ISSN 2330-717X

Macedonia Media Told To Vet Police Collaborators

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By Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Editors from several media have told Balkan Insight they have received a letter from Macedonia’s Lustration Commission, the body tasked with exposing former police informants, urging to add lustration among their employment criteria.

“This is clearly a form of pressure,” complained one editor of a local newspaper, speaking under condition of anonymity.

“This means that if some journalist is not liked by those in power, the lustration commission could simply pronounce him as informant and ruin his career,” the source said.

Journalists, editors and all other staff employed in the media have until the end of January to submit written statements to the commission saying that they are not and were not former collaborators with the police.

The commission will then check their testimonies.

Following the example of many former Communist countries, Macedonia adopted a Lustration Law in 2008 aimed at rectifying injustices from the Communist era, when people were tried and jailed based on information from police informants.

But in a controversial move, the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party in March expanded the scope of the hunt for former secret service spies to the period after the early 1990s, when Macedonia became a democracy.

The law now targets not only high-ranking public office holders but also journalists, university professors, lawyers, clergy and NGO activists.

Klime Babunski, communications professor at the Skopje Faculty of Law, says that while the law may make sense for high-ranking public officials, attempting to control who may or may not work as a journalist is “not in line with the standards of democratic societies”.

The head of the Centre for Media Development, a local NGO, Roberto Belicanec, agreed. He said the letter appeared to intrude into the freedom of the media to employ whoever they wanted. “Even the blackest spy has the right of free speech” Belicanec said on TV on Wednesday.

The head of the Lustration Commission, Tome Adziev, was not available for comment on Thursday.

Macedonia’s lustration process has been controversial from the start. Many are concerned about its potential misuse and fear that the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party wishes to use it to discredit political opponents.

The Commission has so far said it has uncovered around 20 former police collaborators whose identity it is obliged to hide.

But some people named secretly as former collaborators have come out in public, claiming they were politically targeted.

The former head of the Constitutional Court, Trendafil Ivanovski, and the theatre director and head of the Open Society Institute Macedonia, Vladimir Milcin, were among those who said they had been named as former police spies in revenge for holding stands that were contrary to government policy.

In the most recent case, this week the law professor and former opposition presidential candidate Ljubomir Frckoski said he too was being made a target of a politically motivated witch hunt.

Balkan Insight

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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