A comprehensive whistleblower law was passed in Northern Macedonia in November 2015. The law represents another step in the country’s efforts to join the EU, for which it has been a candidate since 2005.
The law included:
- protection for employees of government institutions and private companies
- a broad definition of “employee” that includes volunteers, interns and job applicants
- a broad range of offenses that can be reported, including crime; corruption; violations of citizens’ basic freedoms and rights; health, environmental, defense and security risks; threats to ownership, the free market economy and entrepreneurship; and threats to rule of law
- the opportunity to report misconduct (under various circumstances) either within a workplace, to authorities, or to the general public (if life, public health, security or the environment is at risk)
- penalties up to €6,000 for violations including failing to maintain a whistleblower’s confidentiality and failing to submit reports on whistleblower complaints
Case study: a grassroots movement in support of whistleblowers
In 2015, Gjorgji Lazarevski and Zvonko Kostovski both worked at the Interior Ministry for Security and Counterintelligence of North Macedonia and found out and reported about corruption and illegal wiretapping of 20000 government officials, judges, journalists and others by then-Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.
Both were fired from their workplaces, got false criminal charges and were imprisoned for a year. However, this disclosure led to mass protests against the corrupt Prime Minister, who resigned in 2016 and was later convicted of corruption and sentenced to imprisonment. But in November 2018 Gruevski fled the country to Hungary.
The charges against Gjorgji Lazarevski and Zvonko Kostovski were dropped and in December 2018; they were reinstated to their positions at the Ministry after a year-long campaign “Macedonia`s Forgotten Heroes”.
Case study: whistleblowers in the farming industry
Thanks to whistleblowers within Macedonia’s farming industry, investigative journalists learned that the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management demanded local companies pay to renovate one of its buildings – even though the state had already funded the work.
The alleged double-dipping scheme was first revealed by reporter Goran Lefkov of the Center for Investigative Journalism (CIJ) SCOOP(a Coalition member).
Other documents were delivered to SCOOP by a farmer, who received the demand personally from Ministry officials in Kocani. “I made a payment. To date no one has returned my money I paid for the renovation of the premises in Kocani,” said the farmer.