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Press associations irate over Macedonian wiretap claims

February 26, 2015

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — European and Macedonian press associations on Thursday voiced deep concern over opposition claims that Macedonia’s government staged a mass wiretapping campaign whose targets included scores of media employees.

The European Federation of Journalists said the alleged illegal wiretapping fuelled “a climate of fear and self-censorship.”

“If the accusations are confirmed, then the Macedonians authorities clearly violated the right of journalists to protect their sources,” EFJ president Mogens Blicher Bjerregard said in a written statement.

Macedonia’s main opposition leader, Zoran Zaev, claimed Wednesday that more than 100 journalists were among 20,000 people including politicians, judges, police and religious leaders whose conversations were allegedly recorded by conservative Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s government.

Gruevski has rejected the allegations, which come amid a bitter feud with the opposition, and says the wiretaps were conducted by unspecified foreign spies.

Gruevski had previously accused Zaev of plotting a coup. Zaev faces criminal charges and is barred from leaving the country. His party is boycotting parliament, accusing the government of fraud in April 2014 national elections.

The head of Macedonia’s journalists’ association called for the resignation of Gruevski, as well as Macedonia’s interior minister and intelligence chief.

Naser Selmani said the alleged wiretapping was intended to prevent journalists publishing “important information for the public.”

The EFJ said press freedoms have seriously deteriorated in Macedonia, “due to growing threats and harassment aimed at critical news outlets” by the government.

Macedonia has fallen from 34th place in 2009 to 117th in 2015 in the World Press Freedom Index produced by Reporters Without Borders.

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