By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
A Macedonian court this week is expected to rule on whether to free the investigative journalist Tomislav Kezarovski, who has spent 30 days behind bars in spite of an outcry by journalists’ associations.
After the 30-day detention period expires, Skopje’s Criminal Court will decide on a plea for the release of Kezarovski filed by his lawyer, Filip Medarski.
“The original decision for the detention lacked concrete arguments to back it. Thus, the detention is not justified,” Medarski said, adding that the court should take into consideration the broader implications of this detention for media freedom in the country.
Police detained the investigative journalist on the Nova Makedonija daily in May. He has been held in custody ever since, despite calls by all the main journalistic associations in the country for his immediate release.
He was arrested in relation to an article he wrote in 2008 for Reporter 92 magazin. In it which he revealed the identity of a witness in an unresolved murder case.
According to media reports, he is being charged with revealing the identity of a protected witness who told a court afterwards that his testimony regarding the murder was false and given under threats from police inspectors.
Media reports say an investigative judge has demanded that the journalist reveal the identity of his source.
“Detention was ordered for two reasons: the risk of his escape and the danger that he may influence witnesses who in this phase of the investigation have not yet been examined,” the spokesperson for the court, Vladimir Tufegdzic, said in June.
This explanation was deemed unacceptable by journalists and watchdog groups.
The OSCE, the Association of European Journalists and the international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders have all condemned the arrest, insisting on Kezarovski’s release.
“Journalists must be allowed to carry out investigative reporting in the public interest free from the threat of imprisonment and without being forced to reveal their sources,” Dunja Mijatovic, the OSCE representative for freedom of the media, said.
Reporters Without Borders wrote that it was “worried” by the decline in freedom of information in Macedonia, which is now ranked in 116th place out of 179 countries in the organisation’s 2013 press freedom index.
“Imprisoning a journalist for investigative reporting that was clearly in the public interest will not improve this situation,” the watchdog organization said.