Macedonian Editors Face Arrest

A leading Macedonian magazine editor today, September 6, revealed that he is likely to be arrested in a government round-up of independent journalists.

Macedonian Editors Face Arrest

A leading Macedonian magazine editor today, September 6, revealed that he is likely to be arrested in a government round-up of independent journalists.

Friday, 6 September, 2002

The interior minister, Ljube Boskovski, announced yesterday, September 5, that his ministry is considering the detention of some newspaper and magazine editors for "spreading western scenarios in order to destroy the government of [prime minister] Ljupco Georgievski".

Saso Ordanoski, editor-in-chief of the fortnightly magazine Forum and project editor for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, believes he is one of Boskovski's targets for arrest.

"Today, I was informed by a very reliable source that Boskovski is finalising the list of those who will be arrested, and apparently I am at the top of it," he told IWPR.

Ordanoski said he was currently under "the highest form of surveillance".

Boskovski's announcement comes just days before the September 15 general elections in Macedonia and amid increasing pressure on local journalists, opposition politicians and representatives of international organisations in Macedonia, all of whom have been accused in pro-government media of conspiring to bring down the government.

Local journalists, foreign NGO workers and western diplomats have faced increasing pressure in the weeks leading up to the general elections.

In the public statement yesterday in which he announced the possible arrests, Boskovski also said the police have information some foreign diplomats are involved in a plot to undermine the reputation of the government domestically and internationally. It is believed that some of the former may be expelled as a result of Boskovski's offensive.

Ordanoski believes the interior ministry is about to announce a list of foreigners considered persona non grata - and that it will include American citizen Agim Fetahaj, IWPR's project director in Skopje.

The Macedonian daily Dnevnik wrote, quoting unnamed police sources, that Boskovski's intention is "to prevent some foreign organisations in Macedonia which are using well-exercised scenarios to destroy the international reputation of Macedonia and the reputation of the current government in Skopje".

The state-owned dailies Nova Makedonija and Vecer this week serialised a long article accusing international organisations - including IWPR and the International Crisis Group, ICG, NATO, the OSCE and others - of interfering in the internal affairs of Macedonia and conspiring to bring about electoral defeat for Boskovski and Georgievski's party, VMRO-DPMNE, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation - Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity.

Foreign Minister Slobodan Casule also accused journalists and opposition leaders of being involved in a conspiracy against the government in Nova Makedonija on September 6, repeating allegations he made in Vecer earlier in the week.

According to current polls, VMRO-DPMNE has little prospect of re-election, and some see this new wave of intimidation as a desperate attempt to cling to power, in the knowledge that defeat will mean more than just loss of office.

As exhaustively detailed in a recent ICG report, corruption allegations implicate political figures at the highest level of the Macedonian government. Huge sums have been siphoned off into political coffers and officials' pockets, not only from local trade but also directly from international assistance. Loss of office could mean loss of control of such channels, and possible investigation on corruption charges.

The run-up to the election has seen increasing violence generally: two Macedonian policemen were shot dead on August 26; an ethnic Albanian gunmen took five Macedonian civilians hostage for one day at the end of August; and two ethnic Albanians were killed on September 4. Small explosions and shootings are commonplace. Local analysts suggest the intention is either to create tension that would reduce the election-day turnout (which could benefit the incumbents) or even to provoke such instability that the ballot itself would be undermined.

A statement released Wednesday by the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia said that in the current situation, it is difficult to distinguish whether some police activity falls under their legal remit or is politically-motivated.

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