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Journalism Pressure Group Defends Macedonian Media Over Kondovo

December 17, 2004

(Balkanalysis.com Research Service)- An advocacy group of editors, media executives and journalists with a common interest in Balkan journalism has spoken out against the obstructionist tactics employed by Albanian political leaders in Kondovo on 6 December, when journalists were turned back from entering the village during tense negotiations with armed militants.

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), which states its goals as being to promote “freedom of the press and improving the standards and practices of journalism,” made the statements in a press release Friday. The Vienna-based group, which is an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), frequently protests against governmental restrictions on media and other problems in the region, though not usually in Macedonia. For this reason, the international attention is notable.

According to the press release, “…before the talks started, the journalists were forced to leave Kondovo and were told they would be given statements by the participants later. The reporters waited several hours for the meeting to end and were then approached by Ali Ahmeti, who accused them of giving false reports.”

It is apparently the last detail which most irked the SEEMO. In the press release, the activist group announced that it “…strongly condemns the attempt to restrict journalists from reporting on this event and the verbal attacks made by Ahmeti. We would like to stress that the free movement of journalists is a fundamental principle of any democratic society and we hope that the authorities will provide an explanation about this incident.”

While one may agree with this in principle, it would seem that Ahmeti himself may be, at least on the first charge, innocent. In initial reports, Macedonian journalists stated that it was the armed and masked “freedom fighters” of the village that made them leave – not Ahmeti. Of course, it was to be expected that the former NLA leader would accuse the Macedonian media of “giving false reports” (in regards to Albanian militant activities in areas they would like to annex to Kosovo). That comes with the territory – or, perhaps, without the territory.

 

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