The Skopje Appeals Court decided on Thursday to order detention for Sead Kocan, construction businessman and owner of the Nova television station. Kocan was charged by the Special Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) over a bid for mining coal in the Suvodol mine that feeds the major REK Bitola energy producing plant.
Employees from TV Nova and Kocan’s company Transmet, as well as representatives of Bosniak associations (Kocan is a Bosniak) protested on Thursday in front of the Appeals Court and the journalism associations and the VMRO-DPMNE party blamed the SPO of trying to silence the TV station because of its coverage of daily protests against SDSM’s acceptance of the Tirana platform. SDSM responded that Kocan should be arrested if he has broken the law. Kocan’s defense team has said that he is on a business trip outside of Macedonia, and insisted that if the court needs to prevent him from fleeing the charges, it is enough to retain his passport, and not order detention.
“This act is an attempt to suffocate democracy and media freedoms in Macedonia. It is a serious blow against media freedoms. VMRO-DPMNE will not stay silent faced with these actions of SDSM, which lost the elections, but is using the Special Prosecutor’s Office to trample on democracy and media freedoms”, VMRO-DPMNE said in a press release on Thursday.
TV Nova started to air a little over a year ago and quickly became the main non-stop news channel in Macedonia, notable for covering mass events with a fleet of camera drones and holding evening political debates. But it also complained that SDSM is taking hostile position toward the station, with one Nova journalist abused during an SDSM election rally. TV Nova also objected to the frequent attempts by the SDSM appointed majority in the temporary media monitoring committee to issue financial fines against the TV station for instances such as “harsh questions” addressed to SDSM officials.
Tens of thousands of people have marched each day for more than two weeks in Skopje and in dozens of cities across the country, against the proposed coalition between SDSM and several smaller parties that represent ethnic Albanians, that would include a political platform agreed under the leadership of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama in Tirana. It calls for changing the name and national emblems of Macedonia, as well as introducing Albanian as a second official language. TV Nova has constantly covered these rallies in full, in line with its policy of non-stop news coverage.
Another construction/mining company, Sileks, which owns the best watched TV station in Macedonia – Sitel, is also named in the charges filed by the SPO, but here the charges were filed against a low ranked official.