SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — Over 100 journalists gathered outside a government building in the Macedonian capital Skopje Wednesday to protest death threats againts a journalist critical of the country's conservative government.
A funeral wreath bearing the inscription "final greeting" was delivered Tuesday to the home of Borjan Jovanovski, editor in chief of the Nova TV web portal. He was abroad when the wreath was delivered to his wife, who reported the incident to police.
Speaking at the demonstration, Nova TV journalist Saska Cvetkovska accused the government of creating an atmosphere that allowed "some people to dare threaten the lives of journalists and people who think differently and write critically."
Journalist associations, the Council of Europe's human rights commissioner, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe all condemned the threat.
Macedonia is in its deepest political crisis since gaining independence from former Yugoslavia in 1991, with the leftist opposition accusing the government of a wire-tapping scandal.
Social Democrat opposition leader Zoran Zaev claims Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski was responsible for the wiretapping of more than 20,000 people, including journalists, politicians, judges, police, religious leaders and foreign ambassadors.
Gruevski's governing VMRO-DPMNE party also condemned the threat against Jovanovski, describing it as "unacceptable and damaging, personally for the journalist and his family, but also for the whole atmosphere in the country."
Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe's human rights commissioner, said it was "high time that the Macedonian authorities restore a safe and serene climate for the media to work freely."
"It is crucial that political leaders send an unequivocal message that threats, intimidation and violence against journalists are unacceptable and will be punished," Muiznieks said in a statement.
The OSCE's representative on media freedom, Dunja Mijatovic, described the threat as a "horrendous act (that) adds to the already fragile media environment in the country."