Unconfirmed reports of the murder of a young ethnic Macedonian in Greece have raised tensions in Macedonia.The Macedonian government has called for restraint and condemned “all attempts to manipulate this sensitive and serious issue,” following unconfirmed reports in Macedonia’s media that a young ethnic Macedonian has been killed in Greece.
The National Broadcasting Council and the Journalist’s Association in their reactions on Tuesday urged media that published the news to step up their professional standards.
On Sunday, several prominent Macedonian media, including the public broadcasting service, MRTV, carried a report about the alleged murder of a young ethnic Macedonian man named Aleksandar Samardziev in Thessaloniki.
According to those reports, the Greek citizen of Macedonian descent was allegedly beaten to death by members of the notorious Greek ultra nationalist movement, Golden Dawn, after he refused to change his surname to a Greek one.
The Macedonian government insists that it has no confirmation of such reports, and the Greek government also denied the murder had taken place.
The media originally cited claims published on Facebook by an alleged relative of the victim, also an ethnic Macedonian who lives in Greece.
A statement by Todor Petrov, the head of a pan-Macedonian NGO, the World Macedonian Congress, in which he said that “for the Macedonians, the death of Aleksandar Samardziev is a provocation for war”, has additionally stirred up tensions.
Petrov’s statement was aired on several TV stations.
Although it is not officially linked to the ruling centre-right VMRO DPMNE party, his NGO is seen as close to the government.
“Death to all Greeks” and “revenge for Aleksandar” were just some posts on social networks and forums.
Skopje based communications expert Marko Trosanovski warns that the media’s search for sensationalism can spell out trouble.
“Those [media] that did this, some of them pretty relevant and influential… are risking fuelling much deeper ethnic and national tensions and conflicts by waging a totally irresponsible editorial policy driven by sensationalism”, Trosanovski told Radio Free Europe.
Macedonian police said it increased security around the Greek embasy in Skopje.
Tensions between Greece and Macedonia are fuelled by the long-standing dispute over Macedonia’s name.
Greece insists that use of the term “Macedonia” implies a territorial claim to its own northern province of the same name. Citing the unresolved issue, Greece has repeatedly blocked Macedonia’s progress towards both EU and NATO membership.
UN-brokered talks to overcome the long standing dispute have failed to result in a solution.