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Annihilation / Likvidacija: Censorship in Macedonia by Tomislav Kezharovski

Annihilation / Likvidacija: Censorship in Macedonia by Tomislav Kezharovski

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Annihilation / Likvidacija: Censorship in Macedonia by Tomislav Kezharovski

Lunghezza:
181 pagine
3 ore
Pubblicato:
Oct 5, 2017
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

The Macedonian authorities use very heavy-handed methods to crush criticism and investigations into political corruption. Free expression is under increasing threat. More than half of Macedonia’s citizens are scared to openly express their opinions. Journalists are pushed into self-censorship fearing that telephones and emails are monitored.
The case known as ‘Likvidacija’, Macedonian for ‘Annihilation’ gives a breathtaking example of power abuse as on May 2013 the investigating journalist Tomislav Kezharovski (1965) is arrested by special forces and sued for an article he wrote in 2008.
Despite the absence of any evidence that he violated any law, Kezharovski was sentenced to four and a half years in prison. After spending five months in jail, in cramped and unsanitary conditions, and without access to medical treatment, he was released into house arrest pending the outcome of his appeal. As in January 2015 his sentence was reduced to two years, he was arrested again to serve the remaining five months. Widespread domestic and international protests, by hundreds of journalists and activists led to Kezharovski’s release. This essay describes from experience about the lawlessness of the system and the unimaginable prison conditions in present Macedonia.
A publication of the Eva Tas Foundation.
The Eva Tas Foundation encourages publication and promotion of texts that are, no matter where and no matter how, subject to censorship.

Pubblicato:
Oct 5, 2017
Formato:
Libro

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Annihilation / Likvidacija - Eva Tas Foundation

Copyright © Tomislav Kezharovski

ISBN 9789462251670

www.evatasfoundation.com

/ TABLE OF CONTENTS

/ PREFACE

/ INTRODUCTION

/ PART 1 — C-14

/ PART 2 — C-1

/ PART 3 — C-14

/ PART 4 — A-4

History is made of defeats and victories. Now I know that I’ve lost, but soon I will come out victorious. I know it. For secrets can never remain hidden. One way or another, even after many years, they will see the light of day.

/ PREFACE

It is hard to grasp – all the madness that chanced upon Macedonia. It is even harder to explain. I too cannot process all the information surrounding the events spiraling out of control, with the intensity of a Hollywood fast-paced thriller. It is impossible to explain – to rationalize – the behavior of the Government’s officials, while presupposing that they are rational, responsible people, family-oriented folk. There are no red lines left; they hold onto their own truth, twistingly enforcing their own brand of justice. They see everything and everyone ‘at their disposal’; they see everything and everyone as being disposable. It is frightening to witness the ease with which they destroy lives and cast long shadows over families; the frightening ease accompanying their comments over the loss of a single life.

This is not a place where one can speak freely or express a difference of opinion. They do not permit you to think critically; you are not allowed to think for yourself. There are no shades of gray in their world; you are either black or white. Those who can think for themselves and reach their own conclusions are ruthlessly outed – their names blackened, their livelihoods lynched, since their thoughts and opinions run against the ruling Party’s lines. Common people live in a state of frantic paranoia, feeling hopeless, as if a stock character with an inevitable end.

The most commonly heard saying: I am so deep in debt I do not know how I’ll make it. So people’s behavior patterns run parallel to the old adage – it can be worse! Our equilibrist act has been going on for years. Politics permeates all life. It is the talk of pubs, kafanas, cafes, taxi-cabs, supermarkets, shops around the corner, even first dates. The list of crimes perpetrated by the Government is helmed by a total separation of ‘us’ and ‘them’, namely ‘patriots’ and ‘traitors’. This social stratification is supported and sanctioned by the Government. It has been institutionalized by the Government’s propaganda machine and all its public discourse. It has been systematically implemented to serve all their primitive urges – blatant hatred of all that is better and smarter and kinder, so that they can reign and profit. No one trusts the other.

The self-proclaimed God’s Children eliminate all those who think differently, all those who do not support their causes, all those who have not succumbed to their will, all those who will not accept their solutions as a given.

Families are at the brink of blood feuds, since there are those who are card-holding Party members and there are those who are not. The latter are marginalized, since they did not buy into the ruthlessness of the Party’s machinery.

Sadly, the semi-literate despots with colonized minds have managed to drive a wedge among the student population. On the one hand, there are the families of those who managed not to sell their souls to the Devil; on the other hand, there are the kids who have been forced into silence and submission since their parents (one or both) are existentially dependant on the Government’s handouts.

The annexed media, run by one distribution center with a single ‘Truth’, orchestrate this hoax. It is clear as day who gets offered prime time coverage and a positive treatment, while who gets sidelined and whose name is blackened – ‘the Enemies’. All propaganda rules and stratagems traditionally employed by totalitarian regimes are put to great use, just to marginalize all who think otherwise.

My life’s trajectory was certainly uneven and rough around the edges, but it was far from a dead-end. I survived many challenges, but always had a goal, a purpose – I fought for human values, I knew what I wished to accomplish. I founded the magazine Reporter 92. It was to act as a warning sign to all who were thinking of manipulating the system; it was to be a credible news source, whose articles were not to be retracted or whose information was not to be mistrusted by the public. It was to be a publication where I would criticize all that was not right, where mistakes would be pointed out and no one would be spared. I wanted to create something of value, of substance. I believed I could; I believed that I would succeed. I was cocky, yes, for most of all I wanted to bring a ‘good product’ into the world. I was persistent. But, what came to pass came to pass. Not even in my wildest dreams could I imagine the attacks over my body and work. I’ve had to face the cruel truth, the fact that I can never again live a normal life in Macedonia. Yet I have a right to be free. I wish to live in a country that upholds true values, that honors someone’s success, that has a systematic rule of law which is not at the hands of few.

/ INTRODUCTION

May 28th, 2013. My daughter Stefanija, at the time a seventh grader, was to take her state-mandated end-of-the-year exams, so we had decided to get up earlier than usually and go over the material. She, however, beat the alarm which we had set for 6 am sharp. I am not sure exactly when. Possibly around 5 or 5:30 am. It was already daylight. I heard her opening the door to her room and then the door to the bathroom. On her way back, she stopped by our room, where my wife Marina and I were sleeping, knocked on the door and cried out: Dad, there is someone in our yard! I jumped out of bed, nudged her towards her room and went outside to see what was happening. Open up. It’s the police. Police. Police. Open the door! A man’s voice yelled from the outside. I had hardly managed to turn the key fully, or make myself decent, when 10 to 15 armed-to-the-teeth police officers busted into the house. Are you insane? What are you doing in our home? What do you want? You’ve got this all wrong. Leave us be! – I kept yelling, more out of surprise than offense.

Up until then I believed scenes like these existed only in the movies. The policemen wore hoods and helmets, bulletproof vests, and were heavily armed, with rifles and guns. They even carried a bomb or two around their waist. They aimed their weapons at me, ordering me to surrender. There I was, in my underpants, hands up, standing in our living room. We did not know what was going on and no one was saying anything. Foolishly, Marina and I were trying to get any information out.

Who is in here? What do you have in this room? – the one in charge asked.

My daughter is in there. She’s a child, please be careful. – I responded. They did not believe me. One from the so-called Unit for Emergency Responses knocked the door down, gun aimed, pushing himself inside. Stefanija screamed and could not move. Her muscles froze. Marina ran to her and started telling her not to be afraid, that there was nothing to fear, that it will all pass. She kept spraying her with water and massaging her gently. Yet, my girl looked at me, crying. I have never felt worse. Hopelessly, much like Christ on the cross I watched her tears roll down her cheeks.

I kept fighting off my own tears. Petrified, I tried to hide my fear by feigning presence. I was sadly unsuccessful. Hands in the air, I cursed the name of Gordana Jankulovska [then Minister of the Interior] and all of her kin. Tearfully, I ranted Damn fucking fascist pigs… Hatred took over me. As if my entire body swelled with tears, oozing from every little pore.

Would anyone care to explain what is going on? – Marina kept asking the masked ones, while trying to comfort Stefanija.

Look, Tomislav is going to come with us, we need to take him in front of a judge, where he will say what he needs to say – spoke the tall man standing next to the entrance. He was not wearing a uniform. He said that he was a detective (inspector). He came into our home accompanied by a woman he mentioned was his colleague. They both took down a deposition stating that they would be confiscating my cell phone. They wrote down: one Sony Ericsson, black with a yellow rim, the card’s number, etc.

Come on, get dressed! – the one in charge of the police officers ordered. Then he signaled two of his men to accompany me into the bedroom, to monitor my progress, all the time with their automatic rifles aimed and ready. I put on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt I had recently bought and went into the bathroom. There, with their guns still aimed, the police officers took notice as I peed. I washed myself, straightened my hair, took my ID card, and handcuffed was ordered to leave.

At the entrance, I turned over to Marina and Stefanija, hugged them senselessly and said – I love you the most in the world. Forgive me, for I’ve embarrassed myself and have embarrassed us in front of the neighbors. Stefanija said nothing, she just kept looking at me, holding my hand, while Marina mustered up all of her strength and told me – Go out with your head held up high, do not worry about anything. Everyone here knows what you are made of, what you do. We do not owe anyone any explanation. Be sure that those behind this will be the ones bearing the shame. I’m gonna get ready and your brother and I will join you at the Court.

Six men were carrying me out, two in the front, two next to me, and two watching my back. The others, as their protocol stated, went to the back of the house, securing it, so that no one would attack from there, eventually plotting my release. The order to stand down was given. The yard was emptied out by at least ten of the men. The ones who had blocked the streets leading to our home had left as well. Even the one I had spotted on the roof of our little house, as I chanced one more glance at my wife and daughter, was given the order to step down.

Fear and shame and humiliation had fortified themselves inside my heart; I felt them dance around my temples, hands, stomach. I was shaking with indescribable rage and sorrow. The shameless, merciless, dirty campaign against me had started. I kept asking myself why there was this need to bring me down, how come they were running away from the truth, as I was being shoved into a police vehicle.

There were three jeeps parked in the street. I was taken to the one in the middle. The sirens and rotating lights were turned on and the three-vehicle convoy went on its way. The road to the courts was clear. We did not stop anywhere, not a single traffic light stop.

Down in the parking lot, behind the court’s building, our convoy had parked, and hereon they took me to the main courtroom. I knew the room for I had been in it countless times, reporting on bigger trials. They un-cuffed me and sat me in the audience section. One officer stood to my left, one stood to my right, and one guarded the door.

I tried suppressing my feelings and guiding my thoughts elsewhere. All in vain, for I could not stop thinking about Marina and Stefanija. It was bigger than me. Around 6:40 am, an officer wearing the same camouflage clothing as the others entered through the main entrance, however, this one had some brass on his lapels. My guess – a big shot in the Unit. Well, what did you do, huh? his voice echoed throughout the room. Did they get him on camera? Well? Did they get him on camera, I ask? – he yelled as loudly as he could. For a moment he got silent, and then an order followed: Take him outside! Right now!

I was handcuffed again and we exited the same way we had entered. I was shoved back into the jeep and we waited. They lighted a cigarette, then another one, then another. In the meantime, we learnt that the cameraman for the Ministry of the Interior had overslept and was running late. It was past 7am when their radio announced: The man is here, you can lead him in!

Come on, let’s do a retake, jokingly said one of my guards. You, he instructed his colleague, straighten your hair and lower your brow, and you, he instructed me, look sad and woeful. You know, he said, for the cameras. We are going to be recorded. We walked the same path, from the jeep to the courtroom.

Around 7:30 am a man with a police escort came by. He was seated two rows in front of me. We were told not to speak to each other. And why would I speak to him, I thought, for I did not know him. He was in his seventies. Then, one by one, six more men came. We were eight in total. One I recognized, for we lived in the same part of town. We were neighbors. Three I knew, in passing. The first was a judge, the second a prosecutor, the third a former judge. And that was it. The other two, the seventh and the eight from the group I had never met before. I did not know anything about them. I did not know who they were, what they were, where they came from.

About an hour, an hour and a half had passed, when entered a familiar face, the Prosecutor from the Department for Organized Crime. She stated her credentials and told us that our case was assigned to her. I knew her. On April 8th, that same year, 2013, at her request, we had met in her office. Accidentally or not, this was only days after I had published a few details about the car accident that took my colleague Nikola Mladenov’s life, in the daily Nova Makedonija. She had called me and invited me for a meeting. The conversation was far from cordial. I’ll break you, you’ll see, she had told me then. She had openly threatened me with jail-time if I did not reveal my source, namely who was feeding me documents and where those meetings were taking place. It was interesting how the

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