Zaev faces harsh reactions over controversial statement

“Certainly, I will not allow a few criminals, a vain journalist, and with apologies to the LGBT community, a fag, to bring this government down. No. We will fight to the end because everyone involved will be held accountable,” Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said Tuesday evening, commenting on expectations relating to the “Racket” case.

This statement by the PM caused a storm of harsh reactions from political parties, the media regulatory body, journalist associations, NGOs, as well as sharp comments on social networks.

Following this, Zaev offered a personal apology to the LGBTI community on his Twitter account saying that he used the word “fag” to describe a certain character trait, not to denote sexual orientation.

“I have great respect for the LGBT community. Therefore, before using the word “fag” I apologized. I used that word to describe a character trait, not sexual orientation. I apologize to LGBT people. I will fight for their rights, as before,” Zaev tweeted.

Opposition VMRO-DPMNE said in a press release they strongly condemned Zaev’s threats towards journalists who had uncovered his crimes, as well as his insults on the basis of sexual orientation.

In response to this, the ruling SDSM said that VMRO-DPMNE were real hypocrites, seeing that for whole 11 years they had kept silent and directly promoted violence against the LGBT community.

In addition, the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services called on the PM to refrain from “discrediting, labeling and discrimination.”

Condemning the statement, the Agency pointed out it was controversial at least on three bases.

“As a holder of public office, instead of accepting and respecting the role of journalists as critics of the government, the PM is trying to discredit a journalist. Instead of demonstrating the highest level of respect for diversity, he’s fixing labels that are derogatory for LGBT people. In addition, Zaev disrespects presumption of innocence in his statement,” the Agency said.

The Association of Journalists of Macedonia also condemned the prime minister’s statement and called on him to apologize to journalists.

“Such hostility towards journalists by the PM could incite violence against our colleagues, thus further jeopardize their security and limit freedom of expression,” the Association pointed out, adding that the inappropriate speech with regards to the LGBT community did not befit a serious politician and holder of such high-level office.