The International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest journalists organisation, today condemned the shelling of independent media in the western part of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia around Tetova and called on all parties involved in the current crisis to guarantee the safety of journalists.
"Journalists find themselves under siege in this conflict," said Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ, "More must be done to ensure that they are not made the innocent victims of this violence."
In the last four days violent clashes between Macedonian security forces and Albanian rebels in Tetovo and the surrounding area almost all television stations have been forced off the air because of shelling of their transmitters.
Because a curfew has been put in place, journalists are forced to stay in their newsrooms all night. Reporters and editors are being called up as reservists to serve in the Macedonian army.
As the local media has come under pressure, the IFJ has also warned about potentially inflammatory coverage of the conflict. "Our colleagues in Macedonia believe that some of the international news coverage is in danger of making life more difficult by alarmist and unconfirmed reports," said Aidan White. "It is vital that all media act with restraint, maintain a professional balance and do not contribute to causing unnecessary fear and uncertainty within the community."
The IFJ has called on all sides to bear in mind that the rights of journalists in conflict zones are defined in Article 79 of Protocol Additional to the Geneva Convention, which says that journalists must be treated as civilians and non-combatants.
"We urgently seek safety guarantees for all journalists present in the area and assurances that journalists will be allowed to function as normally as possible and to provide them timely access to information and to protect journalists when travelling within dangerous areas," said the IFJ.
The IFJ has also reissued its Code of Practice for the Safe Conduct of Journalists which calls on all media organizations to provide adequate equipment and protective materials to journalists reporting from the region.