Macedonia: Opposition Claims Journalists Wire-Tapped En Masse
Dossiers of personal information have been handed out to a group of journalists in Macedonia by opposition leader Zoran Zaev, who told them the files were proof they had been the targets of surveillance by security services.
At a news conference on Wednesday Zaev, who is head of main opposition party the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), claimed that the files – filled with transcripts of telephone conversations and notes – were the result of illegal snooping ordered by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.
Earlier this month, the SDSM accused Gruevski and his cousin Saso Mijalkov, chief of the Secret Police, of orchestrating the wire-tapping of more than 20,000 Macedonian citizens. Since then, SDSM has released a series of audio recordings that it says feature top politicians talking about their corrupt activities.
During Wednesday’s conference, the latest in a series that SDSM calls “The Truth about Macedonia”, Zaev said more than 100 journalists had been taped talking to colleagues and politicians, but that a smaller group of critical independent journalists had been under special surveillance and were followed for much longer.
Among those allegedly wire-tapped were prominent journalists and veteran editors, including journalist Nikola Mladenov, who was founder of the weekly magazine “Fokus”. Mladenov, who was killed in a car accident in Skopje last year, was followed for more than four years, according to Zaev.
Legally, the longest period that a person can be wire-tapped in Macedonia is 14 months, and it must be authorized in writing by a judge.
After the conference, journalists were handed files that contained transcripts of their conversations within documents marked with the initials SIA, which Zaev says stands for “Statements of the interest and communication of opposition-minded journalists”.
The development was met by anger from journalists. Muhamad Zekiri, editor-in-chief at TV channel Alsat M, said: “I feel like every person would feel if they found out that he or she was monitored and tapped by the state security services. I am furious for myself and my colleagues, furious that someone was monitoring us and treating us like state enemies.”
Zaev also played recordings that appeared to feature Gruevski, Mijalkov and other ministers talking to editors from mainstream media to arrange pro-government coverage. It is the fourth batch of recordings released by SDSM.
“Given the monitoring of journalists and media owners that I revealed today, I hope they will be encouraged to free themselves from the government,” said Zaev.
Gruevski has denied all allegations of wrongdoing. At a news conference that took place after that of the SDSM, Gruevski said he had not ordered the wire-tapping of his citizens, but that foreign secret services were to blame. He claimed the opposition had used foreign-initiated surveillance to try and mount a coup.