"Coup", games and videotapes
Arta Ljatifi Tahiri
Daily-political games, pressures and a campaign about the affair “Coup” will be heated in the forthcoming period, and will be followed by deepening of the crisis and relations in political leadership, at a time when functioning and law enforcement is suspended. As some political analysts assess, the court process “Coup” against the opposition leader Zoran Zaev, spouses Zoran and Sonja Verushevski and the official of the municipality of Strumica, Branko Palifrov, accused of espionage and violence against representatives of the highest authorities, will takes place on new ground, unnoticed in the national political and judicial history.
Some analysts forecast the developments in the affair “Coup”, after video footages leaked on “YouTube” with a conversation between Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and the leader of the SDSM, Zoran Zaev, where the opposition figure reportedly says that he has received materials from foreign agencies. Video footages of the meeting were aired on the local media and ran into an avalanche of various public reactions, so analysts are waiting for the move of the Public Prosecutor’s Office to verify the legitimacy of what was served to the public. They are also waiting for Zaev’s move whether and when to detonate his potential “bombs”. At the same time, most analysts are not optimistic about open and transparent judicial finish of “Coup”, where power would overwhelm the legal order.
For Gordan Kalajdziev, Professor at the Law Faculty in Skopje, it is symptomatic that there is no charge against those who have made the video footage of the meeting, but are used as an argument that the defendant Zaev admitted something about the source of information on the announced “bombs” to Gruevski.
“We have been presented “public video footage” released in daily political purposes. If it is evidence against Zaev, that is, if taken with the use of special investigative measures, by court order, should they be aired on TV for propaganda? Have they been made by the police in Gruevski’s cabinet by a court order? It should be found out how they were uploaded on “YouTube”, who is the source and someone needs to be responsible for it. It is abuse of power par excellence, if they filmed in an investigation procedure and air it on TV to win political points and some public opinion. The whole process resembles a soap opera. We pay the Government to create conditions to work calmly and not to make Spanish soap operas of daily politics”, says Kalajdziev for “Inbox7”.
Journalist and analyst Sasho Ordanovski says that such political games will further continue, and if Zaev does not release potential compromising footage that he possesses against Gruevski, he will be a political and legal loser, in, as he says, the dirty campaign conducted by the Government.
“Such games will continue. The Government has a vital need to continue this game. Zaev will be very stupid if he thinks he can arrange something with Gruevski. The only thing he is left to is to publish everything he has. In the public to come forward with any available audio and video materials, and not to publish with criminal charges submitted to the prosecution. Of course, if he has any”, points out Ordanovski for “Inbox7”.
Political analyst Ivica Bocevski, however, does not give his particular view about the current events as long as the outcome is pending and there are no court decisions on the case “Coup”. He believes that we are currently in a politically unknown territory.
“Any further moment in Macedonian politics is new, a moment we have not been before. I will follow the standard set by the Prime Minister who mentioned that at the trial he will answer most openly and transparently to any questions, so I will wait for the epilogue and hence I will form my judgments. Everything else I would say would be formed on my previously formed opinion, emotions of any sympathy I have towards one or the other, and the issue is too important, too high and emotional”, said Bocevski for “Inbox 7”.
Possible finish – early elections
Petrit Saracini, analyst and civic activist also comments on the video footage of the meeting Gruevski-Zaev. According to him, this is confirmation that Macedonia has no system, no laws and procedures, and it is certain that the government will find another excuse and, with the help of, as he says, propaganda, it will turn that justification into “truth”.
“Furthermore, I expect arrests of opposition leaders, tightening the latent conflict between citizens and I expect radicalization of the situation. Certainly when it reaches the point of impact and stability violation, we will have essential involvement of the international community. I do not expect a fair trial, but I am confident that this mess will finish with external mediation, possibly with broad-based government and early elections in June or September”, predicts Saracini.
Fejzi Hajdari, newspaper publisher of the “Lajm” has a similar attitude. He stresses that in Macedonia functioning of the law and the Constitution has long been suspended, while the only law in force is that of the “jungle”. He also believes that the videos on “YouTube” were recorded and released illegally.
“But if you ask me whether someone will be responsible for this legal breach, I think no one will. The judiciary has long failed to carry out their work because it is largely politicized, and the same can be said for the prosecution and the police. So I think things will develop according to the law of the jungle, because eventually the winner will be the one who is more powerful, not the one who is right”, says Hajdari.
From the Albanian block the journalist and politician Fatos Rushiti and the political analyst Ismail Sinani in the newspaper “Koha” commented on the “Coup”.
For Rushiti Zoran Zaev’s “invisible bombs” can have an effect, but only if the opposition is more crystallized in organizational aspects and if it is a real opponent of the ruling machinery with a clear political cause – to represent the voice of civil discontent. He opens room for doubt that this is going on to bring Zaev down from managing the party, a process challenged by internal and external enemies, rather than a big step for conditioning a technical government.
Sinani predicts a phase of political vicious circle, potentially costly for the stability of the ruling structure. At the same time, as he said, after a while the international community has “resurrected” to closely follow this process, which is as much political as it is legal.
“In normal conditions and circumstances, the question now would be left in the hands of the judiciary, but because the intervention of politics in this segment is very big, then it is natural the decision to be requested by the international factor and certainly in the minds of the public and citizens. Moreover, from 2001 onwards, for the first time Macedonia is on a big and specific crossroads”, analyzes Sinani.
Prosecution prohibits airing videos
The recorded conversation between Gruevski and Zaev opened doubts that evidence has leaked from the case “Coup”, but yesterday the Public Prosecutor did not address the nature of the footage. In an official statement he does not mention whether the video was provided by use of special investigative measures, or it is illegitimate footage.
“Public Prosecutor’s Office for organized crime and corruption, according to their powers, will check on the facts and circumstances of how the materials from the meeting between Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and the leader of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia Zoran Zaev came to media. Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Macedonia finds that it is necessary to stress that airing materials that may be subject to further criminal proceedings is prohibited and punishable by law. Therefore, we warn publishing and broadcasting of such materials to immediately stop”, it is said in the statement of the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
As soon as the footage of the political opponents’ meeting was spread, SDSM accused that this was proof of who in Macedonian records and monitors communications and citizens. For SDSM the displayed video confirms that Gruevski records everyone coming to political meetings in his cabinet, as unprecedented in Europe. They announced criminal charges for unauthorized recording and bugging, punishable under the Criminal Code.
Immediately after, there was a reaction by VMRO-DPMNE. They called on the institutions to discover where the actual footage was from, whether it was allowed to publish such videos, if it was legal and what it was about. At the same time, they think the SDSM are in panic as caught alive. We, as a party, they say, remain of the view that both the parties and the media should act responsibly and professionally regarding this case.
“SSNM as a syndicate of journalists that defends the right of free and professional practice of the profession, contrary to the trends to be turned into servile, propaganda journalism, denies the threatening warnings of the Public Prosecution that ” publication of materials that may be subject to further criminal procedure is prohibited and punishable by law”.
Journalists who will come to materials related to information about a potential conflict of interest, wrong information to the public through statements or actions of officials, organizations or governments, about unethical or illegal conduct of officials, crimes or serious violations of law, have a professional duty to publish it. That is the essence of the fundamental principle of journalism – reporting in public interest and respecting the constitutional right of the public to know! It is the creed of the profession no matter what others, including the government, think! No warnings of Public Prosecution should be an excuse to withdraw from the main task of journalism – to defend the public interest so as to help the public through the information it communicates, to adopt its own decision and opinion on issues and developments in the society. Therefore, journalists have not only the right, but the obligation to disclose information about crime and prevent seduction and manipulation of the public from a position of power”.
For more than eight months Gruevski and Zaev failed to find a common political language, to reach a decision about the opposition boycott of the legislature. More than three months ago Zaev announced “bombs”, brought it to the public’s attention and on Saturday “Coup” officially went off, as continuation of the arrest of ex-director of the Security and Intelligence Agency, Zoran Verushevski. Oppositional Zaev is facing criminal charges filed by the Ministry of Interior, on suspicion of preparing a coup and endangering the constitutional order. According to Article 311, in conjunction with Article 19 of the Criminal Code. Zaev is accused that last autumn three times in person and by phone he threatened Prime Minister Gruevski that he possessed incriminating evidence of public officials, and in order not to publish it, he asked the political opponents to accept his demands for establishment of technical government and then, as stated, early parliamentary elections to be announced. In his public appearance Prime Minister characterized it as a coup, and the opposition SDSM was an attempt to prevent disclosure of evidence. All political parties reacted, various organizations, movements, statements of concern came from Germany, Russia, United States, United Kingdom…They all requested “a fair, independent and transparent investigation”. Official Brussels reacted, just two weeks before the announced arrival of the EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn in Macedonia.
Helsinki Committee for Human Rights has already pointed out that in the case “Coup” it is obvious that suspects are not prosecuted for illegal bugging, recording and so on. Even if there is such material, according to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg automatically it cannot be used to prove crime, as would be the case when unlawful bugging or recording by the police or other authorities with similar powers is determined.
“In international law there is a tendency not to prosecute and to protect persons (so-called whistleblowers – justice collaborators) who are to disclose abuse and other crime”, announced the Helsinki Committee.