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26 Feb 15

My Secret Service ‘Diploma’ Shows What Macedonia Has Become

Meri Jordanovska

The folder I received containing my own wiretapped conversations doesn’t just show somebody is messing with our lives; it shows we are seen as enemies of the state in our own country.

Yesterday, for the first time, we reporters got the chance to know in advance when the next opposition press conference on its so-called “political bomb” would take place. Previously we had to nudge the press center of the Social Democrats, SDSM, to tell us when the next audio recordings will be revealed, to which the answer was always: “You will be notified.”

My phone rang about 11am. “We are calling from the Communication Centre of the SDSM. Please stay after today’s press conference as we want to hand you a folder with your taped conversations,” a female voice on the other end of the line said.

A colleague of mine called me right after. “Did they call you about the folder?” “Yes. How about you?” “Me too. I feel like throwing up”.

At first, I tried remembering everything I’d said in my phone conversations. I am not one of those people who are careful when talking on the phone “because they are listening to everything”.

In my head, events started to tumble out – personal events, private and professional conversations…  A friend called me and joked: “I guess it is the same thing whether I tell you my problems over the phone, or tell the whole world!”

I spoke to other colleagues who also received a call to take their “diplomas”, as we later nicknamed the taped conversations. “Will it be a CD or a transcript?” “Will there be private conversations, ha ha? I hope they don’t reach my wife.” “Should we burn the materials or keep them?”

A ton of questions, a ton of memories passed through my head in those long three hours until the SDSM press conference started.

When I entered the hall, I literally had a feeling that these people now knew everything about me.

I think we barely focused on the recordings revealed at the press conference because we were all waiting for our folders. Dozens of us journalists stayed after the press conference until Petre Shilegov, the party press officer, brought us the paper folders, entitled “Freedom and Democracy for Macedonia”.

The reading out of the names started. “Mladen Chadikovski,” Shilegov yelled. There was applause and a handshake while Chadikovski took his “diploma”. “Irena Mulachka?” Shilegov asked.

The next journalist up for a “diploma” was Goran Petreski, editor-in-chief of the state-run Macedonian Television. Shilegov called out his name. Silence. Shilegov once again yelled “Goran Petreski!” He was not there. The paper folder was put aside. And so on, until the last “diploma” was handed out.

I took my own folder and opened it. There was no CD inside. Several paper sheets were clipped together. They looked freshly printed, although the SDSM claims the documents are original. On the upper side of the page were titles, a date and the name of the institution, “Security and counterintelligence service” in bold italics. These guys from the secret service seem pretty neat. They had entered the number of appendix and the number of the document. But there was no archive number and no stamp. Just a regular printed paper.

I don’t know what I had expected to see but the reports reminded me of the old-time briefings with my sources, conversations with editors about preparations for certain stories, requests for official statements from 2011 and 2012.

When we figured out that our “diplomas” contained no personal or private conversations, we started to peek into each other’s folders. “What do you have? What do you have?” Curiosity was awake.

We all had the same sort of reports: SMS messages with colleagues, story preparations, requests for statements. We sat down on a bench so we could read in detail. 

Each report on one of my wiretapped conversations was true: the date, the story I was working on and the sources I was getting briefed by. Everything was correct. I am not sure I will get another “diploma”. This folder was more than enough for me to clearly see what is happening in my country.

I can clearly see that someone knew in advance what story I was working on. Enough for me to conclude that my sources of information were endangered. Enough for the centers of power to be able to react preventively before the story was published. Enough to become aware, even though I had always suspected this, that some people know the problems of those closest to me - people who had shared personal matters with me over the phone.  

After all of this, at this moment, I don’t care who exactly taped my conversations and those of my colleagues. What matters more is that someone intruded into our lives as if we were enemies of the state and put the information on a plate. I guess that the biggest political parties in Macedonia now have those plates. And that plate can always be made public if someone thinks you are acting “inappropriately”.

I cannot and will not reconcile with this. Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski cannot convince me with his explanation that “this has happened in many countries”.

Premier Gruevski, since you said you have decided to come out in the name of the Interior Ministry and other investigative institutions, I address this to you: your own services are obliged to find the “foreign services” that you say were responsible for doing all of this. The Macedonian secret services allowed wire-tapping for years. If you don’t think that the main people in those services are responsible, then I start to doubt the existence of the Macedonian security and counterintelligence service.

What in fact is the role of this service, Prime Minister? To protect us from our potential enemies? Or is it there to find an enemy in every citizen who doesn’t share your opinions?

Talk about it!

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