Lazarevski receiving the prize. | Photo:

Macedonian whistleblowers receive Free Speech Award

Whistleblowers from Macedonia receive recognition for exposing a wiretap scandal involving over 20 thousand people.

Gjorgi Lazarevski and Zvonko Kostovski were given the Free Speech Award for their courage in exposing covertly recorded wiretaps of over 20 thousand political opponents that were allegedly recorded by the government of former Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

The Free Speech Award is an annual prize from the Southeast Europe Coalition on Whistleblower Protection, SECWP, and the European Center for Whistleblower Rights, ECWR.

Gjorgi Lazarevski spent 11 months in prison, mostly in isolation, after exposing illegal wiretaps.

While working together at the Macedonian Office for Security and Illegality, Lazarevski and Kostovski cooperated for three years to document the illegal wiretapping of 20 thousand public officials, entrepreneurs, activists, journalists and other individuals.

The shocking public reveal of the mass wiretapping in 2015 led to Gruevski’s resignation, elections in 2016, the formation of a new government in 2017, and the indictment of 94 individuals and seven companies.

Mark Worth, founder of the ECWR and co-founder of SECWP, spoke about the situation in Kosovo.

“Today we are launching a new movement, a civil movement, not a political one, not one of specific interests, it is not a movement of people who govern the country but of the people who really lead the country, they are the citizens,” Worth said.

Gjorgji Lazarevski accepted the Free Speech Award from Kosovo whistleblower Murat Mehmeti, who revealed the fiscal evasion scheme at the Kosovo Tax Administration, ATK.

Despite pressure at his workplace, Mehmeti publicly disclosed the organized network of fiscal evasion of more than 200 Kosovar businesses.

While handing over the award to Lazarevski, he said that he still deals with difficulties after exposing the ATK.

“I survive within the institution because of the media, otherwise I would surely be affected,” he said.

Lazarevski, who accepted Kostovski’s reward on his behalf, said that all the suffering that they and their families endured did not go to waste.

“I am happy that people now speak up, and I do not think that anybody can stop them. The actions taken after we came out was beyond our expectations,” he said.

The International Whistleblower Day and Free Speech Week in Kosovo started on March 19 and ended on March 24.

26/03/2018 - 11:50

26 March 2018 - 11:50

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