive responses to its emailed requests for comment to Halimi and the Ministry of Interior.

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