VMRO-DPMNE spokesman Naum Stoilkovski called on the Government to review its decision to pay 238.000 EUR in financial assistance to the pro-Government newspaper Sloboden Pecat, after its editorial writer Branko Trickovski aimed a horrific Holocaust “joke” at Rasela Mizrahi – the first Jewish Minister in Macedonian history.

The paper still hasn’t distanced itself from Trickovski. The SDSM led Government introduced a subsidy for print media, and Sloboden Pecat was one of the main recipients, given that nearly all critical papers were closed shortly after SDSM grabbed power in 2017.

Trickovski is a former journalist and editor who is now an editorial writer in a daily newspaper, his positions also carried through the social media. He is known as close to the Government and is so assured in the protection he enjoys that he is provoking fellow citizens. There must be strong condenmnation against his hate speech and he must be removed from all journalist associations, as well as from the pages of Sloboden Pecat. The institutions of the state need to respond to this case. If the paper refuses to act as it should, the paper must not be supported by public funds in the future, Stoilkovski said.

Through a newly created transparency tool that covers public spending, it was revealed that the print subsidy payment is not the end of it. The Government frequently makes additional payments to this paper, through its various departments. According to Vecer, these sums amount to a total of 600.000 EUR. In mid 2018 the paper also received 163.000 EUR in an “innovation grant” from the highly controversial FITR innovation fund, that frequently gives money to supporters of the SDSM party under the guise of promoting “innovative companies”.

Sloboden Pecat was set up by Serbian businessmen Aleksandar Rodic and Zoran Basanovic, the latter then being appointed as adviser to Zoran Zaev. The newspaper was led by Branko Geroski and reliably toed the SDSM party line until early this year when Geroski was sacked as he began to reveal details about the major racketeering scandal the Government is involved in. After Geroski was removed from the paper, it resumed following a reliably pro-Government line.