Saturday, April 14, 2007

Court fails to rule on wiretapped journalists case for 7 years - bleakest event in March

The case of wiretapped journalists, who raised a suit against the government seven years ago, more precisely the fact that the long-standing legal proceedings produced no court ruling as yet, is the bleakest event in March 2007 in terms of the battle against corruption in Macedonia. This is the result of the monthly opinion poll "Corruption Barometer" carried out by NGO "Zero Corruption" and the Independent News Agency "Makfax", in which chief editors of national media take part.

On the other hand, the exceptionally high response of more than 15.000 citizens that submitted extra income tax return forms to the Public Revenue Office tops the shortlist of "lightsome" corruption-related events in March.

The case of wiretapped journalists was placed on the "bleak events" voting list because March marked the 7th anniversary of setting in motion the legal proceedings on the suit filed by as many as 17 wiretapped journalists and the competent court in Skopje produced no ruling on the case as yet.

The affair broke out in late 2000, when the opposition leader at the time, Branko Crvenkovski, presented publicly shorthand notes of the wiretapped telephone conversation involving politicians, journalists and diplomats. On 19 March this year the fourth replacement of the judge in charge of the case took place, and the new judge scheduled the resumption of the proceedings for June.

As many as 12 out of 16 editors-respondents voted this case as the bleakest, upholding the explanation saying that "stalling of pronouncing a verdict by the court of first instance constitutes a political corruption involving the executive power and judiciary. The damage inflicted to the state is not only material but political".

Ranked second and third in the "bleak section" with four and two votes respectively, are the case of foul allotment of apartments intended for socially underprivileged category of citizens to managers and other holders of high posts in Debar and Gevgelija, and the massive apprehension of corrupted police and customs officers.

The first-ranking "lightsome" event in March referring to the high citizens' response to the call of the Public Revenue Office to report extra income garnered 13 respondents' votes.

"The number of citizens reporting extra income is increasing on yearly basis. As many as 8.800 annual tax returns on extra income were filed in 2003, 10.158 in 2004, and 10.212 in 2005. In the following period, the Public Revenue Office (PRO) will inspect the concordance of the data stated in the tax return forms with the actual figures of realized incomes. The forms of the 60 state officials who are subject of the PRO's ongoing investigation into their property status, will be the first to be inspected", says the rationale on this event.

Corruption Barometer poll is conducted once a month since December 2004. The respondents are chief editors of almost all relevant national media.

The respondents in February poll were editors-in-chief of A1 television, Alsat-M, Sitel, and Telma, radio Kanal 77, daily newspapers Dnevnik, Vest, Utrinski Vesnik, Vreme, Vecer, Fakti and Biznis, weekly magazines Fokus, Kapital and Aktuel and Lobi online newspaper.

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