ISSN 2330-717X

Macedonia Pledges To Decriminalize Libel

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By Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Defamation is to be removed from the penal code and all ongoing lawsuits against journalists for this offence suspended, the government announced on Friday.

The change in the law follows months of negotiations between the Macedonian Journalists’ Association, ZNM, and the centre-right government of Nikola Gruevski.

“These [negotiations] are now giving their first results,” Vice Prime Minister, Teuta Arifi said.

At the moment more than 160 lawsuits are pending against journalists in the Macedonian courts, most of which have been brought by politicians, wealthy businessmen and other public figures.

The change will take effect once the parliament adopts a new law on the subject. The government said it will submit a proposal within one week.

The move comes after the VMRO DPMNE-led majority in parliament rejected an opposition-sponsored bill to decriminalize slander in January.

However, the ZNM then said it was not discouraged and would continue its negotiations with government.

Gruevski’s government has come under increasing fire from international media watchdogs concerning perceived curbs on media freedom, after several pro-opposition media were closed down for tax reasons.

Critics claimed that the authorities had targeted the media for their pro-opposition standpoints.

“If the authorities want to show they are ready to cooperate they should decriminalize defamation as soon as possible,” Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE representative for freedom of the media, said last October, on a visit to the country.

A similar message came from the International Partnership Group of freedom of expression organizations who also came to inspect the media situation in Macedonia.

Balkan Insight

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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