By Tanja Milevska/CPJ Europe Correspondent


As the political crisis in Macedonia, triggered by allegations of mass surveillance by intelligence agencies, deepens the environment is increasingly unsafe for journalists who report critically on the ruling Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) and its leader, Nikola Gruevski.

The party has been at odds with the critical media since it first dominated Macedonia’s political scene in 2006, but tensions reached a peak in recent weeks after Gruevski, in an interview with local newspaper Republika, accused the critical media of being foreign mercenaries working in the interests of financier George Soros.

Some independent journalists say that since the former prime minister’s comments were published, they have been verbally assaulted or threatened. A news crew for a critical outlet was also beaten while covering a VMRO-DPMNE rally.

Gruevski’s interview was published shortly after Macedonia held early elections in December, as part of efforts by the EU and U.S. to bring the country’s opposing parties to the negotiating table. The country has been divided since allegations by the opposition Social Democratic Union party that the secret service surveilled more than 20,000 Macedonians led to mass protests after the ruling party attempted to halt an investigation into the claims. However, the elections have so far failed to achieve stability and Gruevski’s party has not yet formed a coalition government.

Against this backdrop,VMRO-DPMNE leaders and supporters have lashed out at perceived external enemies, including journalists and news outlets considered pro-opposition. In January for instance, Milenko Nedelkovski, a talk show host and party supporter, published the names and addresses of several critics, including journalists, on his Facebook profile, the Balkan Insight reported.

Borjan Jovanovski, founder of the independent website Nova TV, is one of the journalists who says he has been threatened in recent weeks. He said he has increased security at his home to protect his family after a teenager threatened him in a restaurant in the capital, Skopje, on March 2. Jovanovski, who is also a former editor at the now-defunct privately owned broadcaster A1 TV, said the boy spat at him and called him a traitor. Although he has been a target of previous attacks—on one occasion, Jovanovski said, he was sent a funeral wreath bearing his name—the journalist said he feels more at risk after this incident because he suspects it was instigated by a party official. 

Read more.