The U.S. State Department detailed extensive government corruption across multiple sectors of the economy in its 43-page Annual Human Rights Report on Macedonia.
A “political crisis” endured from the 2015 government intelligence “wiretapping scandal”, whereby the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia opposition party “publicly released excerpts of [the intercepted] communications allegedly revealing evidence of political interference in public administration and the media as well as high-level corruption.”
The report referenced another report by the Macedonian Center for International Cooperation, which confirmed that “acceptance of corruption remained high among the public.”
The State Department report indicated that the government is “the largest employer in the country” and said NGOs asserted its “dominant role in the economy created opportunities for corruption and has harmed business relations and decreased economic growth.”
“Widespread” interference by the government was prevalent in the private sector, as the government controlled and extorted money from the majority of companies, it pointed out.
Additionally, organized crime was met with little response from the Ministry of the Interior, the report noted, largely because of “corruption, lack of transparency, and political pressure.”
“Pervasive corruption” in the judiciary
The report said the judicial system was characterized by “political interference, inefficiency, favoritism toward well-placed persons, prolonged processes, violations of the right to public trial, and corruption.”
Nearly 20% of all citizen complaints to the ombudsman involved the judiciary; as such, the report unsurprisingly cited a “declining public confidence in the courts.”
It found that the biggest human rights problems arose from “pervasive corruption and from the government’s failure to respect fully the rule of law”, combined with “interference in the judiciary” and “selective administration of justice.”
Media landscape is “not free”
The government and its related entities owned most national media outlets and continued to pressure them, creating a media landscape that was “not free”, it indicated.
It revealed that journalists frequently reported of threats and intimidation, and often risked losing their jobs if they did not “adopt pro-government viewpoints.”
The Association of Journalists in Macedonia issued a report exposing harassment of journalists by public institutions, and said “these incidents ranged from physical assaults to death threats to the confiscation/destruction of media equipment.”