August 17, 2011 – Washington, D.C. – The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) is appalled at recent events in Lerin/Florina, where Greek national security officers and police detained two Macedonian journalists on suspicion of “photography in a public place.” UMD is deeply concerned that intimidation continues to be the main tool used by the Greek state to deny basic human rights of the Macedonian minority in Aegean Macedonia, what is today Northern Greece.
On Monday, Macedonian journalists Milena Gjorgievska of Vest newspaper and Goran Momiroski of Kanal 5 TV traveled to Lerin/Florina with Macedonian citizens born in Greece who sought to obtain their Greek birth certificates. The applications were all denied. When preparing to return to Macedonia, the two journalists were apprehended by Greek police and state security forces. The journalists were escorted to the local police station, where they were informed that unauthorized filming is punishable with up to 10 years in prison under Greek law. Their passports and cameras were taken. After two hours of interrogation, the journalists were released due to lack of evidence.
“When journalists are threatened with 10 year prison sentences, it is no small matter,” said Momiroski for Kanal 5.
During the Greek Civil War, hundreds of thousands of Macedonians, including 44,000 children between the ages of two (2) and fourteen (14), were forced to flee Greece. In 1982, and subsequently, in 1985, the Greek Parliament under then Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou – the father of the current Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, passed laws exclusively reserved for Greek citizens of Greek genos who fled during the Greek Civil War to be repatriated for their private properties. Macedonians fleeing during the Greek Civil War were excluded, and till this day have not been able to reclaim their Greek citizenships or their private properties. Today, many of these Macedonians are citizens of Australia, Canada, Macedonia, the U.S., among other places.
In order for Macedonians born in Greece to begin legal proceedings to reclaim their private properties they need a Greek birth certificate. Applications after application have been denied by the Greek authorities.
“The Greek government is willfully impeding this legal process, while bullying and censoring any journalists who want to shed light on the issue. In its 1994 report about Greece, Human Rights Watch brought forth Greece’s civil rights violations against Macedonians; however, 17 years later Greece has not changed,” said UMD Chairman Stojan Nikolov.
UMD urges Greece to overcome its domestic political struggles of whether or not there is a Macedonian minority, recognize the minority as such, and afford them the same rights they afford Greeks by genos. Greece has a long-standing history of xenophobia. Greece’s civil rights violations against Macedonia have been well-documented by the United Nations, Council of Europe, U.S. Department of State, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch.
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