Macedonia Plans Whistleblower Protection Law

As part of the ongoing efforts to end the political crisis that revolves around mass illegal surveillance claims, Macedonia is soon expected to adopt a law to protect whistleblowers.

images222

As efforts continue to put inter-party talks on ending the political crisis that revolves around mass illegal surveillance claims back on track, Macedonia is soon expected to adopt a law to protect whistleblowers. The draft law intended to protect the people who supplied evidence about illegal mass surveillance to Macedonia’s opposition as well as to shield future whistleblowers is expected to reach parliament by October 20 after both government and opposition agreed on its content.

“From a comparative analysis with the EU countries, we realised that we need legal protections for those who dare to report corruption. These citizens must not suffer consequences for their actions,” Justice Minister Adnan Jashari told a conference on whistleblower protection in Skopje organised by Transparency International – Macedonia on Thursday. But this timetable may be disrupted by new turmoil between the warring political parties. The opposition Social Democrats on Wednesday suspended their participation in EU-brokered crisis talks after only half the special prosecution team that will probe illegal surveillance cases was approved, delaying the investigation again.

The initiative for a whistleblower protection law was first raised by Transparency in 2012 and the ministry responded by preparing a draft that never reached parliament. But the issue was raised again by the opposition Social Democrats, SDSM last week at the EU-mediated inter-party talks aimed at implementing urgent reforms to end the crisis. Frosina Remenski, one of the vice-presidents of the SDSM, insisted that the party’s push for such a law is not only to protect the people that it claims gave it the wiretapped conversations which sparked the crisis when they were released to the public . “Without the wiretapping [affair] and without a law that would protect them from all the possible pressures and consequences, many of the people who are yet to appear as whistleblowers would get discouraged,” said Remenski.

The EU ambassador to Macedonia, Aivo Orav, said during his address to the conference said that such a law was “one of the key challenges for the country”. Orav argued that in order for people to be encouraged to report corruption, confidence in Macedonian institutions must be restored. He also said that the new law needs to provide anonymous ways of reporting wrongdoing. The opposition claims that tapes they have been releasing since February show that Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski was behind the illegal surveillance of some 20,000 people, including ministers. They said the tapes were provided by whistleblowers who work for the Macedonian secret police.

Gruevski, who has held power since 2006, has strongly denied the charges and insists the tapes were “fabricated” by unnamed foreign intelligence services and given to the opposition to destabilise the country. Following last week’s submission to parliament of a controversial bill banning publication of material related to the mass surveillance claims, including removal from media outlets of materials released so far, the US embassy in Skopje issued a statement confirming the parties had subsequently agreed to delay the bill and consider it in conjunction with the proposed legislation on whistleblower protection. “These laws raise critical questions regarding freedom of expression, citizens’ rights to privacy, and good governance, all of which should be addressed in accordance with Macedonia’s international commitments,” the embassy said in a statement on October 7.

The embassy said the issue would be resolved by October 20.

Balkan Insight

16 October 2015