A police officer holds journalist Furkan Saliu down on the ground at a soccer game in Gorno Konjare in North Macedonia on April 7.
A police officer holds journalist Furkan Saliu down on the ground at a soccer game in Gorno Konjare in North Macedonia on April 7. Saliu told CPJ that police officers later deleted video footage from his phone. (Screenshot: Portalix/YouTube)

North Macedonia police arrest journalist Furkan Saliu at soccer match

Berlin, April 11, 2024—North Macedonia authorities should conduct a swift, thorough, and transparent investigation into riot police’s arrest of journalist Furkan Saliu at a soccer match and their deletion of footage from his phone and allow journalists to work without interference, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

On Sunday, police arrested Furkan Saliu, founder of the news website PortaliX, and forced his team, producer Ariton Ramadan and camera operator Fatlum Aliu, to leave the game in Gorno Konjare, a village around 30 miles (45 kilometers) northeast of the capital, Skopje, as the journalists were filming the police breaking up a fight between rival fans, according to news reports and Saliu.

Saliu told CPJ via email that the police confiscated his phone and deleted videos on it, which showed officers using excessive force against bystanders, before releasing him later that day.

“North Macedonia authorities should promptly and credibly investigate why the police arrested journalist Furkan Saliu and deleted video footage from his phone,” said Attila Mong, CPJ’s Europe representative. “Reporters deserve to be protected by the police when violence breaks out. Unless authorities have something to hide, they must ensure that journalists can report on issues of public interest without fear of police interference.”

The Ministry of Internal Affairs, which oversees the police, said in a statement that Saliu was arrested because he attacked the police officers and they subsequently found a gun in his car.

In a Facebook post, Saliu apologized for his behavior, which “probably caused the situation to escalate to finally end up in handcuffs,” but denied assaulting the police and said that he had a license for his gun.

PortaliX published a video that appears to show riot police holding Saliu on the ground while he shouts “I cannot breathe” and another person says “delete the recording.”

PortaliX described the police’s actions against Saliu as an “attempt to pressure free journalism.”

Saliu told CPJ that he had filed a criminal complaint to the police about the incident, which he described as a “flagrant violation of my rights as a human being and as a journalist.”

As of April 10, Saliu said he had not received any response to his complaint or heard whether authorities intended to charge him.

CPJ’s email request for comment to the Ministry of Internal Affairs did not receive any reply.