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A newspaper stand in Skopje (file photo)
The Macedonian government's plan to regulate the work of foreign media and distribution of foreign press and information has come under strong criticism both at home and abroad.

The EU hopeful's Social Democratic opposition and the Association of Journalists have accused populist Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's government of trying to limit media freedom.

The most controversial parts of the law on the import and the distribution of foreign press and dissemination of information, which was discussed in the first reading in the parliament last week, are the foreign minister's discretionary right to revoke foreign press accreditation and a provision about the polls that is ambiguously explained in the draft law.

Some of those who have read the law say the polling clause could be interpreted as referring to a journalist conducting a simple "vox pop" on the street, asking ordinary people about their opinion on current affairs.

Justice Minister Blerim Bedzeti said the updated draft of the law -- under which the authority for foreign press would move from the cabinet's secretariat to the Foreign Ministry -- would address all "technicalities" that were unclear.

"We have followed the discussion closely even in the part about the polls, and I think we will overcome this. Deputies have submitted amendments that will probably be acceptable for us," Bedzeti said.

Olivier Basille of the Paris-based organization Reporters Without Frontiers said it was unusual for an EU hopeful to target foreign media.

"If you want to join the EU, then you have to consider the EU press as part of your own press," Basille said.

He said some countries require accreditation of foreign journalists but only, for example, to regulate access to institutions and certain kind of information.

But, he said, in no way should foreign journalist be prevented from coming to Macedonia on their own to investigate and report on the country and ask citizens for their views.

"If you want to organize by the law that this is becoming impossible, then you organize a censorship, as clear as that," Basille said.

-- Written by Nedim Dervisbegovic based on reporting by Blagoja Kuzmanovski in Skopje and Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels
A memorial to Ahmed Omaid Khpalwak, one of the 21 journalists killed in Afghanistan since 2001, according to the CPJ
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is calling on Afghan authorities to fully investigate the murder of radio journalist Samid Khan Bahadarzai and bring those responsible to justice.

In a statement, the media advocacy group said Bahadarzai, who worked for the Melma Radio station, was found dead near his home in eastern Afghanistan's Paktika Province late on February 21 or early on February 22.

Several reports said he had been decapitated, while one Afghan daily, Pajhwok Afghan News, reported he had been stabbed and shot in the head.

Police are reportedly investigating whether his death was linked to a telephone call he received on February 21 by unidentified men who requested a meeting.

The Taliban has denied responsibility for the murder.

The CPJ said 21 journalists have been killed in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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