While the start of the year was marked by a worsening of the conflict, the Macedonian press was condemned abroad for its anti-Albanian prejudice and its commentary considered too black and white and likely to have contributed to polarising the conflict between the Macedonian majority and the Albanian minority. Ako Kabranov, editor-in-chief of the private television network, TV A1, condemned a "bipolarisation of propaganda with the Albanians on one side and the ruling party on the other, through the national television network, MTV". In response to these charges, seventy journalists from both the public and private media in November adopted a new ethical code. Ivan Andreevski, president of the Macedonian Journalists Association, feels that this new document reinforces the Macedonian media’s professionalism. He also called on the foreign press corps to talk about the extent of the various kinds of criminal trafficking set up by the Albanian guerrillas and the threats that hang over individual freedom. In the second half of the year the peace agreement accepted by the two sides under the aegis of the European Union recognises new rights for the Albanian community, representing 20 per cent of the population, including the official use of the Albanian language. The creation of a new television channel in Albanian was also announced.
A journalist killed
On 29 March 2001 Kerem Lawton, a British journalist working for Associated Press Television News was killed by mortar fire that was said to cause several other deaths and some twenty casualties in a village on the Kosovo border with Macedonia, near the Macedonian town of Gracani. Kerem Lawton had been following the fighting between the Albanian guerrillas and the Macedonian army for several weeks in the north of the country. Those responsible for the mortar attack were never clearly identified.
Three journalists arrested
On 14 February 2001 M. Pero, reporter for the daily, Utrinski Vesnik, was questioned by the police for several hours. The day before he had been violently shouted at by the bodyguard of the Intelligence Agency’s director, M. Grozdanovski, then threatened by the security services of the National Assembly as he was taking photos of the Agency director leaving the Assembly, where he had testified before the parliamentary committee of enquiry about a wide-spread illegal wire-tapping scandal that was revealed in 2000. The security service agents ordered the journalist to destroy his film before they would release him.
On 8 June Colin Neacsu, correspondent for Agence France-Presse (AFP), and his interpreter, Lumni Murseli, were arrested by the Macedonian military. They were transferred for questioning to the police and held in a police station in Skopje. Colin Neacsu was violently beaten and held for several hours in a cell in the station basement. Lumni Murseli spent the night handcuffed to a table, his head covered by a plastic bin liner. Both men were released the next morning. The two AFP collaborators did not have the accreditation required by the authorities to work in Macedonia. Nonetheless they had both entered Macedonia legally at the border with Kosovo.
On June 9 Veton Latifi, deputy editor-in-chief of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) in Macedonia and journalist for the Albanian programme on Macedonian public television, MTV, was arrested at a police barricade on the Kumanovo road where it leaves Skopje. Veton Latifi was travelling in a taxi with four other persons but was the only one arrested. While detained, the journalist’s cell phone, computer floppy disks, his press cards and other documents were confiscated. He was not allowed to telephone. During the interrogation he was threatened on several occasions with a firearm. After two hours of detention, he was released with no explanation.
Twelve journalists attacked
On 14 March 2001 two journalists were attacked at a demonstration in support of the Albanian Guerrilla movement in the city of Tetovo (about 40 km from Skopje). Atanas Sokolovski, journalist for the private television channel A1, was manhandled by the crowd as he was trying to interview demonstrators. He was hospitalised in serious condition. A correspondent of the television network, Sitel, whose name was not given, was also mistreated by the crowd, suffering blows, and her camera was broken.
On 20 March journalists Katerina Canevka-Arsovska, Peter Zalef and Sakole Josifovski of public television station MTV, as well as Snejana Lupevska and Robert Taneski of the private network, A1, were the targets of shelling by Albanian guerrillas from the heights of the city of Tetovo while they were conducting an interview with the State Secretary for Internal Affairs. The two television crews were then shot at by snipers. The Macedonian police were quick to evacuate the journalists, and there were no casualties.
On 29 March a civilian automobile carrying two correspondents of Agence France-Presse (AFP) was targeted by a hiding gunman in Gracani. The letters "TV" were written large on the car doors and the bonnet, making the vehicle easily identifiable. Yet it was impossible to determine whether the journalists were specifically aimed at.
On the weekend of 11 August Jens Nauntoffe and Birger Lund, journalists for the Danish Broadcasting Corporation, and Gunnar Willum, a freelance correspondent, were violently attacked by a crowd of Macedonians in the town of Radusa to the east of Skopje for no known reason.
Pressure and obstacles
On 16 February 2001 journalist Snejana Lupuvska and a cameraman for A1 television were held hostage for a few hours by members of the Albanian guerrilla movement while they were doing a report on the situation in Tanusevci, near the Kosovo border, a trafficking hub. Armed men wearing the UCK insignia tell them that they have no business in this area and that the territory belongs to them. Anything of value was stolen from them as well as their camera.
On 8 March journalist Angélique Kourounis, correspondent for Reporters Without Borders, was ambushed by Albanian guerrillas in the Gozince region. The journalist was part of a convoy being escorted by Macedonian forces. The car in front of the journalist’s hit a mine, killing the driver. When the convoy tried to turn around, it was fired at by the Albanian guerrillas. The journalist and her translator remained pinned down by the shooting for twenty-four hours in the Gozince school where they had taken cover. They were finally freed by special Macedonian operational troops.
On 14 March broadcasting by the nation-wide private television networks, A1 and Sitel, was broken off in Tetovo (north-western Macedonia). The relay stations in the area had been destroyed by mortar fire or rocket launchers by bands of armed Albanians. On 16 March the transmitters of the local private networks ETV Art, TV Kis and TV Koha were destroyed. The written press was not distributed for several days in Tetovo, or with difficulty. The local radio stations that broadcast the news for private networks Sitel and A1 were unable to broadcast and received telephone threats warning them to no longer broadcast these newscasts.
On 23 March the list of those persons monitored in the illegal wire-tapping scandal enquiry was made public. It included 21 journalists: Juliana Koocovska-Krtolica (Denes), Gordana Stosik (Skaj net), Mirka Velinovska (Zum, Start), Biljana Krsteska (Zum), Sabina Fakik (A1), Vesna Velkovska (A1), Soja Kramarska (Utrinski Vesnik), Verce (Utrinski Vesnik), Aleksandra Dukovska (Makedonija Denes), Toni Dimitrovska (Start), Vasko Eftov (Sitel), Maja (Skaj net), Katerina Blaszeska (Dnevnik), Slagjana (Dnevnik), Leon Janevski (Vest), Sonia (Vest), Nikola Mladenov (Fokus), Jadranka Kostova
(Kanal 5), Robert Popovski (Kanal 5), Trendo (Kanal 5), and Mile (Kanal 5).
On 29 April the director general of public radio and television, MTV, temporarily suspended the night-time edition of the news in Albanian, broadcast over the television’s second channel. He complained to the journal’s editorial board that they did not report the murder of eight Macedonian soldiers, supported racists ideas and incited violence. On several occasions he is meant to have asked for a correction to this coverage but to no effect. Broadcasts in Albanian on Macedonian public radio were not affected.
On 8 August the general management of MTV again suspended the newscast in Albanian for incitement to intolerance and nationalist hatred. The newscast’s editor-in-chief, Milaim Latifi, declared at a press conference that the newscast was being censored because the editorial board was said to have pictures of violent acts committed by Macedonian governmental troops.