Macedonia Plans to Ban Publishing of Wiretaps

Macedonia’s ruling parties have proposed outlawing the publication of any materials related to the illegal surveillance claims that have shaken Nikola Gruevski’s government.

SDSM press by SJM (3)

Macedonia’s main ruling VMRO DPMNE party and its junior partner, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, on Tuesday submitted a draft law that aims to outlaw the publication and re-publication of the content of the opposition’s controversial wiretaps. If the two parties have their way, the media will have to withdraw all published materials from the tapes that have been presented in batches by the opposition Social Democrats since February. They would also have to refrain from using the material ever again.

“The aim is to prevent misuse of those materials. Five days after the adoption of the law, all those who have such material will have to hand them over to the special prosecution. If not, criminal charges will be pressed,” Talat Xhaferi, leader of the DUI MPs’ group, said. The draft law stipulates harsh penalties of at least four years in jail for publication of the material.

The parties insist that the new law is in line with the EU-brokered deal reached this summer between the government and the opposition on ending the political crisis in Macedonia. The opposition then agreed to stop releasing new batches of tapes of official conversations and to hand over the material to the new special prosecutor appointed last month. The prosecutor is tasked with probing the mass surveillance allegations. “This is not part of the agreement… It is an attempt to disrupt the negotiating process” said Petre Shilegov, spokesperson of the opposition Social Democrats. He added that by trying to ban the use of the tapes the ruling parties only confirm their authenticity.

“This bill defies reality,” political analyst and former MP Mersel Biljali told BIRN. “The media have a right to publish these materials as they are of public interest.” He said the ruling parties aim “to limit the impact of these compromising tapes on the election [due next April]. But they underestimate the intelligence of the voters.”

The latest move is similar to one made in February, when the state prosecution, faced with opposition announcements of a wiretapping scandal, attempted to ban the publication of any materials related to the wiretapping claims. Independent media unions and foreign diplomatic representatives condemned the bid as damaging to the public interest.

The political crisis in Macedonia revolves around allegations of mass illegal surveillance. The opposition says that tapes that they have been releasing show that Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski was behind the illegal surveillance of some 20,000 people, including ministers. The tapes appeared to reveal the government’s direct involvement in election fraud and abuse of the justice system and the media. Gruevski, who has held power since 2006, has insisted that the tapes were “created” by unnamed foreign intelligence services and given to the opposition to destabilise the country.


06 October 2015