Borjan Jovanovski, a prominent Macedonian news anchor, received a funeral wreath at his home on April 21. “Final Farewell,” read the message on the wreath. Jovanovski works for the independent news website Nova TV and is a well-known critic of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's conservative government. The wreath had been delivered directly to his wife.
Jovanovski duly reported the incident to police as a death threat, but the odds of finding the perpetuator are slim. According to recent ratings by the World Press Freedom Index and others, Macedonia's press freedom has been ranked “the worst in the Balkans” and threats and questionable defamation suits against journalists are becoming more common.
On April 22, several journalists in Macedonia demonstrated against the threat to Jovanovski, linking the incident to the country's deepening political crisis. Also on April 22, journalist Zoran Bojarovski received death threats via Facebook and reported them to police, who promptly launched an investigation.
OSCE Representative for Media Freedom Dunja Mijatović has called on the authorities to investigate the wreath sent to Jovanovski's home, noting that several groups have joined in condemning the threat, including the opposition SDSM political party, the Journalists’ Plenum, the Macedonian Institute for Media, the Agency for Audio and Audio-Visual Media Services, and both national journalists’ associations AJM and MAN.
Mijatović called on the Macedonian government to reverse the country's apparent trend of deteriorating press freedom. Recent developments include the conviction and subsequent parole of journalist Tomislav Kezarovski, the public labeling of another journalist, Jadranka Kostova, as an informant for foreign espionage agencies, and allegations that the government wiretapped the phones of more than 100 journalists.
The Journalists’ Association of Macedonia (ZNM) and the Macedonian Media Institute (MIM) also condemned the death threats, accusing state institutions of promoting an atmosphere of intolerance toward criticism of the government and politicians.
ZNM called it a “cowardly act directed against all journalists in Macedonia,” adding that this “incident is a consequence of the spreading of hate speech in media inspired by the conduct of the political parties.” ZNM highlighted that state institutions have so far failed to solve a single case where a journalist suffered violence, verbal threats, or hate speech.