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Opposition: Journalists Tapped En Masse in Macedonia

February 25, 2015
Opposition leader Zoran Zaev says he has evidence that more than a hundred journalists were under surveillance: PM responds with fresh claims that coup was on the cards.

Over a hundred Macedonian journalists were wiretapped, including the editors of pro-government media as well as journalists that critique the government, opposition Social Democrat leader Zoran Zaev announced on Wednesday while unveiling his fourth political “bombshell”.

The six recorded conversations that Zaev published include a number of orders by politicians to publish pro-government stories in the media.

“Among those who were under biggest surveillance was one of most respected journalists in Macedonia, the editor of Fokus, Nikola Mladenov”, Zaev said, adding that they would not publish the conversations of the now deceased editor.

“The materials that we received with the mark UBK show that professional critical journalists were under special surveillance,” he said.

He called the latest revelations “a strong blow, because after this today nobody can have any doubts about the regime that we’ve been under for all these years”.

According to Zaev, the system of media surveillance was implemented by the Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, his cousin, the secret service chief, Saso Mijalkov, and a few other close associates.

Gruevski: I will not allow destabilisation

Following Zaev’s press conference, Prime Minister Gruevski scheduled his own press conference at which he claimed that Macedonia was a target of surveillance by foreign secret services, which the opposition had used in order to carry out a coup.

The secret service never wiretapped people outside the bounds of the law, the Prime Minister said. He added that the person named only by the initials Z.V. who is now under arrest, had his own network of agents in Macedonia and the Ministry of Interior had firm evidence for his work in the realization of the planned coup.

Among the evidence, according to Gruevski, were documents and transcripts of conversations translated into English along with political analysis.

“It is clear from this that the whole operation was intended for a foreign intelligence service. And we know which service this is,” Gruevski said.

He said the truthfulness of the published conversations would be established by the courts.

The Prime Minister also said that one of the suspects in the coup case confessed to his crimes and had been sentenced on Wednesday to three years in prison.

He dismissed calls for a technical government, which the oppositions was asking for and said there would be no elections. He said the matter has to be resolved in the courts and that he will not allow the situation to destabilise the country.

The first conversation that was published shows what Zaev claimed was the voice of the Minister of Interior, Gordana Jankulovska, talking with what they claim is Gruevski’s chief of staff, Martin Protogjer. Between them, they arrange which media and journalists should cover an event that the ministry had organized. 

The second conversation, as Zaev claims, is between the editor of the national TV station, Sitel, Dragan Pavlovic Latas and the Minister of Culture, who is ordering a report. “What is more scandalous is that the editor, Latas, admits that their news program is full of propaganda under direct orders from Gruevski,” Zaev said.

The next published conversation allegedly features the Minister of Interior and her associate and PR officer, Ivo Koteski.

In that conversation, a voice identified as Jankuloska tells Koteski that a TV show on Macedonian Television, MTV, will not be shown – and if one journalist keeps asking, “she’ll fly out of MTV”.

The fourth conversation was allegedly between the editor of Sitel and the secret service chief, Mijalkov, in which Mijalkov asks the editor to reschedule the 9.30 pm news.

What seems to be the voice of Mijalkov also says that “with support of 2 million euro per year I would make a TV station”. When the alleged voice of the editor mentions the owner of the TV station A1, Velija Ramkovski, now in jail, Mijalkov answers that he “did the dirty work and dealt with Velija in my own way”.

The fifth conversation is allegedly between Jankulovska and Mijalkov, who says he has “got things under control” and the minister need not worry about three newspapers owned by the biggest printing company in Macedonia, Media Print Macedonia. “Leave them to me,” the voice attributed to Mijalkov says.

This was the fourth batch of recorded conversations published by the opposition.

Last week Zaev published seven recorded telephone calls, mainly regarding the arrest of former interior minister Ljube Boskovski and the way it was treated in the media. Zaev claims the conversations show Boskovski’s arrest was politically motivated and that Mijalkov knew what the verdict would be in advance. Five conversations published earlier appear to show how the government routinely interferes with the judiciary.

The Social Democrats had their first press conference on the subject on February 9, in which they started their project called “The Truth about Macedonia” and releasing 11 recorded conversations.