SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — A Macedonian journalist convicted of revealing the identity of a protected witness was granted a temporary release Tuesday, a reporters' group said.
Tomislav Kezarovski, 49, left jail and joined about 2,000 supporters demonstrating outside the appeals court to demand more press freedom. Local media said Kezarovski was released on unspecified health grounds and would have to return to jail on Feb. 18.
Kezarovski was sentenced in October 2013 to 4½ years for revealing in a 2008 magazine article the identity of a protected witness in a murder case.
The journalist served most of his sentence under house arrest. On Friday, an appeals court upheld his conviction but cut his sentence to two years, and ordered the remainder be served in jail.
Kezarovski's jailing on Friday sparked outrage among local and international media organizations. Macedonia's journalists association condemned it as "a brutal demonstration of force" and urged President Gjorge Ivanov and Justice Minister Adnan Jashari to release the reporter.
"This is a small victory, but it is not over yet," said Tamara Causidis, head of the Independent Journalists union. "Kezarovski is innocent and that must be recognized. .... We will not give up."
The reporter says the witness was not protected when he wrote the article. He says his arrest was a means of pressuring him to reveal the source who leaked him the police report.
The witness Kezarovski identified had accused two people of murder. They were later acquitted by a court that found the witness not credible after he said police pressured him to testify.
Macedonia stands in 123rd place globally on the Reporters Without Borders 2014 World Press Freedom index. Five years ago, it was 34th.