FYROM/Macedonia: Journalists detained during March of Hope

by Philipp Filipovski and Michelle Trimborn

Around 30 to 50 journalists have been forced to stay in police stations for many hours after they were arrested because of illegally crossing the border between Greece and Macedonia/the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Many journalists reported that security forces were explicitly watching out for journalists.

Macedonia refugees_900 size Migrant men help a fellow migrant man holding a boy as they are stuck between Macedonian riot police officers and migrants during a clash near the border train station of Idomeni, northern Greece, as they wait to be allowed by the Macedonian police to cross the border from Greece to Macedonia, Friday, Aug. 21, 2015. (Photo and caption: Freedom House/Flickr; copyright-free)

“Allegedly they tried to create a situation which could not be documented anymore”, German photo-journalist Björn Kietzman told Radioeins in an interview on 15 March, the morning after his detention.

Macedonian police forces explicitly looked for cameras and then took us away from the scene.

Kietzman himself spent more than seven hours at a police station. He and many journalism colleagues were released, but had to pay fines of up to 260 euros. Like the refugees detained at the border, they were sent back to Greece.

What led to the detention of Kietzmann, other journalists and activists was the so-called “March of Hope”: More than one thousand refugees left their camp in Idomeni, Greece, to search for an alternative route to continue their journey towards other European countries. Activists and journalists accompanied the refugees on their dangerous route – until many of them were detained by local security forces on the FYROM/Macedonian side of the border.

The incident gives the impression that Macedonian authorities tried to stop the reporting about the current refugee situation in the FYROM/Macedonian-Greece border region. Currently many journalists are there to share information and pictures about the situation with the world. Thanks to this, the “March of Hope” was followed by many people on social media channels.