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Macedonia: Online Community Prevents Murder Cover-Up

This post is part of our special coverage Macedonia Protests 2011.

As announced, the protests against brutal killing of a young man on Sunday continued on June 7, 2011, in Skopje, Macedonia. They were non-violent and participants were proactive in self-regulating anything that could be interpreted as provocation toward the police, including insulting shouts by ‘embedded’ groups of sports fans.

The police announced they would monitor social networks for troublemakers.

Twitter user Kopriva wrote [mk]:

I repeat: “We're not anti-police… we're anti-police brutality.” – Al Sharpton

Viktor Arsovski provided the following comprehensive report [mk]:

Viral informing through Macedonian social networks led to a revelation that a member of special police forces beat Martin Neshkovski, 22, to death Sunday night. Angry citizens used social networks to organize protests against police brutality.

Protesters walking at the Parliament and the construction site for the Arc of Triumph in Skopje. Photo: Viktor Arsovski/IT.com.mk

Protesters walking at the Parliament and the construction site for the Arc of Triumph in Skopje. Photo: Viktor Arsovski/IT.com.mk

Twitter user Velkov wrote [mk]:

After the failed cover-up attempt, now the whole online community is under surveillance. Our institutions felt the power of Internet #martin

It all started as a mysterious discovery of a dead body during Sunday night, right after the elections. The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) and [its subordinate] Skopje police gave contradictory public statements, claiming there was no reported case, but there was a dead body on Macedonia Square. Except for an anonymous witness who did not know who the dead young man was, the police said there was no traces of violence, while later the autopsy determined that the dead boy had indeed been beaten, had a broken nose and marks all over the left side of his body.

Who was that and why the police beat him, who gave the police freedom to take a life? – echoed the obstinate social networks, refusing to accept the cover-up, demanding answers and calling for protests against police violence, first on [Monday night] [mk] after the news spread, and then on Tuesday afternoon, blocking the streets of Skopje.

Finally, two full days after the murder, the truth came out. MOI officially anounced that Martin Neshkovski, 22, was beaten to death by a member of the special police unit “Tigers.” MOI tried to explain that they wanted to identify Martin first, and that the autopsy was late.

Protests in Skopje following the death of 22-year-old Martin (Daniel) from Dejan Velkoski on Vimeo.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7w32OXcYXQo&feature=player_embedded

Viral power of networks

Macedonia has over 850,000 Facebook users, and a less numerous yet more influential Twitter community. Social networks are a serious factor in sharing information and opinions. Because of that, the news appeared on the influential blog BoingBoing and on Global Voices.

Curiously enough, some of the Facebook groups calling to protest disappeared from this network. We are expecting a response from Facebook why these groups vanished, whether they were removed by their creators or under pressure from MOI. Namely, MOI spokesman Ivo Koteski stated for Alfa TV [mk] that “the police will block any online content which, according to them, incites violence.” Such content apparently included events such as “Protest! Stop police brutality! Justice for the murdered youth!” [mk].

Twitter user Ribaro wrote [mk]:

@bazerko_88 MOI surveyed social networks yesterday and is aware of who had called for violence. Kotevski for Kanal 5 #daniel #martin

Outside of Facebook, the Macedonian Twitter community continued “loud” tweeting, sharing information and organizing protests using the hashtag #daniel (accepted due to media info that later proved erroneous) and #martin (the victim's real name).

Ribaro followed up [mk]:

[MOI spokesman] Ivo Koteski should resign also. Yesterday [evening] he lied to the whole Macedonian public that the police had no information, and today he says that the murderer voluntarily reported himself [several hours before that]

Dnevnik daily published an article [mk] based on police sources, which reports that the chief suspect is named Igor Spasov, 33:

The policeman Spasov, member of special unit “Tiger,” that evening was on duty on the square providing security detail to the government ministers celebrating the [election victory]. He was not in uniform, and received oral command for this assignment. MOI still has no information why the policeman caused death with two punches to the young man from Kozle neighborhood.

Twitter user Andrej_A summed up a news item [mk] from the anti-government A1 TV, entitled “The state killed my son”:

Mother of police murder victim – “We were visited by state and VMRO (ruling party) officials, telling us to keep quiet!”

Counting of protesters' financial contributions on TwitpicHe also posted a link to a photo providing accountability of the protest expenses, commenting [mk]:

Strange, but I do not see cheques for millions signed by Soros! ;)

Stariot, wrote [mk] in a photo caption:

The counting… around 2,500 Denars [EUR 40/USD 60], spent on megaphone batteries and whistles…

This post is part of our special coverage Macedonia Protests 2011.

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